Recently proposed regulations from OPM create as new forms of leave several situations in which administrative leave commonly has been used.
In general, employees under investigation could be put on “investigative leave” no more than 10 work days a year, and only if the agency determined that the employee’s continued presence at work would represent a threat to other employees, property or other government interests. Also, the agency would have to consider assigning the employee to other duties, using unpaid leave, allowing the employee to use other forms of paid leave, or requiring the employee to telework. Under limited circumstances, investigative leave could be extended in up to 30-day segments up to three times during an investigation. Afterward, the agency would have to return the employee to work or take disciplinary action. Employees would receive various notice rights and placement on investigative leave for more than 70 days would be appealable as a form of retaliation under whistleblower protection law.
Paid “notice leave” would be available for up to the period of the notice of a pending disciplinary action, within the same guidelines applying to grants of investigative leave.
The proposed rules also would grant agencies discretion to put employees on “weather and safety leave” if a severe weather event or other emergency “prevents an employee from safely traveling to or safely performing work at an approved work location.” This would include natural events such as hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, wildfires, earthquakes, landslides, snowstorms, and avalanches, plus agency-specific emergencies such as a building fire, power outage, or burst water pipes. Such leave would replace OPM’s current emergency dismissal guidance that is specific to the Washington, D.C. area but that in practice is applied in other locations, as well.