We Answer Your Sequestration Questions – The What, Why, When of Furloughs

  Sequestration goes into effect on Friday and the quickly approaching deadline has feds asking a lot of questions. Like when will furloughs happen and for how long? Last week we talked with John Mahoney a partner and chair of the Labor and Employment Law Practice at Tully Rinckey about knowing your rights if you are furloughed. You can check out the full post here. We had Mahoney back on the show with Chris Dorobek to answer some of your furlough questions. Just a note these are general answers. For specific cases you can contact Tully Rinckey or another employment attorney.  When Would the Furloughs Start? "There will be a 30 day advance notice period before the furloughs begin. There is some expectation that pressure will really be put on Congress and the White House to resolve the sequestration issue between March 1st and the 31st. Furlough notices are expected to go out Monday if they can't find a sequestration resolution on Friday. The furloughs would then start in early April," said Mahoney.  Average Pay Cut? "A 20% pay cut is what most furloughed feds are looking at between now and September 30th," said Mahoney.  Retro-Active Pay? "This is different situation than with something like the shutdowns of the 1990s. With the sequester the government is required to cut $85 billion from the federal government's operating budget between now and September 30th, the end of the fiscal year. This is really the 1st time a furlough will stick and cause agencies to put feds in some sort of non-pay status. This will probably not be fixed by retroactive appropriations," said Mahoney.  Can You Get A Second Job? "It's very likely that furloughed feds will not authorized to seek replacement or second jobs. And even if they were given permission it would be difficult to find a second job because they are likely to get unpaid status for one day a week. So it would be hard to find a replacement job with that type of flexibility," said Mahoney.  Can You File for Unemployment if You Are Furloughed? "Folks will be able to file unemployment requests in the states where they work. But this will also have a major impact on unemployment benefits especially in states with a large federal workforce," said Mahoney.  How Does the Furlough Work for Probationary Feds? They are treated like any other federal employee. But there are two big issues for them:
  1. "The question is do probationary feds get credited service for the completion of their probationary period while they are furloughed? Right now it's all up in the air. I would think they wouldn't get credit for while they are on unpaid leave. We will have to see what happens on the backend once the sequestration resolution has been reached. There is a chance it will be retroactively added," said Mahoney.
  2. "Probationary feds do not have MSPB appeal rights. So if you are a probationary employee and you feel the agency that you work for is not fairly doling out furlough notices your only real recourse is to file an EEO complain if you believe it is discriminatory based on race, color, age etc. or if it is violating another prohibited personnel practice like Veterans preference or whistleblower reprisals. You would file those complaints through the Office of Special Counsel," said Mahoney. For more on MSPB grievances click here.
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