The Federal Coach: Sick of Unclear Sick-Leave Policies?

This week’s question comes from a congressional staffer who’s frustrated by the unclear policies around sick leave and vacation days.

I work on the Hill so the rules on sick days and vacation days may be different from the rest of the known universe. Despite asking our chief of staff in the beginning of the year about sick days and vacation days, we never received a specific number of days we were allocated.

Recently, we were asked to submit the number of sick and vacation days we’ve taken. We have one employee who, for about two to three months, was leaving early two or three times a week with food-poisoning-like symptoms. She decided that all of the times she left early would equal one sick day. Her argument is that she continued to work while at home.

I have taken three sick days. However, I worked via Blackberry and my personal computer, took phone calls, and performed work functions while at home on those days. Is it fair that I am expected to count my days as full days despite working from home? Should I expect that I can “roll” those days into one like my colleague since there were never guidelines for the office? -A frustrated Congressional staffer

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Julie Chase

Wow, those are some strange rules. Way down here in the belly of DoD DoN, her sick leave would have counted by the hours she took off two or three days a week and not “rolled”. Sick leave in the DoN universe is measured by the hour. If I left work at 2 on Tuesday, I would have 2 hours remaining in the work day, and would deduct 2 hrs. SL for Tuesday in the electronic time and attendance. If I did the same on Wednesday, it would be another 2 hours SL. We don’t have telework here, but the rules state, if you do anything work related at home you log the hrs you worked (YOUR SUPERVISOR MUST GIVE YOU PERMISSION TO DO THIS) If you don’t get permission, you are on your own. If I left work early 3 days in a row for food poisoning symptoms, my supervisor would be standing there on the 4th day asking me for a doctor’s note. Yeah it’s really different at this level, so I guess the congressional staffers collegue could do as she pleased, or the supervisor isn’t minding the store. If I were the supervisor I would ask her for her leave blank aka OPM SF 71 when she returned to work the next morning. OPM SF71 can be sent and digitally signed. No reason why everyone can’t use them. This also creates a paper trail. If you are out sick, common sense would dictate that you let your supervisor know, that you will be able to do some teleworking in a pinch. Taking a sick day, means, I’m sick, and I can’t come to work, so “I’m not working, period”. I am ever mesmirized at what the top of the food chain folks do. And doing gov work on a “personal” computer is a big no-no. We aren’t allowed to use thumb drives either. Basically, the author asking the question should go with his gut, and yes his colleague is getting away with it.