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Frequently Asked Questions Pandemic

  • No. The regulations governing these authorities apply unless or until the President specifically suspends or waives them.
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  • There is no authority that would permit an employee to use sick leave to care for a child who is healthy or kept at home to prevent exposure to the flu. An employee is not necessarily entitled to use sick leave just because the child’s school has been closed to prevent exposure to the flu (a commonly used tool for social distancing) or for sanitation of the school building. Once the CDC has determined the flu is a serious communicable disease and a health care authority or health care provider has determined that the child’s exposure to the communicable disease would jeopardize the health of others, the employee would be entitled to use sick leave to care for that child.

    An employee may use a total of up to 104 hours (13 days) of sick leave each leave year care for a child or other family member exposed to a serious communicable disease. In addition, depending on the particular circumstances, an employee may request to use annual leave, advanced annual leave, advanced sick leave or other paid time off, such as earned compensatory time off, earned compensatory time off for travel, and earned credit hours. An employee may also request leave without pay. Employees should consult with their agency human resources office to determine how their agency policy applies to their situation.
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  • Advertising positions on USAJOBS is not required for the first three authorities listed in the previous question. An agency would have to advertise the position before using Direct-Hire Authority (DHA) or re-hiring a former employee or an annuitant if the appointment will last longer than 120 days, including extensions. Contracting with a private sector temporary firm is done under the Federal Acquisition Regulations.
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  • The agency head (or designee) must submit a request to OPM with the following information:
    • Type and number of the occupation(s) and duties involved
    • Description of why attempts to hold competitive examining did not/could not work
    • Reasons why recruitment and competitive examining are not possible (e.g., emergency situation with immediate hiring need)
    • Other options the agency considered in trying to fill its positions
    Agencies should submit their requests to:
    Darlene Phelps
    Human Resources Specialist
    Darlene.Phelps@opm.gov
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  • Management may require a medical examination when the position occupied by the employee contains properly developed physical or medical requirements (see 5 CFR § 339.301).  Most positions do not have established physical or medical requirements.  If the criteria are met for requiring a medical examination and the employee refuses the exam, he or she may be disciplined, up to and including removal from Federal service.Requiring a medical examination based on perception of an employee’s flu-like symptoms is very problematic and should be avoided.  However, when a supervisor observes an employee exhibiting signs of illness, the supervisor may express concern regarding the employee’s health and remind the employee of his or her leave options for seeking medical attention, such as requesting sick or annual leave.  If the employee has no leave available, supervisors may approve requests for advanced leave or leave without pay, based on agency policy.  Supervisors must approve requests for sick leave when the employee would, as determined by appropriate health authorities or by a health care provider, jeopardize the health of others by his or her presence on the job because of exposure to a communicable disease.
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  • In most cases, being exposed to the pandemic influenza will not jeopardize the health of others, therefore an employee should not be granted sick leave for mere exposure to the flu. Should the flu become a serious communicable disease, the CDC would issue guidance on the procedures to be followed to stay safe. Based on that information, OPM would issue appropriate guidance to keep Federal employees safe. Once the CDC and OPM have determined the use of sick leave for exposure to a communicable disease is appropriate, a health authority or health care provider can then advise that an employee or his or her family member has been exposed to a serious communicable disease that would jeopardize the health of others. Only under this limited circumstance would an employee be entitled to use sick leave if exposed to the flu. Depending on the particular circumstances, an employee may also request annual leave, advanced annual leave, advanced sick leave, or other paid time off such as earned compensatory time off, earned compensatory time off for travel, or earned credit hours. An employee may also request leave without pay. Employees should consult with their agency human resources office to determine how their agency policy applies to their situation.
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  • The use of sick leave for exposure to a communicable disease would be limited to circumstances where exposure alone would jeopardize the health of others and would arise in cases of serious communicable disease. The flu can encompass many variations of influenza, and even a pandemic influenza does not automatically meet the criteria of a serious communicable disease for sick leave purposes. Determinations of a serious communicable disease are made by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In other words, even a pandemic influenza would not meet the threshold of a serious communicable disease for sick leave purposes until the CDC has declared that exposure alone is enough to jeopardize the health of others. The use of sick leave for exposure to a communicable disease should be used only in very limited circumstances, and agencies should not grant sick leave for this purpose until they receive guidance from the appropriate officials. Employees should consult with their agency human resources office to determine how their agency policy applies to their situation.
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  • Depending on the particular circumstances, an employee who has been diagnosed with the pandemic influenza may use accrued sick leave or annual leave, request advanced sick leave or advanced annual leave, request donated leave under the agency’s voluntary leave transfer or leave bank program or an established emergency leave transfer program, or use any earned compensatory time off, earned compensatory time off for travel, or earned credit hours. In addition, an employee may invoke his or her entitlement to unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and take a total of up to 12 weeks of leave without pay for a serious health condition. An employee may substitute his or her accrued annual leave and sick leave, as appropriate, for unpaid leave under the FMLA. An employee may also request leave without pay. Employees should consult with their agency human resources office to determine how their agency policy applies to their situation.
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  • Only in limited circumstances, after the CDC has determined the use of sick leave for exposure to a communicable disease is appropriate. For example, sick leave may be appropriate if the employee is providing care for a minor child who is not exhibiting any symptoms, but a determination has been made by the relevant health authorities or the health care provider that the child’s presence at daycare or at school could jeopardize the health of others because of the child’s exposure to that communicable disease. Since the employee would not be providing care for a sick family member, but one who is asymptomatic, the employee may request sick leave only if the exposed family member could not otherwise care for himself or herself (e.g., a minor child or elderly relative). Although the employee does not need to be the sole provider of care, he or she must be providing care actively to the family member in order to invoke sick leave to care for the family member exposed to a communicable disease. In contrast, it would not be appropriate for the employee to invoke sick leave to care for an able-bodied spouse who has been exposed to a communicable disease, but is not exhibiting any symptoms, since the employee would not need to provide care actively to the spouse. If the exposed family member contracts the communicable disease and becomes ill, the employee is entitled to use up to 13 days of sick leave for general family care or up to 12 weeks for care of a family member with a serious health condition, depending on the severity of the illness.
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  • An employee with a personal or family medical emergency who has exhausted his or her own available paid leave may be eligible to receive donated annual leave from his or her agency’s voluntary leave transfer or leave bank program. If OPM has established an emergency leave transfer program, the employee also may be eligible to receive donated leave from the emergency leave transfer program.
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