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House of Representatives
Session of 2023 - 2024 Regular Session


Posted: January 18, 2023 03:00 PM
From: Representative David H. Zimmerman
To: All House members
Subject: Furloughs During Emergency Declarations (HB 1344, 2021/22)
I will soon be reintroducing important legislation to ensure that the Commonwealth is better prepared for any future disasters on the scale of the COVID-19 pandemic. In particular, this legislation will provide for situations where Commonwealth employees are prevented from performing their duties for an extended period of time.
In the spring of 2020, thousands of Commonwealth employees who could not perform their duties safely in person or remotely were placed on paid leave for approximately three weeks. Eventually, the Wolf Administration allowed these employees to elect to use their accrued paid leave to continue receiving pay. Otherwise, employees were placed on unpaid leave and permitted to retain their health care benefits. While I believe the administration eventually found the right balance between protecting taxpayers and the fair treatment of employees, I believe that it is important to learn from this experience moving forward.
My legislation would provide for unpaid leave (with benefits and the option to use accrued paid leave) after five days of an office closure that is related to a disaster emergency declared by the Governor or other exigent circumstances. To be clear, this would only apply to Commonwealth employees who are unable to work. Those who can perform their duties (at the normal location, an alternative location, or through telework) would continue working and being paid their normal wages.
As seen that year, a long-term disaster emergency places enormous financial strain on the Commonwealth, both reducing tax revenue and requiring greater spending on some programs. During these extraordinary times, taxpayers should not be called upon to pay wages to employees who cannot perform their job duties. My bill will ensure that unpaid leave is required for situations lasting longer than five business days.
Please join me by cosponsoring this bill.
Previous cosponsors of HB 1344 (2021-2022): Smith, Ryan, Grove, Cox, James, Rowe

Introduced as HB556