Issue Briefs

OPM has issued final rules revising former policies regarding adjusting work schedules for religious observances.

 

Subpart J—Compensatory Time Off for Religious Observances

§ 550.1001 Purpose.

This subpart implements 5 U.S.C. 5550a, which permits an employee whose personal religious beliefs require the abstention from work during certain periods of time to elect to engage in overtime work and earn a special form of compensatory time off to make up for the time lost in meeting those personal religious requirements. Religious compensatory time off differs from other forms of compensatory time off in that the sole purpose is to adjust an employee’s work schedule to accommodate a religious observance. The employee earns religious compensatory time off by spending an equal amount of time in overtime work before and/or after taking time from the employee’s scheduled tour of duty to meet personal religious requirements. Hours worked to earn religious compensatory time off provide a time off credit in lieu of any pay that would otherwise be payable for that work.

§ 550.1002 Coverage.

This subpart applies to each employee (as defined in 5 U.S.C. 2105) in or under an Executive agency (as defined in 5 U.S.C. 105) who has a scheduled tour of duty. The definition of “employee” in section 5541(2) does not apply to this subpart.

§ 550.1003 Definitions.

In this subpart:

Overtime work means work performed by an employee outside his or her scheduled tour of duty for the purpose of making up time lost for meeting personal religious requirements, as such term is explained in the definition of “religious compensatory time off” in this section. It is also deemed to include work performed by a part-time employee outside of his or her scheduled tour of duty, even if that work is below applicable overtime thresholds (e.g., below 40 hours in a week), and work an employee performs during holiday hours (within the employee’s scheduled tour of duty) during which the employee would otherwise be excused from duty.

Rate of basic pay means the rate of pay fixed by law or administrative action for the position held by an employee, including any special rate under 5 CFR part 530, subpart C; locality rate under 5 CFR part 531, subpart F; retained rate under 5 CFR part 536; or similar rate under other legal authority, before any deductions and excluding additional pay of any other kind. For example, a rate of basic pay does not include additional pay such as night shift differentials under 5 U.S.C. 5343(f) or environmental differentials under 5 U.S.C. 5343(c)(4).

Religious compensatory time off means compensatory time off, as authorized by 5 U.S.C. 5550a, under which an employee whose personal religious beliefs require the abstention from work during certain periods of time may elect to perform overtime work in order to make up for time the employee takes off to meet those personal religious requirements. Those requirements need not be officially mandated by a religious organization to which the employee belongs. It is sufficient that the employee’s personal religious beliefs cause the employee to feel an obligation that he or she should be absent from work for a religious purpose. An employee approved to perform overtime work under this subpart will be granted an equal amount of compensatory time off from his or her scheduled tour of duty (in lieu of overtime pay or other pay otherwise payable) to meet his or her personal religious obligations.

Scheduled tour of duty means the regular work hours in an established full-time or part-time work schedule during which the employee is charged leave or time off when absent.

§ 550.1004 Employee responsibilities.

(a) An employee is required to provide his or her supervisor with a request for religious compensatory time off in advance of the religious observance by following the agency’s procedures established in accordance with §§ 550.1005 and 550.1006.

(b) At the time the religious compensatory time off is requested, the employee must provide the agency with the following information: (1) The name and/or description of the religious observance that is the basis of the employee’s request to be absent from work in order to meet the employee’s personal religious requirements; (2) The date(s) and time(s) the employee plans to be absent to participate in the religious observances identified in paragraph (b)(1) of this section; and (3) The date(s) and time(s) the employee plans to perform overtime work to earn religious compensatory time off to make up for the absence.

(c) An employee must comply with the agency’s procedures for requesting religious compensatory time off, including any time limitations prescribed under § 550.1006.

(d) In the event that an adjustment to the dates and times of planned overtime work is required due to unforeseen circumstances, the employee must submit for approval a revised schedule to reflect those changes.

§ 550.1005 Agency responsibilities.

(a) An agency may require an employee to submit his or her request to use religious compensatory time off with all the information specified in § 550.1004(b) in a manner that is administratively acceptable to the agency. To the maximum extent practicable, the agency must require that the request be in writing (including electronic communications). If the agency accepts an oral request, the agency must document all the information specified in § 550.1004(b) and must require the employee to submit a written document containing all the information as soon as practicable. An agency may require an employee to submit a request to use religious compensatory time off sufficiently in advance to accommodate necessary scheduling changes without interfering with the agency’s ability to efficiently carry out its mission.

(b) An agency must approve an employee’s request to use religious compensatory time off unless the agency determines that approving the request would interfere with the agency’s ability to efficiently carry out its mission. If the employee’s request to use religious compensatory time off is denied, the agency must provide a written explanation as to the reason the request has been denied, regardless of whether the employee’s request was written or oral.

(c) The agency must provide the employee with an opportunity to earn religious compensatory time off before the deadline established in § 550.1006(c), although the specific timing of when an employee will be allowed to earn religious compensatory time off by performing overtime work is a matter of agency discretion based on the needs of the agency.

§ 550.1006 Scheduling time to earn and use religious compensatory time off.

(a) The scheduling of time to earn and use religious compensatory time off by an employee is subject to the agency’s approval as provided in § 550.1005.

(b) For an employee who earns religious compensatory time off prior to using it, religious compensatory time off may be earned up to 13 pay periods in advance of the pay period in which the targeted religious observance commences and must be linked to specific dates and times for future use, as compatible with agency mission requirements.

(c)(1) An employee who uses religious compensatory time off prior to earning it must fulfill his or her obligation to perform overtime work in exchange for the advanced religious compensatory time off within 13 pay periods after the pay period in which he or she used religious compensatory time off, or the agency must take action as provided in paragraph (c)(3) of this section.

(2) The 13 pay periods described in paragraph (c)(1) of this section are calculated beginning with the first pay period beginning after the date on which the religious compensatory time off was used.

(3) If the employee fails to earn religious compensatory time off within 13 pay periods after taking religious compensatory time off, the agency may take corrective action to eliminate or reduce the negative balance by making a corresponding reduction in the employee’s balance of annual leave, credit hours, compensatory time off in lieu of regular overtime pay, compensatory time off for travel, or time-off awards. An agency may determine the order of precedence for applying the various types of paid time off to offset the negative balance. Any negative balance of religious compensatory time off remaining after any charging of these types of paid time off must be resolved by charging the employee leave without pay, which would result in an indebtedness that is subject to the agency’s internal debt collection procedures.

§ 550.1007 Accumulation and documentation.

(a) Agencies must keep records of the name and/or description of the religious observance, and the dates, times, and amount of religious compensatory time off each employee earns and uses. An agency must credit religious compensatory time off for work performed on a time-for-time basis, under its time and attendance procedures.

(b) Except as provided in paragraph (c) of this section, an employee may accumulate only the amount of religious compensatory time off needed to cover an approved absence for a religious observance that has already occurred or to cover an approved absence for a future religious observance. An employee may only accumulate the amount of religious compensatory time off needed to cover the specific dates and times for which the employee has submitted a request for religious compensatory time off under § 550.1004.

(c) If the employee does not use his or her earned religious compensatory time off as planned— (1) The positive balance of unused compensatory time off may be redirected toward a future religious observance that has been approved, even if that future observance is more than 13 pay periods after the compensatory time off was originally earned (notwithstanding § 550.1006(b)); and (2) The employee may not earn any additional religious compensatory time off until the retained amount of religious compensatory time off has been used or the need to earn additional religious compensatory time off has been properly established and documented.

(d) Accumulated religious compensatory time off that is not used as planned is not subject to time limits for usage. Unused religious compensatory time off hours remain to the employee’s credit until used (subject to the agency’s approval under § 550.1005), or the employee’s separation or transfer (subject to § 550.1008), as applicable.

§ 550.1008 Employee separation or transfer.

(a) Upon an employee’s separation from Federal service or transfer to another Federal agency, the losing agency must compensate the employee for any positive balance of earned religious compensatory time off to his or her credit. The agency must pay the employee for hours of earned religious compensatory time off at the hourly rate of basic pay in effect at the time religious compensatory time off was earned.

(b) For an employee who has a negative balance of religious compensatory time off upon an employee’s separation from Federal service or transfer to another Federal agency, the losing agency may take corrective action to eliminate or reduce the negative balance by making a corresponding reduction in the employee’s balance of annual leave, earned credit hours, compensatory time off in lieu of regular overtime pay, compensatory time off for travel, or time-off awards. An agency may determine the order of precedence for applying the various types of paid time off to offset the negative balance.

Any negative balance of religious compensatory time off remaining after any charging of these types of paid time off must be resolved by charging the employee leave without pay, which would result in an indebtedness that is subject to the agency’s internal debt collection procedures.

(c) For purposes of applying paragraphs (a) and (b) of this section, an hourly rate of basic pay is computed by dividing the annual rate of basic pay by 2,087 hours (or 2,756 hours for firefighter hours subject to that divisor under subpart F of this part).

§ 550.1009 Relationship to premium pay and overtime work.

The premium pay provisions for overtime work in subpart A of this part and section 7 of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, as amended (FLSA), do not apply to overtime work performed by an employee that is used to earn religious compensatory time off under this subpart. The overtime hours worked to earn religious compensatory time off under this subpart do not create an entitlement to premium pay (including overtime pay) under subpart A of this part or FLSA overtime pay under 5 CFR part 551.

Religious compensatory time off is not considered in applying the premium pay limitations described in §§ 550.105, 550.106, and 550.107.