In a move that could serve as a precursor for other agencies, the House has passed HR-1633, under which DHS would have to set new policies regarding administrative leave and report on employees put on such leave for extended periods.
The bill is a reaction to a GAO report issued last year finding that agencies often used such paid time off without charge to an employee’s leave account excessively; in particular, the report questioned the propriety of using such leave to get an employee out of the workplace while an agency is preparing disciplinary action.
Under the bill, DHS would have to develop and carry out a department-wide policy on use of administrative leave–also called excused absence–to include guidance on expediting the resolution of a personnel matter for which an employee has been on administrative for six consecutive months or longer, as well as reporting requirements on any such periods, the cost, and what management has done to resolve the matter.
The GAO report did not find DHS to be an exceptionally avid user of administrative leave in percentage terms, although it did use 1.5 million days over a three-year period at a cost of over $380 million, including more than 200 employees on that leave for six months or more–at least one of them for more than two years.
OPM recently issued separate government-wide guidance on use of administrative leave, in part by strongly encouraging other options in disciplinary situations such as unpaid leave or reassigning the employee to other duties so long as there is no management-related reason preventing it.