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Posted at 6:00 AM ET, 12/ 6/2010

New sick leave rules for federal workers

By Ed O'Keefe

Eye Opener

Federal workers are preparing for a two-year freeze in pay, but also can expect some positive changes to their sick leave policy in the new year.

Starting Jan. 3, feds may swap up to 26 weeks of sick leave for unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act to care for family members sick with serious communicable diseases, including the flu. They may also use the benefit to care for an ill or injured family member serving in the military.

In both cases, federal workers could receive up to 30 days of advanced sick leave if necessary, the Office of Personnel Management announced Friday.

But -- as with most federal personnel policy -- there is a catch: OPM said it will only authorize this special type of sick leave if the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention determines that exposure to certain communicable diseases could impact the health of others.

For example, last year's H1N1 flu outbreak would not have qualified under the new policy because the CDC advised that employees could continue working even if a member of their household contracted the disease, OPM said.

"The use of sick leave for exposure to a communicable disease should be used only in very limited circumstances, and agencies should not grant sick leave for this purpose until they receive guidance from the appropriate officials," OPM said in its announcement published Friday in the Federal Register.

Family members -- as defined by OPM -- now include spouses, children, foster children, stepchildren, stepparents, grandparents and grandchildren, same-sex and opposite domestic partners. The definitions were expanded to include same-sex relationships in June as part of President Obama's pledge to expand worker benefits to the partners of gay and lesbian federal workers.

Obama last week ordered a two-year freeze on most federal civilian salaries, and said the freeze would not extend to members of the military during his unannounced visit to Afghanistan on Friday.

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below

Cabinet and Staff News: Presidnet Obama grants his first pardons. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates visits the Sultan of Oman. Gates's lawyer, Jeh C. Johnson, gets the Old Gray Lady treatment. From WikiLemons, Hillary Clinton tries to make Lemonade.

CIA:
CIA's new top dog makes Christmas party debut: CIA Director Leon J. Panetta left the CIA's holiday party Friday night with his latest new staffer: Bravo, his Irish Setter.

CDC:
Drinking water debacle deals a blow to CDC and EPA: When it comes to something as basic as ensuring that our drinking water doesn't poison our children, you'd think federal scientists and environmentalists would hustle to give the public the fullest and most reliable information as quickly as possible.

DEFENSE DEPARTMENT:
Congressional calendar endangers repeal of 'don't ask, don't tell': With the lame-duck session of Congress hurtling toward a chaotic close, the effort to repeal the policy is in peril.

GOVERNMENT WORK/LIFE/OPERATIONS:
WikiLeaks off-limits to federal workers without clearance: The site is publishing sensitive and classified government information for all the world to see, but that doesn't mean federal workers and contractors should take a peek.

Health insurance choices can ease the pain of the pay freeze: One benefits adviser suggests government workers should concentrate on making the best choices they can with rates and plan information already available to them.

IMMIGRATION AND CUSTOMS ENFORCEMENT:
Unusual methods helped ICE break deportation record, e-mails and interviews show: In reaching 392,862 deportations, the agency included more than 19,000 immigrants who exited the previous fiscal year, according to agency statistics.

JUSTICE DEPARTMENT:
Tension grows between Calif. Muslims, FBI after informant infiltrates mosque: The undercover FBI informant says he spied on dozens of worshipers in a quest for potential terrorists.

Justice Dept. ends inquiry on Jerry Lewis: The California congressman (not the entertainer).

POSTAL SERVICE:
USPS job cuts barely dent $49B payroll: From 2008 through 2010, work hours fell 14 percent to about 1.2 billion. But pay raises and other expenses cut into the savings, and total personnel costs fell only 6 percent, to $49 billion.

TSA:
Schumer seeks bill to deter body scan image misuse: It calls for punishing anyone who misuses full-body scan images by up to a year in prison. They could also face fines of up to $100,000.

VETERANS AFFAIRS:
Pearl Harbor survivors ponder organization's end: The motto "Remember Pearl Harbor" is taking on a more poignant, urgent tone.

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By Ed O'Keefe  | December 6, 2010; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Eye Opener, Workplace Issues  
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Next: 5 Myths about federal workers

Comments

I am confused by the statement made:

"Starting Jan. 3, feds may swap up to 26 weeks of sick leave for unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act to care for family members sick with serious communicable diseases, including the flu."

Why would an individual want to give up paid sick leave for unpaid leave? If money is no object, sure, but I don't understand the benefit being described.

Can someone clarify pls? Thanks.

Posted by: lockettyee | December 6, 2010 8:19 AM | Report abuse

That is ridiculous. Who would give up paid leave for unpaid leave. Sick leave can already be used to care for an ill relative.

Posted by: bebe6620 | December 6, 2010 8:39 AM | Report abuse

I agree with lockettyee - why would you trade paid time off for unpaid leave??? Not sure how that is a "positive change". It also sounds so restrictive that it will only apply to a very small handful of people.
Additionally, while it's nice that he visited the troops and reinforced to them in person that he would fight for their pay increase, it would have been nice if the President would have had the courage to announce the pay freezes to us in person rather than simply to the press. Any basic manager recognizes that announcing bad news from the safety of your office and making personal appearances for the good news doesn't fool many folks and leads to problems.

Posted by: justanotherguy | December 6, 2010 8:54 AM | Report abuse

Some or all agencies limit the amount of time an employee can use sick leave to care for someone else. Usually 2 weeks per year.

Posted by: mvyates1 | December 6, 2010 9:20 AM | Report abuse

The compensation for federal workers is way out of whack. Freeze for two years??? Really?? How about some parity with the people who are paying for the salaries, sick time, holidays, and pensions. Federal workers should have all pay reduced a minimum of 20-30% and end the COLA immediately. End all pensions, and have federal workers provide for their own retirement via 401ks. Bring the sick and holiday time into parity with workers outside the government which is something much closer to 1-2 weeks per year, (26 weeks!!!..that's theft). The last ten years have seen the population at large suffer financially, while government workers got raises, and more benefits. This is wrong in so many ways.

Posted by: BrettLayser | December 6, 2010 9:35 AM | Report abuse

BrettLayser, you should check your facts before you post comments. Fed workers earn 13 sick days per year. The 26 weeks in the new policy is for FMLA use in only very specific circumstances. Also, the last time I checked, the TSP is exactly like a 401(k), and we all contribute to it with our own money. As for salary, while some jobs are paid better in the government, I can tell you that if I chose to leave the government I would earn 2-3x my salary. That's right, I earn LESS by working in the government. It's a choice I made. Freezing pay is essentially a salary decrease due to increases in health insurance premiums, which have long increased at a rate higher than the pay increases.

Posted by: lrubens | December 6, 2010 9:49 AM | Report abuse

Hey BrettLayser, GFY!

Posted by: dem4life1 | December 6, 2010 10:01 AM | Report abuse

Thank you Irubens and Dem4life1,

I am so sick of all the whining about how great federal workers have it!

Posted by: racheljean | December 6, 2010 10:08 AM | Report abuse

Thank you Irubens and Dem4life1,

I am so sick of all the whining about how great federal workers have it!

Posted by: racheljean | December 6, 2010 10:09 AM | Report abuse

Now now. BrettLayser is just mindlessly parroting what he reads and hears on the radio. It's just false agitprop to stir up the masses and deflect attention from real issues. Very few know what it really is like to work for the federal government. For example, in the agency where I worked people died so frequently that we, the survivors, didn't call in sick. We called in 'not dead'. How's that for intangible benefits?

Posted by: glenmayne | December 6, 2010 10:16 AM | Report abuse

I think many people are misreading this article. This is not a case of swapping paid leave to take time off without pay. What the new rule allows is for federal workers to use up to 26 days of accrued sick leave in these situations. Under the current rules federal workers would be required to take unpaid leave under the FMLA. So in clear terms federal workers can now get paid where before they couldn't. Makes perfect sense to me.

Posted by: McCarthy911 | December 6, 2010 10:49 AM | Report abuse

I agree 100% with dem4life1's comment.

Posted by: justthinking2 | December 6, 2010 10:58 AM | Report abuse

I am quite angry that the media has made it seem that all government employees are overpaid and underworked and have benefits given to us that are far superior to other agencies.
I could easily make 20,000 dollars more outside the federal government and am suppossed to get an increase in salary based on the inferior NSPS rating system that I will remain trapped in for the next 2 years.
Unless you yourself work for the federal government you might not know the true facts.
I remain because I choose to not for the salary and benefits.

Posted by: rxrx46 | December 6, 2010 11:15 AM | Report abuse

Arrest Leon Panetta. USC Code states it against the law to bring a canine into a Federal office building. Only exceptions are for service and working dogs. Bravo is neither. Come on AG Holder indict Panetta he violated the USC. Where is the CIA IG?

Posted by: sheepherder | December 6, 2010 11:22 AM | Report abuse

rxrx46, if you don't care about the salary and benefits, how about you renounce them or STFU.

Posted by: getjiggly1 | December 6, 2010 1:08 PM | Report abuse

"BrettLayser" is a "poster child" for what is ailing America today....We are in the age of "THE LOW INFORMATION VOTER AND CITIZEN", who lack even a modicum of CRITICAL THINKING and take everything they hear on THE CONSERVATIVE MEDIA run by billionaire Rupert Murdoch as GOSPEL without bothering to verify or research the facts.
He doesn't know that since 1983, FEDERAL WORKERS ARE COVERED BY SOCIAL SECURITY, just like everyone else in America....and his other comments are nothing but PARROTED TEA PARTY REMARKS.
It would almost seem that he has some sort of menial low wage job which he is afraid to leave and IS BOTHERED BY OTHERS WHO MAKE A BIT MORE MONEY THAN HE DOES....another sign of the times...WAGE JEALOUSY/ENVY.

Posted by: iheardthisbefore | December 6, 2010 1:33 PM | Report abuse

any "benefit" that requires the use of "unpaid" leave is not really a benefit. It just says you have a good excuse not to come to work. Which if the CDC says that you have to be quarantined at home, that's good enough. Nobody is going to challenge that.

Aside from that FSL and FMLA leave policy is already sufficient to allow for personnel to care for ill family members AND use paid leave for it, including donated leave and advanced leave.

Posted by: trambusto | December 6, 2010 1:43 PM | Report abuse

"BrettLayser" is a "poster child" for what is ailing America today....We are in the age of "THE LOW INFORMATION VOTER AND CITIZEN", who lack even a modicum of CRITICAL THINKING and take everything they hear on THE CONSERVATIVE MEDIA run by billionaire Rupert Murdoch as GOSPEL without bothering to verify or research the facts.
He doesn't know that since 1983, FEDERAL WORKERS ARE COVERED BY SOCIAL SECURITY, just like everyone else in America....and his other comments are nothing but PARROTED TEA PARTY REMARKS.
It would almost seem that he has some sort of menial low wage job which he is afraid to leave and IS BOTHERED BY OTHERS WHO MAKE A BIT MORE MONEY THAN HE DOES....another sign of the times...WAGE JEALOUSY/ENVY.

Posted by: iheardthisbefore | December 6, 2010 1:33 PM | Report abuse
-------------------------------------------
You are exactly right. The other thing to note is that the "private sector" would not hire nor give people of color good paying jobs...only the state and local government. Since the "private sector" outsourced most jobs the people who lost those jobs tend to demonize the people still working for federal/state governments. Lets be honest about what's going on especially with the attacks on higher payed people of color. (Demonizing and trying to bring them down). I would also suggest people who feel this way should watch the movie "Rosewood" staring Jon Voight (Angelina Jolie's dad) that recently aired on TV...says a lot about the races and jealousy.


Posted by: ShilohD-SugarLandTX | December 6, 2010 3:24 PM | Report abuse

Come on people get the facts straight first before you bash someone. Government workers just want to earn a decent living, just like anybody else. We struggle to pay bills, pay the mortgage, pay for our kids to go to college. STOP BASHING GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES. Start at the top. We don't make the rules, the "ties" do. As far as the p.o. goes here are some facts you probably don't know. 1) We are NOT tax payer supported. 2) We MUST abide by LAWS that ups fedex etc... do NOT! 3) We work holidays (That most of you get off- Memorial, Labor Day, Christmas, Thanksgiving,and on...) DON"T believe me?? ONLY the postal workers at the stations (ie Carriers and station clerks) get those days off. The p.o. closes them down. BUT how do you think your mail arrives in your box the day AFTER Christmas? Or how do you think that package arrives ON Christmas day? The MAIN p.o.'s stay open around the clock. It's a 24/7/365 business.If you had to be away from your family on those major holidays MOST years wouldn't you want to be compensated for that???(If you want to pay the higher prices that our competition is charging in this economy...? go ahead!) We are proud of the work we do and for those who continue to bash us in the media and online... WALK A MILE IN OUR SHOES!!!

Posted by: fedup100 | December 6, 2010 3:51 PM | Report abuse

Come on people get the facts straight first before you bash someone. Government workers just want to earn a decent living, just like anybody else. We struggle to pay bills, pay the mortgage, pay for our kids to go to college. STOP BASHING GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES. Start at the top. We don't make the rules, the "ties" do. As far as the p.o. goes here are some facts you probably don't know. 1) We are NOT tax payer supported. 2) We MUST abide by LAWS that ups fedex etc... do NOT! 3) We work holidays (That most of you get off- Memorial, Labor Day, Christmas, Thanksgiving,and on...) DON"T believe me?? ONLY the postal workers at the stations (ie Carriers and station clerks) get those days off. The p.o. closes them down. BUT how do you think your mail arrives in your box the day AFTER Christmas? Or how do you think that package arrives ON Christmas day? The MAIN p.o.'s stay open around the clock. It's a 24/7/365 business.If you had to be away from your family on those major holidays MOST years wouldn't you want to be compensated for that???(If you want to pay the higher prices that our competition is charging in this economy...? go ahead!) We are proud of the work we do and for those who continue to bash us in the media and online... WALK A MILE IN OUR SHOES!!!

Posted by: fedup100 | December 6, 2010 3:52 PM | Report abuse

Come on people get the facts straight first before you bash someone. Government workers just want to earn a decent living, just like anybody else. We struggle to pay bills, pay the mortgage, pay for our kids to go to college. STOP BASHING GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES. Start at the top. We don't make the rules, the "ties" do. As far as the p.o. goes here are some facts you probably don't know. 1) We are NOT tax payer supported. 2) We MUST abide by LAWS that ups fedex etc... do NOT! 3) We work holidays (That most of you get off- Memorial, Labor Day, Christmas, Thanksgiving,and on...) DON"T believe me?? ONLY the postal workers at the stations (ie Carriers and station clerks) get those days off. The p.o. closes them down. BUT how do you think your mail arrives in your box the day AFTER Christmas? Or how do you think that package arrives ON Christmas day? The MAIN p.o.'s stay open around the clock. It's a 24/7/365 business.If you had to be away from your family on those major holidays MOST years wouldn't you want to be compensated for that???(If you want to pay the higher prices that our competition is charging in this economy...? go ahead!) We are proud of the work we do and for those who continue to bash us in the media and online... WALK A MILE IN OUR SHOES!!!

Posted by: fedup100 | December 6, 2010 3:53 PM | Report abuse

Too many people who know nothing about what federal employees really do and how much they make have entered mindless statements. Only a fool would claim that a federal employee makes too much. Unfortunately, there are a lot of foolish people around.

Posted by: USDA | December 6, 2010 8:29 PM | Report abuse

I have posted this already here before You guys should stop complaining because, one the health care we have now isnt as good as it was supposed to be. also the law has just been signed so give it some time. so if u want to say u have the right to choose tell that to ur congress men or state official. If you do not have insurance and need one You can find full medical coverage at the lowest price check http://ow.ly/3akSX .If you have health insurance and do not care about cost just be happy about it and believe me you are not going to loose anything!

Posted by: mitchellherr | December 7, 2010 6:01 AM | Report abuse

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