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Furlough FAQ

Employees Furloughed Due to Lapse in Appropriations Questions and Answers Fact Sheet

Q1. What is a furlough?

A1. A furlough is the placement of an employee in a temporary nonduty, nonpay status because of lack of work or funds, or other nondisciplinary reasons. In a “shutdown” furlough, the agency no longer has the necessary funds to operate and must shut down those activities which are not excepted by Office of Management and Budget (OMB) standards.

Q2. What types of activities/work functions are excepted from furlough?

A2. Generally, exceptions apply to employees in positions (“excepted” employee) that are responsible for (1) performing emergency work involving the safety of human life or the protection of property, (2) involved in the orderly suspension of agency operations, or (3) performing other functions exempted from the furlough, as provided by OMB. The Office of General Counsel and Budget, working with senior agency managers, are determining which employees are designated to be handling “excepted” and “non-excepted” functions.
Some activities throughout the Department will continue to have funding available due to appropriations that were previously approved or other funding authorities. Employees in positions that continue to have funding are not affected by furlough.

Q3. What type of work is performed by employees during orderly shutdown?

A3. Employees who are performing work required for the orderly shutdown of Agency operations, perform the following functions:

  • Taking measures to secure files (computer or hard copy).
  • Making contacts outside the agency that are necessary to communicate our status.
  • Canceling meetings, hearings, and other previously arranged agency business.
  • Documenting the status of projects so that they can be resumed, transferred or otherwise appropriately handled when DOT’s ultimate funding situation is determined.

Q4. Are SES employees subject to furlough?

A4. Yes, generally, unless they have been excepted from furlough under the same conditions as all other employees.

Q5. Are individuals appointed by the President subject to furlough?

Q5. Individuals appointed by the President, who are not subject to the laws and regulations governing leave in the Federal service, are not subject to furlough because they are entitled to pay by their status as an officer, not by the hours they worked. The salary of a leave-exempt Presidential appointee is an obligation incurred by the year, without consideration of hours of duty required. Therefore, a leave-exempt Presidential appointment cannot be placed in a nonpay, nonduty status.

Q6. May an employee volunteer to do his or her job on a nonpay basis during a furlough period?

Q6. No. Furloughed employees may not work or telework on a voluntary basis during a furlough. Performing non-excepted duties during a furlough period is a violation of the Antideficiency Act and may have disciplinary consequences for both the employee and the manager authorizing the work.

Q7. Will employees excepted from furlough be paid during the furlough period?

A7. No. If funding for a function has lapsed, employees excepted from furlough cannot be paid for work performed until subsequent appropriations are enacted.

Q8. Will furloughed employees receive backpay for the furlough period after appropriations are enacted?

A8. There is no guarantee that Federal agencies will be authorized to provide retroactive payment to employees who are subject to the furlough once funding is appropriated. Congress will determine whether Federal employees receive pay for the furlough period.

Q9. Are employees entitled to unemployment compensation while on furlough?

A9. Employees may be eligible for unemployment compensation depending upon the number of consecutive furlough days. Generally, you must be unemployed for a minimum of 7 days to be eligible for unemployment compensation. Questions regarding eligibility for unemployment compensation should be directed to the appropriate State unemployment office.

Q10. May employees take other jobs while on furlough?

A10. An individual continues to be an employee of the Federal Government during a furlough. As such, standards of ethical conduct and rules on outside employment continue to apply during a furlough period.

Q11. What impact will the furlough have on the October 1 pay check?

A11. Pay scheduled for October 1 is for the period September 8 – September 21, 2013. Employees completed their biweekly work hours on September 21, 2013 and will receive 80 hours pay on October 1, 2013.

Pay scheduled for October 15 is for the period September 22 – October 5, 2013. Employees can expect to receive pay for hours worked or accounted for by leave for September 22 through September 30, 2013. Pay for the remainder of the pay period (October 1 – October 5) is dependent on the outcome of the furlough.

Q12. Can I use leave, compensatory time off, or credit hours for the days that I am furloughed?

A12. No. During a furlough period, previously approved leave, compensatory time off, or credit hours is rescinded and requests to use such time off must be denied for furloughed employees.

Q13. If an employee who received a furlough notice had previously scheduled annual or sick leave, what happens to the scheduled leave?

A13. Upon furlough, all scheduled leave is canceled (annual leave, sick leave, or other). Absences during the furlough may not be charged to leave.

Q14. May employees who were designated as excepted from the furlough be granted paid leave?

A14. No. If an excepted employee is unavailable to be at work and perform the duties determined by the employing agency to be allowable activities the employee must be furloughed. An agency may subsequently terminate the furlough if the employee’s services are still required for excepted activities following the absence.

Q15. If Tuesday, October 1 is my RDO (regular day off), can I change my RDO to another day if I am required to come in for orderly shutdown activities?

Q15. No. An employee’s RDO should not be changed after the pay period begins. An employee who is required to report to work on his or her RDO for shutdown activities will be paid accordingly for the hours necessary for the orderly shutdown. Employees are furloughed based on the number of hours they are scheduled to work on the days for which there is a shutdown furlough.

Q16. What affect will a furlough have on my career tenure, probationary period, time-in-grade for promotion, within grade increases, or service computation date?

A16. The answer is probably no impact since most furloughs have not lasted greater than 10 workdays in the past.

  • Career tenure: The first 30 calendar days of each nonpay period is creditable service. (5 CFR 315.201(b)(4)(ii)(A))
  • Probationary period: An aggregate of 22 workdays in a nonpay status is creditable service. (5 CFR 315.802(c))
  • Qualification standards: There is no requirement to extend qualifying periods by the amount of nonpay status. However, agencies may require such extensions in order to meet training requirements or ability to perform. (5 CFR 335.103(b)(3), OPM Qualification Standards, General Policies and Instructions, part E.3.(f)).
  • Time-in-Grade: Nonpay status is creditable service. (5 CFR 300.605(a))
  • Service Computation Date-LEAVE: Up to 6 months in nonpay status is creditable. (5 USC 6303(a))

Q17. How will a furlough affect my benefits (health, life, Long Term Care Insurance, Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Plan (FEDVIP))?

A17. A short-term furlough should have minimal impact on an employee’s benefits. Employees will continue to be covered during a short-term furlough period and will make payments for these benefits once returned to a pay status. For specific questions about certain benefits, please refer to the OPM Guidance available at http://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/pay-leave/furlough-guidance/guidance-for-shutdown-furloughs.pdf .

Q18. To what extent does non-pay status affect retirement coverage?

A18. Retirement coverage continues for up to 6 months for periods of non-pay status per calendar year.

Q19.  What is the effect of a shutdown furlough on Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) contributions, investments, and loans?

A19.  Employees should refer to the Thrift Savings Plan fact sheet “Impact of a Federal Government Shutdown on the Thrift Savings Plan” for information on the effect of the shutdown furlough on TSP contributions, investments, and loans.

Q20. Will the credit union be open if there is a furlough?

A20. Yes. The credit union will remain open to provide services to customers during a furlough.

Q21.  Will the cafeteria in the DOT Headquarters Building be open if there is a furlough?

A21.  Yes.  The cafeteria in the DOT Headquarters Building will remain open during a furlough for employees who are required to work or are funded by other sources.  The cafeteria is funded entirely through employee purchases and is not dependent on appropriated funding.

Q22. If employees funded through appropriations that have lapsed are on temporary duty assignments away from their normal duty stations at the time of an appropriations lapse, can they make arrangements to return home sooner than planned?

A22. They are encouraged to do so wherever reasonable and practicable. However, agencies should make a determination of reasonableness and practicality based on the length of the assignment and the time required for return travel, compared to the anticipated length of the lapse, so as to minimize the burdens of doing so.

Q23. What happens to employees scheduled for training during a furlough?

A23. Employees who are neither excepted nor exempt and are scheduled for training during a shutdown furlough must be placed in a furlough status and ordered not to attend the scheduled training.
Q24. What adjustments are required to a furloughed employee’s transit benefits?

A24. For Smartbenefits users, TRANServe recommends using a separate Smartcard or paper fare card during furlough days to ensure that you do not use your Federal benefits. Alternatively, for the month following a furlough, employees may need to make an adjustment to their claim amount via their self-certification form (available at http://transerve.dot.gov) for their days on furlough, when no transit subsidy was required for home-to-work transportation.

Q25. Is there general advice for employees planning to be on travel status on the date of the lapse in appropriations?

A25.

  • Travel to begin on the day of lapse or after should be avoided.
  • Any employee on travel status who is funded by one of the sources that may lapse, should be contacted and told whether their activities in official travel status are excepted and should continue or whether they should return to the duty station and arrive by the date before the date of furlough. Employees in official travel may volunteer to be furloughed at their travel sites rather than returning home.

Q26. For employees who park at headquarters, will there be a rebate to take account of furlough days?

A26. If a furlough lasts for more than 13 business days, there will be an adjustment to the employee’s monthly parking fee that will apply to the purchase of the next month’s permit. At 13 furlough days, the daily rate for parking will be less than the monthly permit fee.

Q27. Are Human Resources Offices required to provide furloughed Federal employees with an SF-8, Notice to Federal Employee About Unemployment Insurance?

A27. Federal agencies are required to provide employees with an SF-8 if they will be in a non-duty status for seven or more days. For this reason, the SF-8 should be distributed to furloughed employees, since it is not known how long the furlough will last.

Q28. Can a limited number of employees that provide administrative support to employees performing functions otherwise authorized by law to continue during the lapse period also continue working during the lapse period?

A28. Yes. Absent other options, a limited number of administrative employees who perform payroll, contracting, human resources, or other such services if necessary to support an employee performing functions otherwise authorized by law during a furlough may also continue to work during the absence of appropriations. In this situation, the agency may continue to incur obligations prior to the enactment of an appropriations act because the legal authority to obligate for such functions is implicit. See Opinion of the Attorney General (January 16, 1981). Such authority is necessarily implied by statute because lawful continuation of other activities implies that these functions will continue as well, e.g., a human resources employee if necessary to support employees performing functions under valid no-year or multi-year funding sources. See id., p. 5. However, no expenditures can be made to liquidate these obligations.

Q29. Can DOT’s centralized payroll and accounting functions continue during a lapse of general appropriations?

A29. Yes. DOT’s centralized payroll and accounting functions may continue for functions funded by other than lapsed sources. This is because DOT payroll services are provided by the Department of Interior’s, Interior Business Center’s (IBC’s) Working Capital Fund. IBC has stated that it will have sufficient essential employees working during the furlough to process DOT’s payroll for such employees that are not funded from lapsed sources. Additionally, DOT accounting services are provided by the FAA’s Enterprise Service Center (ESC) in Oklahoma City, funded by an annual interagency agreement with DOT. ESC has confirmed that it can continue to process DOT invoices as the franchise fund runs on an independent reserve and can continue to operate in the absence of appropriations, subject to cash reserve availability.

Q30. May agency management decide to fund certain employees regularly funded with no-year or multi-year funds with annual funds so that they will be furloughed in lieu of other employee’s agency whose functions agency management has decided are advantageous during the furlough?

A30. No. The only case where some flexibility would be possible is if an employee is normally funded with both annual and no-year or multi-year appropriations. In that case, agency management can determine, within available funding levels that the employee will not be furloughed but will continue to perform work funded by and within the appropriated purpose of the no-year or multi-year appropriations. (Such decisions should be made in consultation with agency counsel).

Q31. If employees are receiving Continuation of Pay (COP) for a work-related injury, will COP be terminated or interrupted by the furlough?

A31. When employees are furloughed due to a lapse in appropriations, there is no legal authority to pay COP or any similar payment. However, lapsed appropriations do not abrogate the employee’s entitlement to COP in any way. Therefore, although COP may be suspended during a furlough caused by lapsed appropriations, retroactive payment is mandatory once funding has been appropriated. Once the furlough begins, COP is placed in abeyance pending the resumption of funding. When funding is available any remaining COP entitlement must be paid on a retroactive basis. The Department of Labor recognizes that they cannot force an agency to make payments of salary to furloughed employees when the agency has no funds to legally do so. If Congress does not decide to pay furloughed employees for the days off, COP would still have to be paid retroactively under 5 U.S.C. 8118.

Q32. If an employee is receiving wage-loss compensation under the Federal Employees Compensation Act (FECA) and was then furloughed, what effect would the furlough have on his/her compensation?

A32. None. FECA wage-loss compensation is not considered wages and, therefore, is not affected by a lack of funding at the employing agency.

Columbus Day Holiday Questions and Answers

Q33.  Will an employee “exempt” from furlough be paid for a holiday that occurs during a shutdown?

A33.  Employees are “exempt” from furlough if they are not affected by a lapse in appropriations.  As such, an “exempt” employee will be paid for a holiday according to the normal rules governing holidays.

Q34.  Will furloughed employees be paid for a holiday that occurs during a shutdown furlough?

A34.  Furloughed employees will not receive pay for a holiday that occurs during a shutdown furlough unless authorized by subsequent legislation.

Q35.  What is the status of an “excepted” employee who does not perform work on a holiday that occurs during a shutdown furlough?

A35.  Excepted employees who are not scheduled to work on the Columbus Day holiday will be placed in a furlough status on Monday, October 14, 2013.  Excepted employees who are furloughed for the holiday are in a nonduty, nonpay status and may not perform any work activities, including via mobile devices, unless and until recalled on Tuesday, October 15, 2013.

Q36.  What pay entitlements will accrue to an “excepted” employee who performs work on a holiday during a shutdown furlough?

A36.  Excepted employees who are required to work on a holiday will receive pay according to the normal rules governing pay for work on a holiday.  Excepted employees covered under OPM’s regulations governing premium pay would receive his or her rate of basic pay, plus holiday premium pay at a rate equal to the employee’s rate of basic pay for the regularly scheduled hours of work.  In addition, if such an employee performs officially ordered or approved overtime work on a holiday, in excess of his or her regularly scheduled workday, the employee would receive overtime pay (or compensatory time off) for that work.  Of course, an excepted employee cannot receive payment for working on a holiday until an appropriations act or a continuing resolution is enacted.

Q37.  How do the “in lieu of” holiday rules apply during a shutdown furlough?

A37.  During a shutdown furlough, the “in-lieu of” holiday rules apply as follows:

  • “Exempt” employees – “In lieu of” holiday rules apply as normal.
  • Furloughed employees – “In lieu of” holiday rules do not apply because employees do not receive an “in lieu of” holiday if they are in a furlough status on a holiday.
  • Excepted employees who participate in alternative work schedules and have a regularly scheduled day off on Monday, October 14, 2013 will be in a furlough status on their in-lieu of holiday on Tuesday, October 15, 2013. Excepted employees that are furloughed on Tuesday, October 15, 2013 are expected to return to duty on Wednesday, October 16, 2013.
Updated: Friday, October 11, 2013