Suit to Jumpstart Overdue Fed Curbs on Admin Leave

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Tuesday, July 2, 2024
Peter Jenkins (202) 265-4189


Suit to Jumpstart Overdue Fed Curbs on Admin Leave

OPM Regulations Limiting Involuntary Suspensions Seven Years Late


Washington, DC — Years after Congress acted to end the abusive management practice of placing federal employees on paid administrative or investigative leave for months or years at a time, the practice continues unabated. Today, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) filed suit seeking a court order directing the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to finalize regulations curbing excessive suspensions of civil servants within 60 days.

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 and not to work for extraordinarily long periods. Congress also directed OPM to finalize implementing regulations by September 19, 2017. Although OPM issued proposed regulations that year, the agency never finalized them and still has no firm date for doing so.

PEER argues that OPM’s interminable inaction not only flouts the will of Congress but also –

  • Costs taxpayers millions of dollars annually to pay thousands of employees who are under orders to stay home and are forbidden from working;
  • The precise cost is unknown because OPM has also neglected to implement the Act’s requirement for agencies to accurately report the amount of paid leave they incur each year; and
  • Employees placed on leave have no ability to appeal or even learn the reason for the involuntary suspension, which is not even classified as an adverse personnel action.

“The Office of Personnel Management is not living up to its title,” remarked PEER Senior Counsel Peter Jenkins, who filed the suit today in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, noting that PEER had also criticized OPM’s 2017 proposed regulations as too weak and lacking enforcability. “The basis of this suit is unreasonable delay and seven years of inaction is unreasonable in any book.”

Adding to the delay is the fact that OPM’s regulations once finalized are not the final word. Each agency must then incorporate OPM’s regulations in their own rules to have full effect.

In addition, there is growing concern that a re-elected President Trump could use unlimited involuntary leave as a tool to purge civil servants identified as opponents of his agenda or as members of the so-called “Deep State.”

“At PEER, we often see whistleblowers or employees who deliver inconvenient truths placed into limbo in hopes that they will simply resign,” added Jenkins, arguing for the need to impose limits on agencies’ current complete discretion to subject workers to involuntary leave. “Exiling dissidents into a bureaucratic gulag sends a powerful message to their colleagues that they had better toe the line.”


Read the PEER suit 

See PEER’s 2023 Petition to OPM

View OPM’s draft regulations and PEER’s comments

Phone: 202-265-7337

962 Wayne Avenue, Suite 610
Silver Spring, MD 20910-4453

Copyright 2001–2024 Public Employees for
Environmental Responsibility

PEER is a 501(c)(3) organization
EIN: 93-1102740