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News Release

Tuesday, October 28, 2003
Contact: Rusty Asher
Tel: 202-606-2402

OPM Director James Asks Departments and Agencies to Assist Employees Affected by California Wildfires

Washington, DC - Kay Coles James, Director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management has asked Heads of Federal Departments and Agencies to be flexible in allowing work schedule changes for workers to take care of their personal needs as a result of the widespread destruction that has been caused by the California wildfires. James stated, "Federal Government employees affected by these fires can be assured that we will extend all available flexibilities so they may care for their families and assist their local communities wherever the need may be."

James said, "As was the case with the fires in Arizona and Colorado and the severe flooding in Texas as well as the storm damaged caused by Hurricane Isabel, President Bush understands the significant impact these fires has had on families and individuals in the state of California and trusts the American people will respond with their goodwill. Providing affected Federal employees with excused absences is one way the Bush Administration is trying to assist those who are honoring their responsibilities to their families and communities."

Director James' memorandum today reminds agencies of their authority under the law to make adjustments to employee work schedules using existing flexibilities. Employees who need to stay home to be available for members of their family as well as assisting in their local communities should request leave by following normal procedures. Employees on alternative work schedules (AWS) may wish to reschedule their AWS day off or use credit hours (if available). With supervisory approval under a written telecommuting agreement, employees may work at home or at a telecenter to allow them to remain close to their homes.

James said, "I am encouraging managers and supervisors to be flexible and compassionate in showing support and concern for employees and their families affected by these wildfires. She further added that employees should be reminded of the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) which is available to assist employees in dealing with concerns about their families' emotional well-being in response to the fire."

Federal agencies that have questions regarding this memorandum or would like a complete copy may contact OPM's Pay and Leave Administration Division on 202-606-2858 or by email at

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Our mission is to Recruit, Retain and Honor a World-Class Workforce to Serve the American People. OPM supports U.S. agencies with personnel services and policy leadership including staffing tools, guidance on labor-management relations and programs to improve work force performance.

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