Furlough Days: Where do things stand?

 

The first major round of federal sequester furloughs kicked in more than a week ago, with each agency handling the issue differently — a few have already placed employees on unpaid leave, some have no plans to do so, and others still aren’t sure.

At this point, only a small portion of federal agencies have furloughed employees, but more have made plans to do so in the coming weeks and months. Let’s take a look at where things stand.

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(Jonathan Ernst/Reuters) (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

In perhaps the biggest furlough news this week, President Obama signed a bill authorizing the Federal Aviation Administration to avoid furloughs by transferring funds between accounts. That was about 10 days after the agency began placing some of its air-traffic controllers on unpaid leave, meaning the sequester hit some workers despite the legislation.

The furlough period for U.S. Park Police began on April 21, with employees for that agency expected to take eight hours of unpaid leave every other week.

At the White House budget office, where workers face an estimated10 furlough days, unpaid leave began on April 22. All employees subject to furloughs took at least one day off between April 22 and April 29, the agency said.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s furlough period also began in April. Workers there will take four days off through June 30, and they could face up to nine more days of leave without pay between that date and the end of September.

Furloughs for the Internal Revenue Service and Housing and Urban Development are scheduled to begin this month on May 24 and May 10, respectively. Both agencies have set specific dates for unpaid leave, and they plan to close shop on those days.

Some of the IRS and HUD furlough days will take place on dates near federal holidays to create four-day weekends for employees.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which plans to place its workers on unpaid leave for up to four days beginning on July 1, will also pair some furlough days with holidays to create long weekends.

The Justice Department and National Labor Relations Board both warned that up to 22 days of furloughs could be necessary under the sequester, but their expectations have changed drastically in recent weeks.

Attorney General Eric Holder said on April 24 that the Justice Department would not resort to furloughs at all, while the NLRB said this week that it expects only a few, if any, furlough days will be necessary.

As for the judicial branch, the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts has said the federal judiciary will need to furlough employees at federal defender offices for up to 15 days. The time off has already begun, as have some staff reductions, according to the a news release from the judiciary.

That leaves the Pentagon and Department of Homeland Security among agencies that predicted unpaid leave under the sequester. Both agencies faced double-digit furloughs until Congress passed a stopgap federal budget that allows them to reduce the days.

Neither the Pentagon nor Homeland Security have said yet how much time off, if any, will be necessary under the new spending bill. Both agencies have said they are trying to determine how the adjusted funding levels will affect their sequester plans.

 

For more federal news, visit The Federal Eye, The Fed Page and Post Politics. To connect with Josh Hicks, follow his Twitter feed, subscribe to his Facebook page or e-mail josh.hicks@washpost.comE-mail federalworker@washpost.com with news tips and other suggestions.

Josh Hicks covers Maryland politics and government. He previously anchored the Post’s Federal Eye blog, focusing on federal accountability and workforce issues.

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