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12/15/2010
Source: Office of Personnel Management
Title: Questions and Answers About the 2010 Washington, DC Area Dismissal & Closure Procedures
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Q.  Why is OPM introducing unscheduled telework?

A.  OPM has always recommended that agencies use telework as an essential part of their contingency planning.  This additional flexibility, unscheduled telework, is a way for agencies and employees to help maintain continuity of operations during snow and other emergencies and help ensure the safety of the Federal workforce and the general public.

Q.  Is unscheduled telework a new form of telework?

A.  No.  Unscheduled telework is not a new form of telework but a more strategic use of an existing tool that many agencies currently make available to their employees.  Unscheduled telework is a term associated with an operating status announcement that allows an employee to use ad hoc telework without prior supervisory approval, similar to unscheduled annual leave.

Q.  How does the unscheduled telework concept work?

A.  Unscheduled telework would be used in conjunction with an unscheduled annual leave announcement.  A telework-ready employee may chose to telework versus using his or her own available annual leave.  Unscheduled telework will allow employees to continue to achieve work results and remain safe. 

Q.  Is everyFederal employee eligible to perform unscheduled telework?   

A.  No.  Each agency is responsible for determining which employees are eligible for telework.  According to an agency's policy, there are a number of factors that could keep an employee from participating in telework, e.g. nature of the work, classified materials, internal infrastructure limitations.

Q.  Can an employee be forced to perform "unscheduled telework"?

A.  No.  Unscheduled telework gives a telework-ready employee the option to choose to telework when OPM announces that the Federal Government in the Washington, DC, area is operating under an announcement of OPEN WITH OPTION FOR UNSCHEDULED LEAVE OR UNSCHEDULED TELEWORK

Q.  What is the anticipated cost on a day OPM announces “FEDERAL OFFICES ARE CLOSED TO THE PUBLIC” in the Washington, DC, area?

A.  In terms of additional budget outlay, there is no additional cost.  However, measured as the value of salaries time the hours not present on the job, the cost is about $75 million if 36 percent of the employees in the immediate Washington, DC, area telework or work at the office.

Q.  How many Federal employees are covered by the Washington, DC, Area Dismissal and Closure Procedures?

A.  302,000 Federal employees work in the immediate Washington, DC, area (defined as the District of Columbia; Montgomery and Prince Georges Counties in Maryland; Arlington and Fairfax Counties, and the independent cities of Alexandria, Fairfax, and Falls Church in Virginia).

Q.  Will OPM be more inclined to announce that the Federal Government is OPEN WITH OPTION FOR UNSCHEDULED LEAVE OR UNSCHEDULED TELEWORK versus FEDERAL OFFICES ARE CLOSED TO THE PUBLIC?

A.  OPM makes decisions in consultation with Federal agencies and the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.  The Federal Government rarely closes its offices to the public, but makes its decisions based on overall circumstance, e.g., safety of public, adverse traffic and weather conditions, and traffic congestion due to special events.  In the past 13 years (i.e., since 1997), OPM has announced a status of closed due to weather or other emergencies only a total of 10 times (5 of which occurred between December 21, 2009 and February 11, 2010). 

Q.  Which Federal agencies follow the Washington, DC, Area Dismissal and Closure Procedures?

A.  Federal Executive agencies located inside the Washington, DC, beltway have agreed to follow the OPM announcements automatically.  Other field installations in the immediate Washington, DC, area will likely choose to follow these procedures.

Q.  Why are Federal agencies located in the Counties and jurisdictions outside of the Washington, DC beltway but adjacent to the District of Columbia not required to follow these procedures?

A.  Agencies may choose to apply these same procedures to facilities located in the Counties and jurisdictions outside of the beltway but adjacent to the District of Columbia, although they may prefer to develop separate plans, since they may be subject to different weather and traffic conditions than those inside the Beltway.

Q.  Who designates an employee as an emergency employee?

A.  Each agency is responsible for determining who will be designated an emergency employee.

Q.  Why does OPM no longer list mission-critical employees along with emergency employees?

A.  Since each agency has a different mission and mix of employee skills, OPM's revised guidance leaves it to each agency to determine which employees should be designated as emergency, mission-critical, or whatever additional categories it needs.

Q.  Why is OPM still “closing” the Federal Government when the President has said the Government will never shut down again?

A.  The Federal Government is never really closed.  During last year's record breaking snow season, many emergency employees continued to work, e.g., VA nurses and doctors, and TSA screeners.  By introducing the option for unscheduled telework, agencies can be better able to maintain continuity of operations while continuing to keep its employees safe.  It is important to note that although the Federal Government is migrating to unscheduled telework during emergency situations, not every employee has a job that is conducive to telework--(e.g., intelligence positions, receptionist) or an approved telework agreement that allows unscheduled telework.  Agencies will need to review their policies to determine which employees can continue to work.  

Q.  What happens if a telework employee, who is required to work, loses electricity on a day that FEDERAL OFFICES ARE CLOSED TO THE PUBLIC?

A.  Agencies may consider exercising their authority to provide excused absence to telework employees on a case-by case basis when they are required to work when FEDERAL OFFICES ARE CLOSED TO THE PUBLIC

Q.  Why won’t all Federal employees telework on a day that FEDERAL OFFICES ARE CLOSED TO THE PUBLIC?

A.  Not every Federal employee will be eligible to teleworkNot all jobs are conducive to telework.  For example, employees working with classified materials may not be eligible to telework due to the nature of the job.  Further, some employees may be restricted from teleworking (e.g., for not complying with terms of telework agreements).

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