Changes to state employee vacation policy advanced

Lawmakers gave first-round approval Feb. 23 to a bill ensuring state employees are compensated for unused vacation time.

Under LB830, introduced by Omaha Sen. Burke Harr, a state agency that denies an employee’s reasonable request to use vacation leave before it is forfeited under the “use it or lose it” policy must pay the employee the cash equivalent of the forfeited leave that was denied.

Harr said denying the compensation to employees who may be working considerable overtime in the face of workforce shortages is no way to show appreciation for years of loyal service.

“When a current employee requests vacation leave, many times it is denied due to workforce shortages,” he said. “These denials are at no fault of the employees yet they are the ones who are negatively impacted.”

A Business and Labor Committee amendment, adopted 28-0, clarified that cash payments made would be considered compensation in state employees’ defined contribution and cash benefit plans but would not be considered compensation for state employees’ defined benefit plans.

Currently only judges, state patrol and public school employees have defined benefit retirement plans. Harr said the change would ensure that an employee under a defined benefit plan could not artificially inflate his or her compensation right before retirement, inflating benefits received in retirement.

The committee amendment also incorporated into the bill provisions of LB972, also introduced by Harr. The amendment added major, nontenured policymaking positions to the list of state employees eligible for compensation under LB830.

The amendment would require that any cash payment for forfeited vacation leave be paid by the state agency within 30 days after the requested and denied leave is forfeited.

The bill advanced to select file on a 33-0 vote.

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