Santa Obama: Some Fed Workers Get Paid Time Off

Time off in addition to Christmas holiday.

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Santa Claus is bringing gifts to some federal workers to offset the pay freeze they've suffered through this year.

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According to the administration, while there is no government-wide policy to give federal workers extra time off during the Christmas-New Year's holidays, federal agency bosses are being granted wide leeway to offer their workers a few extra days off. And according to some federal workers, agency heads are planning to grant employees some paid days off because they didn't received a pay hike this year.

The time off comes on top of the extra full or half day President Obama is expected to give during Christmas, which comes on Sunday this year. The federal holiday for Christmas will be Monday December 26.

According to an OPM official, any extra paid time off given by generous bosses has to meet several loose rules. Among the easiest is a requirement that the top boss who grants the time off is OK with his decision. [Bachmann’s Thanksgiving: Cheap Bird and ‘Turkey Bingo’.]

"We know that some agencies do provide limited amounts of excused absence to their employees around the holidays," said the OPM in a statement to Whispers. They add: "Although agencies do have the discretion to excuse employees from their duties without loss of pay or charge to leave, OPM has always advised that the granting of excused absence should be limited to those situations in which the employees' absence, in the agency's determination, is not specifically prohibited by law and satisfies one or more of the following criteria: (1) the absence is directly related to the agency's mission; (2) the absence is officially sponsored or sanctioned by the head of agency; (3) the absence will clearly enhance the professional development or skills of the employee in his or her current position; or (4) the absence is brief and is determined to be in the interest of the agency."

What's more, the agency said, "Ultimately, it is the responsibility of each agency head to ensure that employees' work requirements are fulfilled and that agency operations are conducted efficiently and effectively. Should an agency provide any excused absence or early dismissal to its employees, the excused absence should meet the criteria cited above, and should only be provided to the extent that such time off does not interfere with agency operations."

Federal workers, who according to 2009 OPM figures earn an average $74,403 annually in salary and an average of $109,000-$116,000 in total compensation, have been the subject of several efforts to cut costs in the government, though the president has pushed back on those moves. He did, however, freeze pay through next year.

No announcement has yet been made regarding whether the president will issue an order granting additional time off to federal employees around the Christmas holiday. But, said OPM, "In the past, depending on what day of the week the Christmas holiday has fallen, presidents have provided an extra day or half-day off by executive order, (e.g., President Obama provided a half-day off on Christmas Eve, Thursday, December 24, 2009. President George W. Bush similarly provided a half-day holiday on Wednesday, Dec. 24, 2002, as well as several full days off the day before or after Christmas—Tuesday, December 24, 2001, Thursday, December 26, 2003, Tuesday, December 24, 2007, and Thursday, December 26, 2008.)"

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