With the Defense Department expected to announce a final furlough policy as early as this week, a union has asked the Merit Systems Protection Board for a heads-up on how it would rule on behalf of DoD employees who appeal decisions to make them take unpaid time off.
Issuing “a pre-emptive statement of opinion” on whether those employees could win appeals would save the board “from deciding thousands of cases that would likely come,” Gregory Junemann, president of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, said in last week’s letter to MSPB chairman Susan Grundmann. A board spokesman declined comment Friday, but said a response will be coming soon.
As of today, DoD officially plans to furlough most of its almost 800,000-strong civilian workforce for up to 14 days by the end of September. But in an April 26 letter to members of Congress, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel indicated that the Pentagon is still searching for ways to trim or eliminate the number of furlough days. In a sign that something’s brewing, the Navy on Friday postponed sending furlough notices that were supposed to go out today.
In seeking an advance ruling, IFPTE is also hoping to prod Hagel into taking furloughs off the table altogether or else relax the department’s current policy requiring military services and other components to stick to the 14-day benchmark even if their finances allow for a lesser amount of unpaid time off. While that goal is a long-shot, the letter is a reminder that the board–as Federal Times has previously reported–could be swamped with appeals if mass furloughs do take place.