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OPM: Unpaid essential personnel must show up or risk AWOL status

WASHINGTON — The federal government is warning essential personnel who are required to work during the partial government shutdown that they either show up for duty or risk being classified AWOL, absent without leave.

A high number of TSA screeners failed to report for work earlier this week, some saying that financial hardship prevents them from getting to their jobs. Government workers, including TSA personnel, face the prospect of missing another paycheck this week.

In a memorandum from the Director of the Office of Personnel Management to heads of agencies and departments, OPM said employees who fail to report to work during the shutdown should be classified AWOL.

Here’s what the memo says:

If an employee is excepted from furlough, and therefore required to work during the shutdown yet has failed to do so, he or she would be considered AWOL during the period of any such unauthorized absence. The employee’s unauthorized absence should be coded in payroll as AWOL. Agencies may elect to provide the employee a written notification about his or her AWOL status at the time of the AWOL but this can vary by agency. The agency may use its discretion, based on the facts and circumstances of the employee’s situation, to apply appropriate consequences based on the AWOL status.

Notifications can vary from agency to agency, but OPM said agencies could send absent employees a written notification of their AWOL status.

If an employee has a legitimate reason for the absence, the agency could place the person on furlough, but AWOL employees can face appropriate consequences based on the discretion of the agency.

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