Committee Passes Carper Amendment to Better Implement Administrative Leave Law, Save Taxpayer Dollars

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC) advanced a provision secured by Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.), senior Democrat on the committee, that would help the United States Office of Personnel Management (OPM) better implement the Administrative Leave Act. The bill, first introduced in 2016 by Senators Carper, Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.), and Jon Tester (D-Mont.), aims to cut down on excessive, abusive, expensive, and inappropriate use of administrative leave, while also protecting whistleblower employees who are put on leave in retaliation for their actions. Due to an unintended consequence involving the use of administrative leave for employees serving in combat or other high risk areas overseas, OPM has not been able to fully implement the law.  

“Today, the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, on a bipartisan basis, advanced an important fix that will help OPM better implement the Administrative Leave Act,”said Senator Carper. “It’s important for federal agencies, employees, and taxpayers to have 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. There have been instances 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. Today’s provision will help OPM implement a bipartisan law that will, in turn, 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. I want to thank Senator Lankford for working with me on this common sense provision and would urge the full Senate to consider it quickly.”

Among other things, the Administrative Leave Act would:

  • Codify a definition of administrative leave that is separate from other forms of paid leave or excused absence already legislatively authorized.  Agencies had been granting this type of leave as an exercise of agency discretion.
  • Require agencies to record other forms of legislatively authorized excused absence separately from administrative leave. 
  • Create new categories of leave, investigative or notice leave, separate from administrative leave, for extended excused absences due to personnel matters, in the rare instances during an investigation or when an adverse action is proposed and that employee needs to be out of the office.
  • Allow agencies to use investigative or notice leave through a multiple step process that involves escalating controls over its use. 
  • Establish that in all cases, agencies cannot use investigative or notice leave unless established criteria are met.
  • Direct agencies to consider options prior to use of investigative leave and notice leave, such as assigning the employee to duties in which the employee is no longer a threat or allowing the employee to telework.   
  • Require agencies to provide employees with explanations of why they are being placed on investigative leave or notice leave and keep records of these new forms of leave.