Rule addresses federal employee time off for religious reasons
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Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Rule addresses federal employee time off for religious reasons

By Payroll and Entitlements Editorial Staff

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has issued a final rule amending its current regulations on federal employee compensatory time off for religious observances to address comments, and to clarify provisions on employee coverage, employee and agency responsibilities, scheduling time to earn and use religious compensatory time off, accumulation and documentation, and employee separation or transfer. OPM is also implementing other miscellaneous changes in the pay and leave area, according to a notice published in the Federal Register on April 29, 2019.

Religious compensatory time off. After evaluating comments, OPM has revised its proposed 26 pay periods before and 26 pay periods after the religious observance in which employees may earn religious compensatory time off. The final rule changes it to 13 pay periods before and 13 pay periods after a religious observance in which to earn religious compensatory time off. This will permit a total period of 26 pay periods—about a year—during which the religious compensatory time off could be earned in connection with a religious observance, the OMB said. Under the final rule, agencies may not prescribe a lesser or narrower timeframe in which an employee may earn religious compensatory time off before or after using it. OMB said that this change will permit employees about a year to schedule and earn religious compensatory time off while making it ‘‘more administratively feasible for agencies to administer.’’

Employee separation or transfer. The OMB also determined that if an employee works the hours for earned but unused religious compensatory time off, having a positive balance, the employee should be compensated for the hours worked at the time of separation or transfer. As to the issue of potentially stockpiling hours, 5 CFR Part 550.1007(c)(2) provides that an employee may accumulate additional religious compensatory time off hours only if needed to cover an approved period of absence for a future religious observance based on the specific dates and times identified by the employee. The OMB said that this provision is meant to prevent stockpiling. The final rule, which makes several other changes to the regulations, is effective May 29, 2019. (84 FR 17931, April 29, 2019.)

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