Senate Shoots Down Fed Employee Sick Leave Credit

July 24, 2009 ( - An amendment to the Defense authorization bill that would have allowed federal employees under the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) to get credit in their pension calculation for unused sick leave was withdrawn Thursday.

Supporters say the benefit would have helped prevent employees from using excessive sick leave prior to retirement, a problem estimated to cost $68 million in lost productivity, according to the Federal Times.

The Federal Times reported that Senator Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma) said he planned to talk on the Senate floor Thursday until cloture — a vote to end debate on an issue — was offered on the amendment. Coburn criticized the expansion of benefits for employees he said already are paid better, enjoy better benefits, and have more job security than most taxpayers.

Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) questioned the relevancy of the amendment, and said the amendment contained too many items and added new spending to the bill with no explanation of how the benefits would be paid for.

After several hours, the amendment’s main sponsor, Senator Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) relented and withdrew the amendment, saying he will look for other bills to which to attach the amendment, according to the news report.

The legislation passed in the House last month (see Federal Employees Could Get Sick Leave Credit under Bill Passed by House ) would have:

  • allowed Federal Employees Retirement System employees to credit unused sick leave as time worked when annuities are calculated, a benefit Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) employees already have;
  • allowed agencies to temporarily rehire federal retirees and pay them their full salaries, whereas currently agencies must obtain a waiver from the Office of Personnel Management to do that, or bring back federal employees and dock their pay by the amount of annuity they receive;
  • provided locality pay for federal employees in Hawaii, Alaska and U.S. territories, replacing the current cost-of-living allowances; and
  • allowed the recalculating of annuities, based on full-time salaries, for CSRS employees who work part-time at the end of their careers.