An inspector general audit has given the Education Department generally good marks on its policies for returning employees to their regular workplaces from high levels of telework due to the pandemic, the latest in a series of assessments by IG offices requested by the House government management subcommittee.
“We found that because senior leaders at the department were supportive of an employee-focused plan, the department was able to develop a reconstitution plan that incorporated available guidance and practices through a collaborative process with input from multiple groups,” the report said.
It said the plan covers important areas such as access to facilities by employees and visitors, determining whether it is safe for an employee to go into the office after personal travel, and social distancing, face coverings, cleaning and supplies.
As of late November, facilities in 10 of 12 regional office locations were in the first of three return phases, in which going into the office is voluntary for employees. No offices were yet in the second phase, where return to the office also will be voluntary, or in the third.
However, the IG found that the plan does not follow OSHA guidance to ensure that an employee who adheres to guidelines or raises workplace safety and health concerns does not suffer retaliation. It said management agreed with a recommendation to make that change, as well as to periodically update symptoms of possible infection that employees are to ask themselves before going into the regular workplace.