Tester unveils bipartisan bill to reduce government waste and save millions

New legislation will hold federal agencies accountable, empower workers

(U.S. Senate)-Senator Jon Tester today unveiled a bipartisan bill that will cut millions of dollars in government waste, hold federal agencies more accountable, and protect employee rights.

Tester’s bill, the Administrative Leave Act, will curtail federal agencies’ ability to abuse extended paid leave, known as administrative leave, to employees who are unable to go to work because of alleged misconduct.

In 2014, the Departments of Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs spent over $40 million on employees placed on administrative leave for one month or longer.

“Taxpayers shouldn’t be footing the bill when federal employees are sent home for lengthy periods of time,” said Tester, a senior member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. “This bill reduces government waste and holds federal agencies accountable while protecting the rights of workers.”

Tester’s bill also strengthens worker protections by ensuring employee due process when agencies place them on paid leave. Currently, federal agencies do not need to justify why they are placing employees on administrative leave or outline the length of time for which they will be sent home.

Tester’s Administrative Leave Act makes the following changes to administrative leave:
• Defines administrative leave from other forms of paid leave or excused absences
• Limits administrative leave to five consecutive days
• Creates weather and safety leave that allows agencies to use excused absence for an employee or group of employees who cannot safely make it to work
• Requires all federal agencies to record other forms of legislatively authorized excused absence separately from administrative leave
• Creates investigative and notice leave for extended excused absences due to personnel matters

According to the Washington Post, over 57,000 civilian employees of the Department of Homeland Security were put on administrative leave between Fiscal Years 2011-2013, and several hundred employees were kept on administrative leave for over one year.

Tester’s bill is supported by the National Border Patrol Council, the Senior Executives Association, and the Federal Managers Association.

“Currently, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection routinely places Border Patrol Agents on extended administrative leave without justification of length, forcing our agents to languish with no avenue of recourse,” said Brandon Judd, President of the National Border Patrol Council. ” NBPC supports codifying the definition of administrative leave in hopes that it will curb the overuse of extended administrative leave policies by federal agencies. We appreciate Senator Tester for his leadership protecting the rights of federal employees and look forward to continuing to work to find a solution.”
“Senator Tester has shown tremendous leadership in putting forth thoughtful, targeted legislation that will address the major problems identified with administrative leave usage and reporting, while preserving agency flexibility, due process and employee rights,” said Tim Dirks, Interim President of the Senior Executives Association. “For too long, misuse of paid administrative leave has wasted taxpayer resources while unfairly holding public servants in a fruitless limbo status, denying them rights to challenge agency determinations. We applaud the Senators and urge Congress to quickly pass this good government legislation.”
“The Federal Managers Association (FMA) is grateful for the bipartisan efforts of Senator Tester for his call for common sense reforms as proposed in the Administration Leave Act. Their proposed legislation calls for uniformity of the use of administrative leave throughout the federal government,” said Patricia Niehaus, National President of the Federal Managers Association. “FMA advocates for excellence in public service, and by providing the necessary tools to address poor performers and encourage efficiency and effectiveness, this bill creates a federal workforce that promotes productivity and accountability to the American public. FMA looks forward to continuing to work with Senator Tester and hopes that it will advance through the chamber without hesitation.”

Tester’s Administrative Leave Act is cosponsored by Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and is available HERE.