Federal Agencies Still Shelling Out Millions in Paid Leave

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Monday, September 25, 2023
Peter Jenkins,, 202.265.4189

Federal Agencies Still Shelling Out Millions in Paid Leave

Law to Curb Excessive Administrative Leave Never Implemented


Washington, DC — The abusive management practice of exiling federal employees from work by placing them on paid administrative or investigative leave for months continues unabated despite a 2016 law against it, according to a Rulemaking Petition filed today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), which is pressing the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to finalize regulations to curb excessive suspensions of civil servants.  

In 2016, Congress passed the Administrative Leave Act to end routine reliance on involuntary leaves that “exceeded reasonable use,” citing cases where employees were paid to stay home for months and, in some cases, years. Congress directed OPM to finalize implementing regulations in less than one year to guide agencies. In 2017, OPM issued proposed regulations to implement the law, but the Trump Administration never finalized them. Because of the six-year delay, the filing today threatens a lawsuit if OPM does not act within 60 days.  

The PEER petition points out that since 2017 – 

    • Agencies, such as the National Park Service, have racked up large amounts of leave, according to its own tally, more than 530,000 hours of paid leave from FY 2018 through 2020, or more than 260 person-years at a cost to taxpayers in excess of $10 million;
    • By contrast, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was unable to supply leave figures, despite the statute’s requirement of periodic reporting by agencies; and 
    • Many employees are still left dangling on paid suspension for months, and in several cases years.  For example, an agency managing director represented by PEER was left on paid administrative leave for three years before his agency acted on his case. 

“These paid suspensions are not vacations but are used to punish and isolate whistleblowers,” stated PEER Senior Counsel Peter Jenkins, who delivered the Petition to OPM, noting that employees have no means for appealing abusive leave orders.  “Congress acted to fix these abuses, but the bureaucracy has simply ignored it.  If OPM fails to act promptly, it will be sued to force action. Six years of doing nothing is unreasonable in any book.” 

The Administrative Leave Act limited involuntary administrative leave to a maximum of ten days in any year.  It also created two new categories of paid leave: investigative leave (generally limited to no more than 70 days) and notice leave while an employee awaits a proposed termination or other disciplinary action, but it placed no limit on notice leave. 

The Petition asks OPM to finalize the implementing regulations, including to – 

    • Prescribe punishment for managers who impose administrative or investigative leave in excess of what the law allows; and 
    • Require agency reports on the amount of leave imposed to be publicly released an annual basis. 

“Employees left hanging on leave – and their families – are subjected to a form of bureaucratic torture, living under the constant stress and anxiety that termination could come at any minute,” added Jenkins. “They deserve some certainty as to when they can return to work.” 


Read the PEER rulemaking petition 

See OPM’s weak proposed but never finalized regulations 

Look at NPS leave totals 

View examples of years of administrative leave abuse
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