Washington, DC – U.S. Senators Daniel K. Akaka (D-HI) and Mark L. Pryor (D-AR) introduced legislation (S. 1228) this week to provide leave equity for Administrative Law Judges (ALJs), Contract Board of Appeals Judges (CBAJs), and Immigration Law Judges (IJs).

Administrative law judges deserve the same opportunity to take leave as other senior Federal employees,” said Senator Akaka.  “We should not allow political debates over pay-for-performance to harm these judges’ benefits, especially when we need to attract more qualified judges to deal with a ballooning backlog of cases.”

“I commend Senator Akaka for his continued leadership to help administrative law judges receive equitable benefits. We must find ways to maintain and attract administrative law judges, especially in light of the tremendous backlog of casework that must be resolved,” Senator Pryor said.

International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers President, Gregory Junemann, echoed Senator Akaka’s concerns: “Unfortunately, the last Administration decided to hold annual leave benefits of ALJs hostage in an attempt to move forward their goal of pay-for-performance for our administrative law judges.  It is heartening however that Senators Akaka and Pryor have reintroduced this bill in the hopes that the Obama Administration’s OPM will be more supportive.”

In 2004, Congress passed the Federal Workplace Flexibility Act, which changed the leave accrual rate for mid-career employees entering the Federal workforce.  It also allowed employees in the Senior Executive Service (SES) to accrue leave at the maximum rate of 8 hours each bi-weekly period.  Congress intended to have administrative law judges accrue leave at the same rate as other senior-level employees, and in the past, ALJs, CBAJs, and IJs enjoyed parity with the SES.  However, the Bush Administration denied administrative law judges leave equity, citing the lack of a pay-for-performance system.

There currently is a shortage of administrative law judges in the Federal Government, particularly in the Social Security Administration, where the are approximately 765,000 cases pending and not enough ALJs to process the backlog.

This bill enjoys broad support from employee groups, including the Association of Administrative Law Judges, the Association of Hearing Office Chief Judges, the Federal Administrative Law Judges Conference, the Forum of United States Administrative Law Judges, the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, the National Association of Immigration Judges, and the Senior Executives Association.