RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas –
Abuses of the Air Force's absence and leave policy can have dire consequences, including loss of job.
But the way for civilian employees to avoid such an outcome is simple, say human resource specialists at Randolph.
"If you leave work early, make sure you're taking leave in accordance with regulations," said Jesse Solano, 902nd Force Support Squadron Workforce Effectiveness Element chief. "You must have leave approved by your supervisor and document that you will be away from work."
The Air Force's absence and leave policy is spelled out in Air Force Instruction 36-815, which explains how much leave employees earn and when and under what conditions employees are granted annual leave, sick leave, leave without pay and other specialized forms of leave and absence.
AFI 36-815 also sets out requirements for installation commanders, supervisors and employees alike:
- Responsibilities for commanders or their designated civilian personnel officers include administering leave according to law and regulation and identifying and promptly correcting sick leave abuses.
- Supervisors must "ensure that all employees under their supervision are informed of the procedure they must follow in requesting and using leave" and "ensure that all absences from duty are appropriately charged according to applicable laws and regulations."
- Employees are required to "be dependable and regularly report for work" and "report unexpected absences to the supervisor and request approval for the absence according to established policies."
Though AFI 36-815 clearly states compliance with the policy is mandatory, abuses can happen.
"Most people are honest," Mr. Solano said, "but there are exceptions we have to deal with."
He said some people are leaving work early but are not taking the appropriate leave.
"That's wrong," Mr. Solano said. "Failure to take the appropriate leave and documenting it (on their time cards) could lead to disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal."
He said knowingly certifying a time card that contains inaccurate information is "falsifying a government document."
Rodney Morris, 902nd FSS employee relations specialist, said commanders establish duty hours for various organizations. One common work day is 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., with 45 to 60 minutes set aside for lunch.
"Employees are expected to work that entire shift unless a need arises, then leave is required," he said. "Examples are medical emergencies, doctor appointments and pre-scheduled events such as school activities. But you must get your supervisor's approval prior to leaving work."
According to regulations, employees who leave work without approved leave are considered absent without leave, and their timecards should be coded that way.
Mr. Solano said other examples of abuses are coming to work late or taking long lunches, circumstances that also must be documented as absent without leave. But he said supervisors may excuse employees if they are absent or tardy due to unforeseen circumstances such as car problems or incidents that tie up traffic. Typically those absences must be less than one hour, and they are recorded as regular duty.
Supervisors may also grant a brief period of early dismissal, but that authority must be used sparingly and on an individual basis.
Much of the burden for following the requirements of AFI 36-815 falls on supervisors.
"As a supervisor, I have to make sure I'm getting eight hours of work from my people," Mr. Solano said.
If employees aren't at work for eight hours, he said, supervisors and managers have the responsibility to make sure they are charged appropriate leave.
"Supervisors have a higher responsibility than employees," Mr. Morris said. "We hold them to a higher standard. It's possible they could be removed from their position."
But Col. Richard Murphy, 12th Flying Training Wing commander, also called it a shared responsibility.
"I expect employees and supervisors to be accountable for accurately recording time worked, time in an approved paid leave status and time in a non-pay status," he said in a policy letter on time card accountability. "In addition, all employees are reminded that you are expected to maintain high standards of honesty, responsibility and accountability as well as to adhere to the Air Force Core Values of 'integrity first, service before self and excellence in all we do.'"