Bill to crack down on administrative paid leave advances in Senate

by Lydia Wheeler

A Senate panel on Wednesday approved legislation to crack down on paid administrative leave for federal workers.

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee passed the Administrative Leave Act of 2016, introduced by Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.). The legislation puts strict limits on when a federal employee can be put on administrative leave.

According to a report from Sen. Chuck Grassley’s (R-Iowa) office, 17 agencies spent almost $80.6 million to place employees on paid administrative leave for one or more in fiscal year 2014 and did not have adequate justifications for why an investigation or other action took so long.

“Paying government employees to stay at home not only robs taxpayers of millions of dollars each year, it allows agencies to drag their feet in taking disciplinary action,” Committee Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) said in a news release. “The Department of Homeland Security is one of the worst offenders, leaving some employees on paid leave for one, two, even three years.

If passed by Congress, the law would require agencies to record other forms of legislatively authorized excused absences separately from administrative leave and create new categories of leave for extended excused absences due to personnel matters.

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) said agencies need clarity on what paid administrative leave can and should be used for.

“The current catch-all use of this term creates ambiguity that has led to misuse and abuse,” he said in a news release.

“There have been instance of supervisors using administrative leave to push people out of their jobs without due process and placing others on extended administrative leave while under investigation for wrongdoing – essentially getting paid to not work,” Carper said. “This common-sense, bipartisan legislation will help agencies better account for various types of excused absences and better protect federal employees and taxpayers alike from abuse and misuse of the system.”