Will Black Friday be a day off for feds?

Monday - 11/8/2010, 4:00am EST

Question: If you work for Uncle Sam what do you have in common with a Thanksgiving turkey? What are the odds that you'll get a bonus holiday giving you a four-day weekend over Thanksgiving?

Answer: If either of you wants to turn Thanksgiving into a fun-filled, four-day weekend you both better take off, now!

Don't hang around hoping for good news.

So what are the odds that you as a federal employee (this is not applicable to turkeys) will get the Friday after Thanksgiving off as a bonus holiday?

The answer depends entirely on where you work.

If you are with the Social Security Administration it's a done deal. The boss there is giving the troops the Friday after Thanksgiving day off in recognition of a year of good work, and improved service.

SSA on its best day is swamped with calls, comments and complaints from angry, frustrated and sometimes very confused customers. And that's in addition to the legitimate questions, comments and beefs they get. Things were especially busy when seniors swamped the agency with calls last year asking when their $250 special payments were coming. The same thing is likely to happen again in 2011.

When it comes to dealing with an irate, demanding and sometimes threatening group of customers SSA ranks right up there with the Internal Revenue Service which also has high traffic.

Individual agency heads have the authority to grant employees time off including bad weather situations. At one point last winter Baltimore-based feds were told to come into work while most of their D.C. counterparts got the week off because an unusually severe (for us or Baltimore) blizzard.

But except for SSA there are no indications that anybody else in government is going to get the Friday after Thanksgiving off, unless they take annual leave.

Government Executive checked in with several federal agencies. According to the magazine, the word from the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Environmental Protection Agency was that it's a Thursday-only holiday for their folks. The always diplomatic State Department told GE it had no comment at that time. I would take that as a no!

SSA made its call early so that workers could plan accordingly and not be required to put in for annual leave if they wanted a four-day weekend.

Many Congressional staffers will have the extra day off. That will depend on their boss, who may not be in the best of moods right about now. When the Republicans take over the House in January many Democratic staffers will be let go and Republicans will take their place. The membership on many House committees increased because Speaker Nancy Pelosi figured, probably correctly, that newly elected members and their staff could get more broad congressional experience faster by serving on several committees.

And lots of them -- if they work for members who are retiring or were defeated or for committees -- will need the time to regroup and/or job hunt. Most of the about-to-be-unemployed congressional staffers work for defeated Democrats. But there are Republican casualties too.

President Obama could, of course, grant a day off. But had that been in the cards it most likely would have been done some time ago. Given the anti-Washington, anti-establishment mood in the country right now, giving federal workers an extra holiday at a time of high unemployment and before an election would not have been a smart move.

Nor is the timing any better after this particular election!

So if you want the day off for sure, don't hold that leave request too much longer!

By tradition the turkey or turkeys delivered to the White House usually get a reprieve. Although nobody every really follows up, as far as I know, we are led to believe that the lucky White House turkeys are put out to pasture for the rest of their natural lives.

But if you are a fed, you better scratch for yourself.

To reach me: mcausey@federalnewsradio.com


Nearly Useless Factoid
by Suzanne Kubota
Terry, the female Cairn terrier who played Toto in the Wizard of Oz, reports AOLNews, "was paid even more than the Munchkin actors."
MORE PAY AND BENEFITS NEWS
OPM clarifies rule on suitability checks
Other headlines from this morning's Federal Newscast: Lewis declares opposition to omnibus, Gates not worried about bipartisan Congress, Tea Party Senator-elect Backs 10 Percent Pay Cut.