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AFGE urges Congress to support federal worker protections

To better protect federal workers on the front lines in the battle against the coronavirus, the American Federation of Government Employees issued six recommendations to Congress.

“Because of workplace exposure, nine civilian federal workers have died of the virus and thousands more have tested positive,” AFGE said, noting that absent a uniform way to report COVID-19 infections and deaths, the number of affected workers could actually be much higher. 

For the next relief package, AFGE recommends:

  1. Hazardous duty and environmental pay differentials for federal employees who are required to report to work and risk exposure to COVID-19 through their jobs in hospitals, prisons, airports, military installations and other federal campuses.
  2. Presumption of workplace illness for workers who contract the virus because they must interact with the public, quarantined individuals or those who have been diagnosed with COVID-19. A workplace presumption of illness would allow federal employees who have contracted the virus through their work to make a Federal Employee Compensation Act claim without facing a potentially lengthy denial and appeals process.
  3. Telework should be expanded to all employees who can work remotely. Those who cannot perform their duties remotely, and are not required to report to work, should be placed on weather and safety leave.
  4. Weather and safety leave should be provided to all employees who are not able to perform their duties remotely as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.
  5. Labor-management relations and communications between union representatives and employees should be restored so agencies can quickly implement new workplace policies and procedures.
  6. Federal Employees Health Benefits Program should allow the COVID-19 pandemic to be considered a “qualifying life event,” giving federal employees who are not currently enrolled in a FEHBP plan a chance to buy health coverage and allowing current participants to make changes to their existing plans.

“The federal workforce is bravely working to ensure that the American public continues to receive important services and benefits during the COVID-19 crisis,” AFGE President Everett Kelley wrote in a letter to members of the House and the Senate. “We ask that you please urge your leadership to include the above worker safety provisions in future COVID-19 response legislation.”

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