Federal Furlough Notices go out as Sequestration Takes Effect
Newscaster: Good news came for thousands of Department of Defense civilian employees when Defense secretary Chuck Hagel announced he would cut the number of furlough days from 11 down to 6. The bad news though, since July 8th, an undisclosed amount of employees have taken more than the required six unpaid vacation days. So how will the Pentagon compensate those proactive employees? Joining us with much more on this is Federal employee attorney Jonathan Bell.
Jonathan, good to have you here.
Atty. Bell: Nice to see you.
Newscaster: These employees, they didn’t do anything wrong. They were originally told 11 days. So where does the DOD go from here? Tell us some scenarios that could essentially play out.
Atty. Bell: I 100% believe that these Federal employees need to be paid. The question, really, is should they be paid through their annual leave or should they be given back pay. I believe that it should be back pay. These Federal employees worked hard to save up their annual leave. They had a choice. They knew they were being furloughed. They had to look at their finances and decide what’s best for their family, and some of them took consecutive days off that are now more than six. They should be compensated for those days, for morale purposes.
These are not people that go on extravagant vacations; they need money for their mortgage, for their groceries, and this money will come in handy for them.
Newscaster: There hasn’t been an exact number as to how many people might be impacted by this, but there are hundreds of thousands of civilian Defense workers out there. Give me a ballpark figure as to how many people could be potentially impacted by this decision.
Atty. Bell: There are as many as, I believe, 650,000 Federal employees subjected to furlough. I believe that they should all be paid for the six days when the Federal government could catch up. The number of people who took more than six days, I don’t have the figure, but it could be hundreds of thousands.
Newscaster: Say that you are a civilian DOD worker. What can you do? Do we just sit and wait? Is there anything that we can do to be proactive again?
Atty. Bell: The government hasn’t made up their mind, so they should be in touch with AFGE, which is a terrific Union for Federal employees. They should be in touch with Federal employees’ attorneys who will work them through their process, and ultimately, when a decision is made, will take the appropriate action.
Newscaster: It sounds like Unions and the higher-ups, government officials, are the ones who are going to have to battle it out, essentially.
Atty. Bell: Yes. If they look at it and the purposes of morale, these people work to support the military and their families. You want to keep these people happy. They’ve been in the Federal government for a long time. They’re very good at what they do. They should get the back pay and keep their annual leave. Take the family vacations. If they need FMLA, they could be paid using their annual leave. If they resign or they’re terminated, they could get paid that annual leave. That annual leave is very important for them to keep in their pocket.
Newscaster: And workers who are watching this, is there a timeline as to when they can possibly see that money?
Atty. Bell: Just like anything with the Federal government takes a lot of time, I don’t know when we’re going to have an answer to that. Come October 1st, there’s going to be new news as to whether or not there might be additional furloughs or how that budget’s going to play out. This is going to be a topic of discussion for quite some time.
Newscaster: And there could be another twist there, too. Jonathan Bell, thank you very much for breaking that down.