Senate votes to protect state employee leave during emergencies

Mike Seals - March 10, 2021 12:18 pm

OKLAHOMA CITY – Late Tuesday night, the Senate passed legislation to protect the annual leave of state employees who are unable to use it during a governor-declared emergency. Senate Bill 282, Sen. Frank Simpson, R-Springer, will allow such leave to be carried over until the end of the next fiscal year following the emergency.

“While most of the state was shut down during the pandemic last year, our state agencies kept working virtually. While some agencies’ workloads were not significantly impacted, others were overwhelmed with a historic outreach of need from citizens forcing them to work 24/7 accruing hundreds of hours of annual leave and comp time,” Simpson said. “Since the pandemic is ongoing, many were unable to use their leave and unfairly lost everything over the statutory caps at the end of the year. Senate Bill 282 will ensure that during future emergencies, state employees will be given an extra year after the emergency is terminated to use their hard-earned leave.”

Under current law, state employees can accrue a set amount of annual leave based on their years of service. Once the cap is surpassed, the employee has until December 31 to use any excess annual leave or it is lost. For state employees with less than five years of service, the limit is 240 hours. Those with five or more years of service can accrue up to 480 hours.

Last week, the Senate also approved Simpson’s SB 333 providing the same protection for state employees’ unused compensation time during state emergencies. Certain state agencies allow their staffs to accrue a set amount of comp time each year rather than overtime pay. The time must be used by the end of the year it is accrued or it is lost.

“We must do better by our nearly 33,000 hardworking public servants. They’re underpaid—approximately 12% below market value according to some studies—and being able to accrue annual leave and comp time is one of their perks for having to work longer than normal hours,” Simpson said. “We need to protect them and honor their service by allowing them an extra year to use their well-deserved vacation time.”

Both bills will next be considered in the House. Rep. Tommy Hardin, R-Madill, is the principal House author of SB 282 while Rep. Tammy Townley, R-Ardmore, will carry SB 333.

For more information, contact:  Sen. Simpson: (405) 521-5607 or [email protected]

 

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