Merkley, Rounds Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Improve Family Leave for DOD Employees

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley and Senator Mike Rounds (R-SD) today introduced bipartisan legislation to improve family and medical leave for Department of Defense (DoD) employees by simplifying and expanding the agency’s leave bank.

Currently, DoD allows individual civilian employees to donate earned annual leave to specific individual colleagues experiencing a serious family or medical situation requiring additional leave. But the current informal process of identifying and matching up leave donors with recipients can be inefficient, and if civilian employees do not proactively identify and donate this leave, they often forfeit earned annual leave when they either take a new job outside the Department or when they have excess “use it or lose it” leave that will not roll over to the next calendar year.

This legislation would automatically move any “use it or lose it” annual leave that was forfeited from civilian DoD employees into a common pool of family and medical leave to benefit employees after the birth or adoption of a child, serious illness of an immediate family member, or a worker’s own medical condition.

“Our Department of Defense employees work hard to keep our nation safe,” said Merkley. “As a former Pentagon employee myself, I know that these jobs are tough and high-stakes. It’s good for these employees and good for our nation if workers have the paid leave they need to take care of themselves and take care of their families during important moments in their lives. Streamlining and expanding the leave bank shows how common sense and the common good can go hand-in-hand.”

“Under our legislation, annual leave days that are forfeited by Department of Defense employees will be pooled, so employees who need extra time off for family or medical reasons can use additional leave hours to supplement their own,” said Rounds. “A ‘leave bank’ can help employees who have recently given birth or adopted a child, who are taking care of a sick family member or who are facing illness themselves and don’t have enough leave time to cover the hours they need to take off. This is common sense policy, and I look forward to working with Sen. Merkley and our colleagues in the Senate to move it forward.”

Each year, civilian Department of Defense employees accrue between 104 and 208 hours of paid annual leave. If they have not used all their annual leave in a given year, they may carry over up to 240 hours to the following year. Anything above 240 hours is considered “use it or lose it” and is forfeited if the employee does not use it by the end of that year.

Merkley and Round’s legislation would ensure that instead of going to waste, this additional leave time instead goes into the agency’s leave bank so that it is available as paid family or medical leave for the Department of Defense employees who need it most.

Currently, federal workers as a group are not guaranteed any paid family or medical leave. The Merkley-Rounds legislation would ensure that DoD workers have more paid leave available during these critical moments, while the entire federal government works towards a long-term solution that would guarantee full family and medical leave coverage for its employees.

The Merkley-Rounds legislation is supported by the National Partnership for Women & Families, the American Federal of Government Employees (AFGE), and the National Treasury Employees Union.