Federal HR Policies Affecting Schedule A Appointment
Former Schedule A appointees are subject to the leave policies of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), and the Cooperative Extension Service (CES) organization where they are employed.
Title 5 U.S.Code of Federal Regulations, Part 630, provides the regulations on Federal leave programs and policies. However, all of the Federal or USDA policies do not apply to CES employees with Federal benefits . Federal/USDA policies applicable to the CES are described below.
The leave policies and programs of the CES college/university are applicable to all of the CES employees with Federal benefits, unless there is a Federal policy that limits or supercedes the leave policies of the college/university. This applies to all CES employees past and present that were on a Federal Schedule A appointment. Leave cannot be transferred from one agency/organization to another. This applies not only to transfers from one CES organization to another but to all transfers from any agency to or from the CES organization.
Policies and Procedures
CES employees who were granted Federal appointments are not covered by the Federal annual leave policies and provisions. The policies and procedures of the college/university will determine how annual leave is earned, used, and accounted for. Annual leave accrued under one state leave system cannot be transferred to another CES organization or to the Federal leave system. Likewise, annual leave earned under the Federal leave system may not be transferred to a CES leave system.
CES employees who were granted Federal appointments are not covered by the Federal sick leave policies and provisions, except for the sick leave provisions that allow an employee to receive credit for their accumulated sick leave when they retire IF their employing office has an approved sick leave policy on file with OPM. The policies and procedures of the employing college/university will determine how sick leave is earned, used, and accounted for.
Sick leave accrued under one state leave system cannot be transferred to another CES organization or to the Federal leave system. Likewise, sick leave earned under the Federal leave system may not be transferred to a CES leave system.
Under CSRS, an employee’s sick leave accumulates, for retirement purposes, from the date of his/her Federal appointment with the CES organization. Sick leave creditable at time of retirement is that earned with the CES organization from which retired. Sick leave can be used as creditable service for retirement purposes IF the CES organization has an approved sick leave policy on file with OPM. The leave cannot be used to extend an appointees service to be eligible for retirement but, the unused days are used to determine the number of years and months of service for CSRS annuity computation purposes. Unused sick leave is not creditable for FERS annuity computation purposes.
Leave Donor Program
CES employees are not covered by the provisions of the Federal Leave Donor Program because they are not covered by Federal leave policies and procedures. The CES former Schedule A appointees have always been covered by the leave systems of the colleges and universities that employee them. The employing college/university will determine if their CES program will have a leave donor program and the employing office will establish the policies and procedures that govern their leave donor program. The policies and procedures of one CES organization may differ from the policies and procedures of another CES organization
Leave Without Pay (LWOP)
This policy is applicable only to the cooperative employment status of employees that participate in the Federal benefits programs. The policy should not be construed as limiting or affecting in any way the authority of the University CES in granting institutional LWOP.
Employees may be granted LWOP for periods up to 30 days without the approval of USDA, ARS/HRD and the NIFA Administrator. Extended LWOP (periods of more than one month) will be approved only when it is within the guidelines of USDA policy.
It is policy of USDA to grant extended LWOP only when it is for both the benefit of the employing organization and for the welfare or benefit of the employee. Except when action is pending on an employee’s application for disability retirement, there must be a commitment by the employee that he/she will return to the agency upon expiration of the LWOP. Requests for LWOP and extension thereof should be examined carefully and the LWOP granted must adhere to the policy and standards outlined herein. All request for extended LWOP, i.e., LWOP in excess of one year, except LWOP to obtain an advanced degree, must be submitted to USDA, ARS/HRD CES team and approved by the NIFA Administrator.
In the absence of a regulation or law forbidding it, the policy of USDA is to be liberal in approving LWOP in the following cases:
- For disabled veterans who require medical treatment.
- For employees whose applications for disability compensation are pending.
- For employees actually being paid disability compensation, unless it is known that they are permanently disabled for performance of their duties.
- In cases of illness if medical or other evidence is obtained to attest to the fact that the illness exists, unless such evidence shows that the employee will not return to duty.
- For up to four months to give birth or care for mother and/or new child/infant when there is evidence that the employee intends to return to duty (See Family Leave in this section).
- For employees to attend school if the course of study to be pursued will result in increased job ability applicable to work of the agency.
In addition to the cases listed above in which the use of a liberal policy is specifically provided for, there are other situations in which extended LWOP may be granted. These are as follows:
- To work in a non-Federal public or private enterprise where the work is temporary and the following provisions are met:
- The activity in which the employee is to be engaged is one of special interest to the agency and will result in increased job ability applicable to the work of the agency.
- The doing of such work does not involve the use of information obtained as the result of the employment in the agency to the detriment of the public service.
- That such employment does not tend to bring criticism on or cause embarrassment to the agency.
- That the employee is not accepting office in organizations nor permitting the use of his/her name in the advertising matter of organizations commercializing the results of research work conducted by USDA or State Experiment Stations, irrespective of any merits that such enterprise may appear to possess.
- For short-term (90 days or less) missions to public international organizations where the employee has highly specialized qualifications and is to be engaged in organizing programs or in consultant work. Examples of public international organizations are Inter-American Institute of Agricultural Sciences, Food and Agricultural Organization, and Organization of American States.
- When denial of LWOP would result in severe personal hardship to the employee and the agency is interested in his/her retention.
- In order to protect the employee’s status pending final action by the Office of Personnel Management on a claim for disability retirement after all sick and annual leave have been used.
- Assignments with International Organizations, Foreign Governments, Agencies, or Individuals. Employees may be placed on LWOP to accept overseas assignments closely related to the mission of Cooperative Extension and from which the employee intends to return to the Cooperative Extension organization. This leave is limited to two years. However, if the assignment is on direct hire with U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the employee’s Federal benefits will be terminated and the employee can not be reappointed to CES with Federal benefits and retirement.
With the following exceptions, there are no generally recognized criteria under which approval will be granted for extension of LWOP that would lengthen the period to more than two years from the original date:
- Extension of LWOP for employees to obtain advanced degrees.
- Extension for employees being paid disability compensation unless there is medical evidence that the employee will return to duty.
- Extension for employees because of illness provided medical or other evidence is obtained to attest to the fact that illness exists, and provided such evidence does not show that the employee will be unable to return to duty.
- Military furlough.
If a situation occurs wherein it is apparent that an employee’s LWOP should be extended beyond a two-year period in order to protect the interests of the agency, a complete statement of facts may be submitted to USDA HRD/CES team for consideration. This statement should be submitted not less than one month prior to the expiration of the approved LWOP. Requests to extend LWOP beyond 2 years to obtain an advanced degree must be approved by USDA ARS/HRD.
LWOP is prohibited for "9-Month" appointments because the Schedule A appointing authority that allows the CES employees to participate in the Federal benefit programs does not allow someone to be appointed for less than the full calendar year. As stated in Schedule A Appointments section of this guidance, academic year appointments are not authorized. A 9-month paid duty status is a condition of employment by the employer at the onset. LWOP, therefore, is not applicable. LWOP is approved only when it is not a condition of employment and to do so is advantageous to NIFA and CES organizations.
Procedures and Authority to Approve LWOP
All requests for extended LWOP, except LWOP taken to obtain an advanced degree, must be forwarded to USDA, ARS/HRD CES team. The request and supporting documents must be approved by the USDA, ARS/HRD CES team and signed by the NIFA Administrator before the employee takes the LWOP. The reason for the LWOP and/or how it serves to benefit the agency and advance the welfare of the employee, and the return to duty date must be included in the documentation. No assurance should be given to the employee that his/her leave of absence will be granted until NIFA approval is received.
State CES Directors/Administrators, or their designee, may approve up to 2 years LWOP when the employee’s request is for the purpose of obtaining an advanced degree.
Most personnel actions for LWOP are processed in one year increments. If the LWOP exceeds one year, another action is processed to “Extend LWOP” to the appropriate not to exceed one year date.
Periods of LWOP must be recorded on the employees Individual Retirement Record (IRR).
Military leave provides members of a National Guard or armed forces reserve unit time off—without charge to annual leave or loss of pay—to serve on active duty or active duty for training. “Military leave” does not include periods of inactive duty training or an indefinite period of furlough without pay granted to employees for indefinite active military service. Indefinite military furlough is synonymous with LWOP.
To be eligible for military leave, employees must be members of the National Guard or of a reserve component of the armed forces in receipt of orders to either active duty or active duty for training. Employees who are entitled to military leave and who are ordered to report for military training or duty must be released from their positions. Applications for military leave must be supported by a copy of the order directing employees to report.
Federal Policy - Eligible full-time employees accrue military leave at the rate of 15 days per fiscal year. Unused leave earned during one fiscal year may accumulate for use in the succeeding fiscal year until it totals 15 days at the beginning of a fiscal year. Therefore, full-time employees could take up to 30 days in a fiscal year (i.e., 15 days regular military leave and 15 days carried over from the previous year) for active duty or active duty for training.
Federal military leave policies may not be directly applicable to CES employees with Federal benefits since CES is not under a formal OPM leave system; however, CES employees should be given time off with pay for their military leave up to 15 days per fiscal year or, 30 days if they can carry over 15 days from the prior fiscal year.
The policies and procedures of the college/university will determine how family leave is earned, used, and accounted for. Request for leave under the Family Leave Act, e.g. birth or care of a child/infant and other family related conditions may require a request to and approval from USDA.
Study Leave or Paid Leave for Education
The CES organization may use Federal or offset funds to pay all of the CES employees salary for a period of not to exceed twelve months study leave in credit courses selected primarily to improve employees’ proficiency in Extension work and supervised by recognized institutions of higher education. Payment may also be made for tuition costs for courses attended by employees participating in study to better equip them to perform their assigned responsibilities. Institutional policies governing the return to Cooperative Extension employment at the end of study leave shall apply.
Sources of salaries paid employees on study leave do not have to conform with sources of salary paid prior to study leave. For determining the type of funds used for salary while on study leave, consider the following:
- The funds from which the employee was paid immediately prior to the study leave.
- The programs envisioned to benefits as a result of the course of study pursued by the employee.
If the study leave is at a reduced salary the salary must be recorded on the IRR.
For questions and additional information on leave programs contact your CES HRD office or the USDA HRD CES Team.
Back to CES HR Guidance Index