Recalled IRS staff told to bring their own PPE

The IRS is recalling "mission-critical" employees to job sites to process tax returns and conduct other key business that requires office presence, according to an April 24 email to employees that was released by the House Ways and Means Committee.

The recall includes about 10,000 employees at 10 sites, and their main functions will be opening mail, answering phones and other activities that take place during tax filing season, Tony Reardon, national president of the National Treasury Employees Union, told multiple media outlets over the weekend.

The traditional individual tax filing deadline of April 15 was pushed back to July 15 because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

IRS employees will be required to wear face coverings in IRS facilities when in common areas, but they can remove them in private offices or walled cubicles, according to the email. The agency asking employees to bring their own masks for now and mandating that face coverings "be conducive to a professional work environment and not contain any images or text that may be deemed inappropriate or offensive to others."

"Although the IRS is seeking to procure personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks and gloves, each IRS facility may not be able to initially procure the PPE for all employees immediately," the email stated.

This did not sit well with Ways and Means Chairman Rep. Richard E. Neal (D-Mass.) and Rep. John Lewis, (D-Ga.) who chairs the Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee.

"It is understandable that in carrying out its mission during a crisis, the agency would require some employees to report back to work during perilous times," the lawmakers said in a statement. "However, it is completely irresponsible and unethical for the IRS to demand those workers obtain their own protective equipment -- this is the responsibility of the federal government to its workers."

The lawmakers were especially concerned given a report from IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig to committee staff that 100 agency employees have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and four have died.

IRS had been operating under an evacuation order that includes mandatory telework for all eligible employees and a "maxiflex" schedule that let employees set their telework hours around caregiving duties at home.

Reader comments

Tue, Apr 28, 2020

This should be no surprise to anyone as the IRS historically mistreats its employees. Poor. mean and disrespectful managers are protected; not the bruised and wounded staff.

Tue, Apr 28, 2020

Obviously the IRS doesn't have a clue about how issuing PPE works. In all my years of working for the government I never supplied my own PPE. What a employee brings in inadequate PPE and gets sick and or causes others to get sick because of it. The IRS would be liable.

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