District Government Furloughs


Effective Date: Expiration Date: Chapters:
Nov. 29, 2021 When Superseded 24  


Like any organization, the District government requires funding to operate. As a public entity, the D.C. Council establishes our budgets using projected tax revenues. In some circumstances, funding projections may fall short, or legislators may be unable to timely pass a budget due to extraordinary circumstances. 

When revenues fall short and cannot cover operating expenses, or the legislature fails to appropriate funds, the District government may need to create cost savings by reducing or suspending payable hours. We typically refer to these cost saving efforts as a “furlough.”

What are Furloughs and When Can Furloughs Occur?

A furlough may occur when it is required for budgetary reasons such as due to a budgetary shortfall or a lapse in appropriations. When a furlough occurs, designated employees may be placed in a temporary non-duty, non-pay status due to a lack of work. This status can last anywhere from one day to a period of months depending on budgetary needs and what agencies must do to maintain continuity of operations. Designated full-time employees within the same competitive area are furloughed for the same number of hours. Part-time employees are furloughed at a pro-rated number of hours. Employees who are furloughed will not come to work.

Budgetary Shortfall

A budgetary shortfall occurs when revenues cannot cover operating expenses. In the event of a shortfall, District government agencies must absorb the cost reductions needed to maintain operations. 

Lapse in Appropriations

A lapse in appropriations happens when the legislature fails to appropriate funds before the funding deadline. An affected agency would have to shut down any activities funded by the appropriations that are not exempted by law.

When possible, the District government will provide advanced notice to employees for awareness if a shutdown could occur. Designated public health and safety employees, and employees otherwise exempted from furloughs by law, must continue to report to work during a government shutdown.

Agencies with essential employees who must work during a government shutdown must notify these employees of their work status.

Responding to Funding Shortfalls

When the District government falls short of revenue projections and cannot cover its operating budget, the Council or the Mayor may direct some or all agencies of the District government to furlough employees. An agency may itself submit a request to the personnel authority to conduct a furlough.

NOTE: If a furlough is directed by the Mayor, independent agencies may not be subject to the furlough. Furloughs initiated by the Council through legislation affect agencies designated in the legislation

Workforce Inquiry

When it is determined that the District government may not be able to cover its operating expenses due to a revenue shortfall, DCHR will conduct a workforce inquiry prior to the initiation of a furlough. The inquiry is not a directive or notification that an agency will be furloughed and is used solely to gather information.

During the inquiry, DCHR will request each agency to supply any justification for the exemption of their agency or any subdivision of their agency if a furlough occurs. For DCHR to consider any exemptions, agencies must submit these justifications prior to the deadline established in DCHR’s initial request.

Exemptions. Employees may be exempted from furloughs if they carry out public health or public safety functions. Any exemption granted to an employee must also apply to every employee in the affected subdivision (e.g., all employees of a certain position, in a certain department, etc.), or every employee in the affected subdivision assigned to the same geographic location (e.g., waste management personnel assigned to a specific region), as applicable.

Union employees are not automatically exempted from furloughs unless otherwise provided by their collective bargaining agreement.

Initiating a Furlough

Within five days of the exemption submission deadline specified by the workforce inquiry, DCHR will issue an administrative order outlining the details of the furlough (sample at Attachment 5). The order will contain:

  1. The reason for the furlough;
  2. The agencies and/or agency subdivisions to be furloughed;
  3. Any exemptions to the furlough;
  4. The number of furlough hours; and,
  5. The designated pay period(s) in which the furlough is to be conducted.

Agency Responsibilities

Upon receipt of the administrative order initiating a furlough, agencies must perform the following steps within the allotted timeframe:

Step Deadline
Step 1: Schedule furlough hours Within 5 days of receipt of furlough administrative order.
Step 2: Develop furlough notices Within 5 days of completing Step 1.
Step 3: Notify employees At least 30 days in advance of the employees’ first scheduled furlough date.

Step 1: Schedule Furlough Hours

An affected agency must create a schedule of employees to be furloughed within five days of receipt of the administrative order initiating a furlough. Agencies must submit this schedule to DCHR using the Furlough Designations spreadsheet (sample template at Attachment 1). If a category of employees is scheduled to be furloughed intermittently, agencies should input a separate entry for each furlough time period.

Agencies must only furlough employees on the dates listed on the furlough designation spreadsheet. Agencies may schedule employees to be furloughed even if the employee has already scheduled leave for that period.

Step 2: Develop Furlough Notices

Within five days of completing the furlough schedule, agencies must develop a furlough notice to send to their employees.

Each notice shall state the following:

  • The area or subdivision in which the furlough is to be conducted;
  • The dates and times on which the employee is to be furloughed;
  • The place where the employee may review the D.C. personnel regulations governing furloughs; and,
  • The employee’s rights, including, if applicable, the time limit for appeal and the location of the office to which an appeal should be sent.

A template notice is provided as Attachment 2.

Step 3: Notify Employees

Agencies must send the furlough notices to affected employees at least 30 calendar days before their first scheduled furlough date.

Furloughed Employees

If you are a furloughed employee, you will receive a notification from your agency. The notification will inform you that your area of work was selected to be furloughed, the dates and times which you will have your work hours reduced, and your applicable employee rights. Your notification will also inform you of how to appeal your furlough status.

Health Insurance and Retirement

During a furlough, employees will not experience a lapse in insurance coverage. When time in a non-pay status is spaced out to minimally affect pay, the employee’s share of any health insurance cost will be deducted from the employee’s base salary at the same premium rate as deducted in a non-furlough period. If the employee is in an extended non-pay status, the employee’s share of their Federal Employees Health Benefits or District of Columbia Employees Health Benefits premium will accumulate and will be withheld from pay upon return to a pay status.

The District does not provide retirement contributions for time in a non-pay status.

Employee Assistance

Furloughed District government employees may be eligible for unemployment compensation benefits from the Department of Employment Services. An employee who receives unemployment compensation will be required to pay back unemployment benefits if retroactive pay is ever awarded.

While furloughed, employees will still have access to the Employee Assistance Program if they elect to participate in mental health or financial counseling.

In the event a furlough or government shutdown creates a financial hardship, the District government provides a sample letter that an employee may submit to their landlord, creditor, or mortgage company to request a temporary reduction in monthly payments. (See Attachment 4).

Creditable Service

Although an employee is in a non-pay status while furloughed, time while furloughed is still considered creditable service for the purposes of calculating time-in-grade and other applicable requirements.


During a furlough, District employees who are on approved scheduled leave will have their leave suspended. Employees may not use leave to cover unpaid furlough days, and will not accrue leave while in an unpaid furlough status.

Employees on scheduled FMLA, Paid Family Leave (PFL), and other leave types will have their leave suspended and will not receive pay for the furloughed days. 

Appealing a Furlough Status

Unless otherwise provided by an applicable collective bargaining agreement, employees may file an appeal with the Office of Employee Appeals (OEA) under the provisions of the OEA’s regulations if they believe their agency assigned them to a furlough status without adhering to Chapter 24, §§ 2438 through 2445 of the District personnel regulations.


This issuance applies to those District government agencies for which the D.C. Department of Human Resources serves as the personnel authority and those personnel authorities that have adopted these procedures.


  1. Reductions in Force, 6-B DCMR § 2400 et seq.
  2. D.C. Official Code §1-624.01 et seq.


  1. Attachment 1 - Furlough Designation Spreadsheet
  2. Attachment 2 - Furlough Notice Template
  3. Attachment 3 - Sample Letters
  4. Attachment 4 - Sample Furlough Admin Order

Issued by Interim Director E. Lindsey Maxwell II, Esq., D.C. Department of Human Resources on Nov. 29, 2021, midnight