A little-noticed provision in a recently passed law has some D.C. employees in a tizzy over the prospect that they could lose as much as two weeks of vacation pay.
Until March, city employees could take as much as 30 days of unused annual leave time — that’s six weeks — and carry it over to the following year. Under an overhaul of personnel rules passed by the council in January, employees can now carry over only 20 days, or four weeks.
That has some employees scrambling to use their accumulated leave, which has their bosses scrambling to figure out how they’ll pay for the overtime required to cover for said employees, which has high-level city officials mulling a fix.
The implications of the change, contained in one 20-word sentence, went largely unnoticed until the city’s human resources department issued an advisory late last month. A D.C. Council committee report on the bill — introduced by Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3) mainly to address hiring concerns raised in the early days of Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s administration — contains virtually no discussion of the leave carry-over measure.
“This kind of got by us,” said Steve Anderson, president of the union representing lawyers in the D.C. attorney general’s office. Anderson is particularly annoyed that the D.C. Council would quietly chip away at employee benefits that match those enjoyed by federal workers, who get to carry over 30 days.
Anderson noted that lawmakers have taken pains in recent years to match federal benefits to retain qualified employees, including lawyers.
In any case, it appears that city officials are looking to fix the problem. A memo sent today by city HR director Shawn Y. Stokes notes that the Gray administration is “working with the D.C. Council to delay implementation, and/or repeal” the new carryover restriction.
No concrete proposal has emerged, but Wilson Building sources say the issue could be resolved in budget legislation set to be passed Tuesday.
UPDATE. 5:45 P.M.: The D.C. police union wrote to Gray earlier this week objecting to the change, noting a variety of legal problems it posed.
In an update sent to members today, union officials say that Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) “is currently working with his colleagues to secure sufficient votes to reverse the amendment.”
Evans confirmed Monday evening that he’s working with Phil Mendelson (D-Ward 3) on a fix but was unsure whether it would be part of the budget package.
UPDATE, 7:50 P.M.: Mendelson said he’s already drafted and introduced a bill to revert to the old carryover policy. He added emergency legislation might also be voted on as soon as next week to address the issue. He also deemed the council’s failure to recognize the import of the change as “embarrassing.”
UPDATE, 3:30 P.M., 5/10: Cheh and Muriel Bowser (D-Ward 4) told their colleagues today in a memo they intend to move an emergency bill Tuesday to day the carryover reduction for one year “in order to provide more time to consider the legal, fiscal, and policy effects of making this change.”
The memo explains: “When the Council was considering this legislation, no fiscal, legal, or policy concerns were raised about making this change. However, after this legislation was passed, the Executive determined that this change may violate the terms of several collective bargaining agreements. The Chief Financial Officer also concluded that this change may have a fiscal impact in Fiscal Years 2012 and 2013 because agencies will have to increase their overtime spending to cover for employees who use additional leave before the end of the calendar year.”