contagious workets (Huza Studio/Shutterstock.com)

Agencies’ inconsistent approach to reopening worries feds

Millions of Americans spent Memorial Day weekend returning to shared public spaces -- beaches, mountains and public parks -- some carefully social distancing, others not so much.

Federal employees are also returning in significant numbers to shared work spaces, and not always safely. Indeed, according to a new Bloomberg report, management’s attendance demands often aren’t matched by provision of protective equipment or adequate planning to ensure employees’ safety.

The report sketches union calls for greater safety measures, amid an uneven influx of feds back to their workplaces, and describes widely varying policies across many agencies, including the Securities and Exchange Commission, the departments of State and Interior, the IRS, national security agencies, and others.

National security workers, the report notes, were among the first since be recalled to bricks-and-mortar facilities in significant numbers, followed by thousands of IRS professionals who were needed to process paper tax forms. At these and many other key fed posts, health measures to protect returning employees have been inconsistent -- often little more than the issuance of perhaps a mask and hand sanitizer and, depending on the agency, a temperature check.

A picture of a patchwork of agency safety measures emerges from the report. Mirroring the wider economy, some of the most screen-time and “desk job” agencies have been the most protective: The SEC announced mandatory telework will continue into July.

In the face of varying agency policies, a bulwark buttressing feds’ safety has emerged. The governments of D.C. and neighboring states -- where the greatest number of federal employee live – have deployed more elaborate COVID-19 containment programs than states led by the White House’s closest allies, such as Georgia and Florida.

Reader comments

Thu, May 28, 2020

Federal employees are just like anyone else! They need to be protected and provided a safe working environment in order to bring them back to work. Otherwise, you are placing them in danger, and for some, it will be a death sentence!

Wed, May 27, 2020 J.D.

Hopefully everything will work out for Fed workers.

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2020 Digital Almanac

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