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June 2006

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This article is in the news archives --- for current news go to the Third Branch News.


Emergency Leave Transfer Program Open to Judiciary

The President has signed into law P.L. No. 109-229, an act requiring the Office of Personnel Management, after consultation with the Administrative Office, to allow federal judicial branch employees to participate in an emergency leave transfer program for disasters and emergencies. The legislation passed the full Senate last fall and was passed by the House in May 2006.

Shortly after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita uprooted thousands of people throughout the Gulf Coast region, the Judicial Conference requested legislative authority to allow employees of the judicial branch to participate in emergency leave transfer programs. Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), Chair of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, agreed to introduce S. 1736 on an expedited basis, given the emergency situation in the Gulf Coast region.

Prior to passage of the legislation, in the event of a major disaster or emergency that resulted in severe adverse effects for a substantial number of federal employees, the Office of Personnel Management, at the direction of the President, had the authority under 5 U.S.C. 6391 to establish an emergency leave transfer program at executive branch agencies.

Under such a program, an employee in an executive agency, at the agency’s discretion, could donate unused annual leave for transfer to employees of his or her agency or to employees of other executive branch agencies who were adversely affected by the disaster or emergency. P.L. 109-229 provides employees of the judicial branch, including the courts, with the same flexibility and authority to participate in such programs as the executive branch.

Since 1997, emergency leave transfer authority has been used for the executive branch three times: after the African Embassy bombings in 1998, following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.