Developments at OPM: The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) published a Proposed Rule in the August 30, 2013 edition of the Federal Register (78 Fed.Reg. 53,695-53,700) for religious accommodations for federal employees. Comments on this Proposed Rule must be received by OPM by October 29, 2013.
Federal agencies are required to provide accommodation for federal employees who need to be absent from work on a particular date or time due to a religious observance. Typically, if leave is not being requested, then the employee must make up the time missed on a one-for-one compensatory time basis. OPM’s Proposed Rule revised and expands the present rules for religious accommodations in several respects. Under the proposed procedure, when an employee needs to request a religious accommodation, the employee submits a request in advance to the supervisor, naming the religious observance, noting the dates when the employee will be absent and identifying the dates when the employee wishes to work compensatory time to make up for the time taken off for religious purposes. The compensatory time work can be performed up to 26 pay periods before or after the religious observance. On receiving such a request, the employing agency is required to approve the leave unless approving the request would interfere with the agency’s ability to carry out its mission. Notably, the employee would not be required to prove any form of religious affiliation, substantiation of the existence of their particular religion or their level of religious belief. This Proposed Rule changes current regulations; current regulations are not as specific in terms of the documentary requirements for requesting religious accommodation, and provide for far less of a time window for the employee to perform their compensatory time work. The Proposed Rule would extend to all federal civil service employees except FAA and TSA employees, as well as employees who do not have a normal scheduled tour of duties such as intermittent employees.