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Two agencies extend telework due to coronavirus

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.

McLaughlin wrote that management would determine eligible and approve workers who apply for the remote work program.

An AFGE spokesman told FCW in an email that the union supports USCIS's decision to implement the remote work policy. As of publication, USCIS did not answer an inquiry into when it was planning on implementing the program.

SEC telework

The Securities and Exchange Commission said it was encouraging employees in its Washington, D.C. headquarters to telework as a cautionary measure as of March 9 after an employee was treated for respiratory issues.

"Late [on the afternoon of March 9], the SEC was informed that a Washington, DC Headquarters employee was treated for respiratory symptoms on Monday. The employee was informed by a physician that the employee may have the coronavirus and was referred for testing," an SEC spokesman said in an email to FCW.

"Amongst other precautions, the SEC is encouraging Headquarters employees to telework until further guidance."

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, adverse respiratory symptoms such as shortness of breath and coughing are one side effect of the coronavirus.

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.

Reader comments

Sun, May 3, 2020 Ben Virginia

I have neighbor who is high paid federal employee from SEC. He always outside in yard every day or with kids or shops or contractors on yard. Goes to bed early. He makes approximately $180,000 a year as told by neighbor who knows. May he smart or very lucky with boss at SEC but $180,000 there should be more work for the telework. Now with COVID-19 he really has flexibility.

Wed, Mar 25, 2020 Virginia

My agency had a large telework program already in use and just put everyone on mandatory telework. We have over 10 years of experience with this - almost all meetings were remotely attended before now anyway. Working this way makes us all more accessible.

Tue, Mar 24, 2020 Alabama

My nextdoor neighbor is in management at Social Security Administration (SSA). She states only 20% of their employees are telework (TW) ready as SSA does not have modems to provide to employees. Other agencies who's employees TW provide their own modem as almost every household in America has internet now. SSA is still paying these employees for no work. Our seniors will end up suffering because of this technicality. I am a federal employee for another agency and I TW. All that is needed is a laptop which most all workers have. If not, they should be provided one so they can continue their work! What a waste of government money!

Mon, Mar 23, 2020 XXX

SHUTDOWN ON THE TELEWORKERS.

Thu, Mar 12, 2020

Before the virus we were not allowed to telework. I have driven to work in massive storms. Now with the virus suddenly we are allowed.

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2020 Digital Almanac

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