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OPM offers advice for federal administrative furloughs

As last-minute negotiations between the White House and Senate Republicans appear to be proceeding with little likelihood of success, the automatic cuts to federal spending, known as sequestration will begin on January 2, 2013.

The federal Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has released guidance to all the agencies in the federal government on how to proceed with the use of administrative furloughs and help avoid adverse employment actions. According to OPM, "An administrative furlough is a planned event by an agency which is designed to absorb reductions necessitated by downsizing, reduced funding, lack of work or other budget situation other than a lapse in appropriations."

Because sequestration will impose 20 percent across the board cuts to all federal agencies, furloughs will be one means to manage the reductions in staffing that will be necessitated by these cuts.

Even with this guidance, one risk that sequestration presents to employees it that managers will inappropriately use tools like administrative furloughs. Because sequestration is unprecedented, no one really knows what the effects of these spending cuts will be, and because of lack of experience of managers with the process, the potential for abuse is great.

Some managers may use this opportunity to punish some workers, with the assumption that in all the confusion over sequestration, their less-than-benign intentions may go unnoticed.

As with any employment law matter, documentation is important. If you feel you are being subjected to adverse job action that is being done with the cover of sequestration and administrative furloughs, record every interaction with your managers, keep all emails and make notes on any direct meetings.

Source: Federal News Radio, "With cuts looming, OPM advises agencies on 'planned' furloughs," Jack Moore, December 28, 2012

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