By William Wiley, July 30, 2018
Some days it seems that every time you set up a system to do good for people, someone will figure out how to misuse it. The civil service program that falls into that category that we’ll cover today is the Voluntary Leave Transfer Program (VLTP).
VLTP is designed to allow employees to donate their accrued annual leave to other employees if an employee needs the leave because of a medical emergency:
(a) The purpose of this subpart is to set forth procedures and requirements for a voluntary leave transfer program under which the unused accrued annual leave of one agency officer or employee may be transferred for use by another agency officer or employee who needs such leave because of a medical emergency.
I once received a question from a supervisor (a supervisory attorney, no less) who could not figure out what to do in a situation in which one of her employees was physically bullying coworkers into donating their leave to her so that she effectively had to work only 32 hours each week while getting paid for 40. Folks, if it doesn’t make sense, and is bad for the civil service, then there’s almost always a way to handle it.
Recently, we got the following related question:
Dearest Beloved FELTG, Source of All Civil Service Law Knowledge:
I attended Absence, Leave Abuse & Medical Issues Week in March and am reaching out to you for guidance. I am the Voluntary Leave Transfer Program Coordinator for my agency. We have a situation with an employee enrolled in VLTP. He has been enrolled for in the program since February 2016. He has managed to extend his enrollment every 3-4 months with medical documentation. He has a permanent [medical] condition and has several treatments and sometimes surgeries which maintains his work schedule to be from 15-30 hours per week. He supplements the rest of his income with donated leave. We have tried unsuccessfully in denying extensions based on the fact that VLTP is not to be used as a substitute for disability retirement; that his condition is permanent; that the donated leave program is a short-term program, etc. We have been challenged with an EEO complaint in which he prevailed, and he was allowed to extend his VLTP participation as requested. We would appreciate any advice, guidance or insight that you could shed on this issue. [Sanitized settlement agreement attached.]
And here is our FELTG response, tinged with a bit of anger at how this person is being allowed to misuse the generosity of his hard-working coworkers:
Dear AMI Attendee-
The employee did not prevail in his previous EEO complaint in the sense that anyone ever said what you did was wrong. An agency official simply decided to not defend the agency any longer, and that the most expedient way to resolve the matter was through a settlement agreement. We have no idea why that was done. It clearly was not based on the legal merits of the discrimination claim.
Separately, the settlement agreement says it has no precedential value and applies only to VLTP approved in the past:
“The terms of this Agreement establish no precedent … “
You have every right to discontinue his use of the VLTP program. As he has a permanent disability, he does not meet the criteria for its use because he does not have a temporary medical emergency:
5 CFR § 630.905 Approval of application to become a leave recipient.
(a) The potential leave recipient’s employing agency shall review an application to become a leave recipient under procedures established by the employing agency for the purpose of determining that the potential leave recipient is or has been affected by a medical emergency.
If you continue to allow him to use the program, you are unfairly cheating the other employees of your agency who qualify for the program and would benefit from its temporary use. You should notify him immediately that you are discontinuing his use of VLTP and that if he is unable to report to work, he will have to request use of other leave that might be available. Also, he should be informed who to contact to apply for disability retirement if he believes that his medical condition prevents him from performing his job on a full-time basis. In the future when he does not report to work, if he has no annual nor sick leave, he should be charged as AWOL. The AWOL should then be addressed through adverse action. Nieto v. Treasury, EEOC Petition No. 03A10032 (2002); Murray v. Navy, 41 MSPR 260 (1989).
If you readers are unfamiliar with taking an adverse action in this situation to remove the employee, or you never heard of caselaw like Nieto and Murray, get yourself signed up for our next Absence, Leave Abuse & Medical Issues Week program, Sept. 24-28 at Dupont Circle in Washington DC. We offer this particular program only twice a year and it almost always fills up. It’s up to management to stop leave misuse, even in situations in which the employee truly has a serious medical condition. [email protected]