While many companies have started requiring employees to work from home during the coronavirus outbreak, one really large employer is conspicuously absent from the telework trend: the federal government.
The Trump administration had previously been cutting back on telework, but Rep. Don Beyer, who’s currently in self-quarantine, says enough is enough — it’s time to send federal office workers home. He penned a letter to the director of the federal Office of Personnel Management today.
“Now is the time to act before more employees become sick and lose their lives because of inaction,” Beyer wrote.
The full letter is below.
Dear Director Cabaniss:
I write today to encourage you to implement remote teleworking for all capable federal employees as the country takes steps to mitigate the COVID-19 global pandemic and to protect our federal workers and their families. As the virus continues to affect Americans in almost every state, it is vital that the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) take immediate steps to mitigate community spread of the virus, including social distancing measures.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continues to stress the importance of social distancing practices to reduce the likelihood of being infected by the coronavirus. Currently, it is believed that the virus is spreading primarily through person-to-person contact via airborne particles from those infected. Expanded telework would decrease the susceptibility of spread via person-to-person contact and therefore is essential that it is mandated for all capable federal employees. The current lack of telework options increases social contact and limits the positive effects of social distancing to reduce community spread.
Federal employees make up a significant portion of my constituency and I have heard from numerous federal workers who feel uncomfortable taking public transit and working in environments with hundreds to thousands of people, potentially unaware they have the virus.
Cases are continuing to spread at a rapid rate and OPM has not yet issued guidance on expanded telework options for federal employees. In keeping with guidelines recommended by the CDC, we urge you to expand telework options for all capable federal employees before the virus continues to spread. COVID-19 has been spreading in the United States for months without a sufficient response from federal agencies. The current OPM policy for individuals deferring to their direct supervisors to telework is not an acceptable response given the severity of this outbreak. Now is the time to act before more employees become sick and lose their lives because of inaction.
Donald S. Beyer Jr.
Member of Congress