Tales of federal employees languishing on administrative leave for long periods could come to an end under legislation introduced this week by a group of bipartisan senators.
The Administrative Leave Act of 2016 is designed to “cut down on excessive, abusive, expensive leave and protect whistleblower employees who are put on leave in retaliation for their actions,” according to a news release issued by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa).
He introduced the bill along with Sens. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.). Johnson and Carper are the top-ranking members of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee that oversees the federal workforce. Tester also is on that committee.
Their legislation would define and codify administrative leave, which currently exists in “a Wild West environment among agencies,” Grassley said.
The bill creates the categories of investigative and notice leave. Investigative leave could cover employees who need to be away from work while under investigation. Notice leave could apply to those facing punitive action.
Agencies would not be able to use notice or investigative leave unless the employee in some way presents a threat. Officials would have to consider other options, such as allowing employees to telework, before placing them on investigative or notice leave.
The sponsors seek to assist whistleblowers who are placed on administrative leave as a form of retaliation that the employee cannot contest. The legislation allows for a series of controls on the leave, at the end of which staff members would return to work or the agency would have to initiate personnel actions that could be appealed.
The Senior Executives Association, the Federal Managers Association and the National Border Patrol Council, which is part of the American Federation of Government Employees, have endorsed the legislation.
A report Grassley issued in December said 17 federal agencies spent almost $80.6 million in fiscal 2014 to support employees on paid administrative leave for one month or more.
“Taxpayers shouldn’t be left paying the bill when federal employees are sent home for lengthy periods of time,” Tester said. “This bill reduces government waste and holds federal agencies accountable while protecting the rights of workers.”