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Frequently Asked Questions Pandemic

  • Yes, managers can deny a request to telework, based on business reasons and subject to limitations on telework participation described in the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010. For example, an employee’s performance may not meet the standards outlined in the agency’s telework policy or the terms of the written telework agreement between that employee and his/her supervisor. Similarly, a position may not be eligible because its official duties and responsibilities have been determined to be incompatible with telework. The denial should be made in writing, with an explanation, and this written denial should be provided to the employee in a timely manner. Collective bargaining agreements may provide for an employee to file a grievance about the denial or cancellation of a telework agreement through the negotiated grievance procedure. Check with your agency's employee relations staff in Human Resources to discuss your agency's procedures.
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  • When an agency requires employees to follow certain safety procedures, such as using protective equipment or going through a decontamination station, it is to protect the safety and health of its employees.  As with any other agency policy, employees are expected to comply with agency safety and health policies.  Employees who refuse to comply may be subject to appropriate disciplinary action, up to and including removal from Federal service.
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  • Yes. The usual regular and emergency furlough provisions could apply in this situation. OPM’s Website provides extensive furlough guidance at www.opm.gov/furlough/furlough.htm.
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  • Managers may use their normal awards programs to recognize exceptional contributions to the organization. The variety of awards is the same as those generally available under current law and regulations. For additional information, see http://www.opm.gov/perform/reward.asp, http://www.opm.gov/perform/faqs/faqs.asp.
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  • Yes, provided that the agency bases the rescission(s) on legitimate management reasons.
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  • No. There currently is no authority for agency heads or OPM to order management to implement telework arrangements. Public Law 111-292 requires that the head of each executive agency establish a policy under which eligible employees of the agency may be authorized to telework. OPM is committed to providing agencies, managers, supervisors, and employees with current guidance and support to facilitate the use of telework in the Federal sector, including guidance on teleworking during an emergency as part of agency contingency planning.
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  • Requests for Direct-Hire Authority (DHA) must be based on a severe shortage of candidates or a critical hiring need. The information required depends on the basis for the request. The assumption is that most DHA requests resulting from a pandemic health crisis would be based on a critical hiring need.

    The agency head (or designee) must submit a request to OPM for a DHA based on a critical hiring need. The following information must be included:

    • The position(s) that must be filled
    • A description of the event or circumstance that has created the need to fill the position(s)
    • The duration for which the critical need is expected to exist
    • Supporting evidence that demonstrates why the use of other hiring authorities is impracticable or ineffective
    The agency head (or designee) must submit a request to OPM with the position or positions that are difficult to fill for a DHA based on a severe shortage of candidates. The following information must be included:
    • The results of workforce planning and analysis, e.g., the agency's emergency plan for pandemic influenza
    • The existence of nationwide or geographic skill shortages
    • Agency efforts, including recruitment initiatives or use of other appointing authorities and flexibilities, and an explanation of why these efforts have been insufficient
    • The availability and quality of candidates
    • The desirability of the geographic location, duties, and/or work environment associated with the position(s)
    Agencies should submit their requests to:
    Darlene Phelps
    Human Resources Specialist
    Darlene.Phelps@opm.gov
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  • During an emergency, agencies may hire individuals for up to 30 days (with a 30 day extension if the emergency need continues) without regard to the prohibition on employment of relatives.
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  • Equipment and who will provide it will vary by situation. Many Federal agencies provide equipment (e.g., laptops, second phone lines, etc.) at home-based worksites. Each agency must establish its own policies on the provision and installation of equipment.

    GSA's FMR bulletins provide some additional guidance for equipping home-based offices.
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  • During a pandemic health crisis, heads of agencies will strive to protect the health of employees while ensuring the Federal Government’s work is accomplished. Agencies may use a number of alternative work arrangements to promote the “social distancing” of employees. An agency may authorize evacuation payments and require employees to work from home during a pandemic health crisis. In addition, an agency may require employees with approved telework agreements to telework from home.
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