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Labor Day Serves as Reminder of Federal Employment Leave Rights

For many families, Labor Day marks the end of summer, the start of college football, and an extra day off of work. First established in 1882 in the aftermath of the deadly Pullman Strike, Labor Day originally served as a day to honor labor and trade organizations and their members. Over 120 years later, it is important to recognize the employment and labor rights granted to federal employees this Labor Day weekend, especially rights concerning paid and unpaid leave.

In addition to the thirteen federal holidays that federal employees receive off, full-time employees may receive at minimum, thirteen days of combined sick, personal and vacation paid time off. In order to avoid any disciplinary actions regarding foreseeable time off, including the most serious charge of absence without leave (AWOL), employees should follow Agency procedures and submit timely requests for time off.

If more than three days of leave is needed due to serious illness affecting either the employee or one of their family members then managers can require employees to produce medical documentation of the illness if longer than three days of absence. If a serious illness requires substantial time off, federal employees may invoke their rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA). Under FMLA, employees are entitled to up to 12 work-weeks of unpaid leave if they or one of their family members suffer from a serious health concern in any 12-month period. A federal employee will be asked to provide notice not less than 30 days before leave is to begin. In emergency situations, notice should be given as soon as possible under the circumstances. In certain situations, federal employees are able to substitute paid leave in during this time.

In the last decade, the federal government has taken numerous initiatives to make it easier for its workforce to balance life and work. Despite making strides in this arena, federal employees may find their careers in jeopardy when adverse actions are initiated due to improper or undocumented leave. Since ramifications can range from suspension to removal, the best way to avoid any stain on a federal employment career is to have a clear and open line of communication with your supervisor concerning leave and to comply with the Agency’s regulations and policies concerning leave.

If you feel that a personnel action has been taken against you due to illness or disability, you may have the right to appeal any such action as well file a claim of discrimination against your Agency.

As many Americans enjoy their paid time off this Labor Day weekend, federal employees should take a moment to remember the vacation and illness leave rights entitled to them.

To learn more about federal employment and labor law as well as federal employee rights to appeal adverse or disciplinary action, visit Tully Rinckey PLLC on the web at


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