Federal Employees News Digest

Coronavirus: Agencies extend telework options

Against the backdrop of federal offices allowing their employees to telecommute as a precaution against the coronavirus, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced it was implementing a remote work program for its workers.

The decision is in accordance with a 2016 collective bargaining agreement between USCIS and the American Federation of Government Employees' National Citizenship and Immigration Services Council 119, which represents over 13,000 USCIS workers.

USCIS announced the program in a March 9 letter to AFGE Council 119 President Danielle Spooner.

"The Agency intends to implement the Remote Work program throughout every office in the Agency," Labor and Employee Relations Division chief Judy McLaughlin wrote.

"The Agency is seeking to establish effective and efficient remote work arrangements to support a more flexible and agile work environment without diminishing employee performance or accomplishment."

Teleworking has been a major concern for unions like AFGE, which have fought rollbacks of such arrangements in labor talks with agencies.

On March 6, AFGE National President Everett Kelley sent a letter to Office of Personnel Management Director Dale Cabaniss asking her to expand current telework policies to all workers regardless of previous arrangements as a precaution to allow federal workers to prioritize their health.

Remote work, however, would allow employees to work in locations other than USCIS offices "most or all of the time," and would allow employees who live at least 50 miles away from the near USCIS duty station to work at locations of their choosing. The program would not mandate employees to report to an agency office for the two days per pay period as dictated by current telework policies.

There were 20 known cases of COVID-19 across Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia as of March 10, according to data from an interactive map maintained by Johns Hopkins University.

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