The Federal Employee Paid Leave Act: What Federal Employees Should Know

October 8, 2020
The Law Firm of J.W. Stafford

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The current White House administration hasn’t been the most employee-friendly, but it has done at least one thing that employees can appreciate: the arrival of paid parental leave for the first time.

Passed as a part of the National Defense Authorization Act for the Fiscal Year 2020, the Federal Employee Paid Leave Act promises paid parental leave for federal employees who are new parents.

Paid leave is a major issue for many Americans, especially in light of the coronavirus pandemic. Due to its relative rarity, trying to take advantage of paid time off to care for a child can often lead to employment issues that sometimes warrant the services of a Maryland employment lawyer. Hopefully, this new law will reduce the chances of that happening.

How Does the Federal Employee Paid Leave Act Work?

As its name implies, the Federal Employee Paid Leave Act (FEPLA) only applies to federal employees. According to the FEPLA statute and accompanying interim regulations, eligible federal employees may take up to 12 weeks of paid leave for the birth or placement (foster care or adoption) of a child. FEPLA leave only applies if the birth or placement of the child occurs on or after October 1, 2020.

The eligibility requirements for FEPLA leave is the same as FMLA leave. Additionally, FEPLA leave must be used in place of FMLA leave. In other words, a federal employee doesn’t get 12 weeks of FMLA leave and 12 weeks of FEPLA leave in a given year. Instead, the 12 weeks of leave benefits must be apportioned between FEPLA or FMLA leave.

For example, if an employee has already taken seven weeks of FMLA leave when they request FEPLA leave, they will only have five weeks of FEPLA leave available to them.

FEPLA leave is only available for one year after the birth or placement of the child. If the parent does not use the paid leave during this 12 month period, it’s gone for good. There is no carryover to another year or option to receive compensation for any unused FEPLA leave.

Finally, using FEPLA imposes a work obligation on the employee. In order to take FEPLA leave, the employee must promise to work for the employer at least 12 weeks upon return from FEPLA leave. This work obligation exists even if the employee only uses part of his or her 12-week FEPLA allotment.

Do All Federal Employees Have Access to FEPLA Leave?

No. As currently drafted, our Maryland employment lawyer notes that there is a large group of federal employees that do not have access to FEPLA leave (but should). Due to some unintended mistakes in the drafting of FEPLA, some federal employees have been left out, such as:

  • Certain types of Transportation Security Administration employees
  • Individuals working for the Federal Aviation Administration
  • Title 38 employees

Congress is in the process of closing these loopholes. There have been several attempts, including the Federal Employee Parental Leave Technical Correction Act and the William M. Thornberry National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021. The latter appears to show the most potential, as it has already passed the House of Representatives while the former has only been introduced into the Senate.

Either way, Congress will likely find a way to eventually have FEPLA benefits available to all federal employees as originally intended.

Still Have Questions About the FEPLA? Contact Our Maryland Employment Lawyer

Don’t worry, this law is so new and is only now getting implemented for the first time. Whether you want to learn more about your federal paid leave rights or your boss has denied your request for paid parental leave, getting in touch with a Maryland employment lawyer is something to consider. A good place to start is by contacting the Law Firm of J.W. Stafford. Call 410-514-6099 today.