Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has placed on the Senate calendar legislation that would give retirement credit for unused sick leave to postal and federal employees enrolled in the Federal Employees’ Retirement System (FERS). The legislation is part of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (H.R. 1256), which passed the House of Representatives on April 2, by a vote of 298-112.
In addition to authorizing the Food and Drug Administration to regulate tobacco products, the bill includes a number of provisions affecting postal and federal employees:
- The legislation would credit postal and federal workers with unused sick leave when determining the amount of their FERS annuity. Currently, only employees covered by the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) receive credit for unused sick leave. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has found that FERS employees approaching retirement use significantly more sick leave than CSRS employees. A recent OPM study concluded that this costs employers approximately $70 million in lost productivity each year. The change would reduce the incentive for employees to use sick leave as they near retirement.
- The act would automatically enroll newly hired federal employees in the Thrift Savings Plan, and make them eligible for matching contributions from their employer.
- The bill also requires the establishment of a “qualified Roth contribution” option for the TSP. This option, previously available only in the private sector, permits employees to contribute to their TSP account after paying taxes on the contribution, and allows them to withdraw the money tax-free upon retirement.
Although supporters of the bill hope to pass it before Congress’ Memorial Day recess, because of objections to the tobacco provisions, Republican senators are expected to filibuster the legislation.
“The APWU has sought sick-leave credit equity for FERS employees for many years,” said APWU Legislative & Political Director Myke Reid. “We have an opportunity to accomplish that goal in the coming weeks.
“I encourage all APWU members to contact their senators and ask them to support this important legislation.”
In an April 1, 2009, “Statement of Administration Policy” the White House expressed strong support for the bill.