Following is OPM’s description of a change in policy regarding agency closures due to weather emergencies affecting employees who had scheduled annual leave for that day.
In 2010, the Telework Enhancement Act required agencies to incorporate telework into their continuity of operation plans. To support the objectives that animated this legislation, OPM introduced the “unscheduled telework” concept into our operating status announcements and advised agencies to make telework a standard part of their agency emergency planning to ensure that the Government is well positioned to carry out its essential functions in any sort of emergency. For continuity of operation purposes, OPM strongly encourages agencies to take the necessary steps to require employees who are telework-ready, and permitted to use unscheduled telework throughout the year, to telework on days that Federal offices are closed.
This year, OPM is taking the next step which is to change an outdated leave practice that does not properly reflect the Federal Government’s operating status on a day when the Federal offices (i.e., buildings/facilities) are closed. In the past, when closure of Federal offices meant that agency operations were mostly shut down, the day was considered a non-workday. On a non-workday, pre-approved paid leave was cancelled, and the employee received excused absence, since leave is not charged for a day that is designated as a nonworkday for the employee. As agencies established their telework policies and incorporated them into their continuity of operation plans, the justification for providing excused absence to employees on pre-approved paid leave became obsolete. Federal agencies continue to operate at a substantial level of productivity through telework when “Federal offices are closed.” As a result, OPM’s
Federal closure operating status announcement will no longer state that all non-emergency employees on pre-approved paid leave receive excused absence.
An employee on pre-approved paid leave will generally remain on leave if the Federal office at which the employee works is closed. However, if the employee is scheduled to use sick leave for a medical appointment and that medical appointment is cancelled, the legal basis for the sick leave has been eliminated and the sick leave must be cancelled. In addition, if an employee has scheduled annual leave, that leave may be cancelled if the employee is ready, willing, and able to telework (telework-ready with a telework agreement in place) and agrees to perform telework in lieu of the scheduled leave. OPM advises that the general practice moving forward will be for employees on pre-approved leave to either telework or remain on leave when Federal offices are closed, subject to agency policy, and in accordance with any applicable collective bargaining agreement (as consistent with law).
Examples on the Application of the Updated Leave Practice
Example 1 Bob is a Federal employee. Bob is scheduled to be on pre-approved annual leave from February 3rd-7th. On February 4th, a massive snowstorm hits the Washington, DC, area.
OPM announces that Federal offices are closed on February 4th-7th. Bob does not receive any excused absence between the 4th and the 7th and will continue to be charged annual leave.
Example 2 Susan is a telework-ready Federal employee scheduled to be on sick leave for the entire day for a scheduled outpatient procedure on February 3rd. Her telework agreement requires her to telework when Federal offices are closed. On February 2nd, a massive snowstorm hits the Washington, DC, area. OPM announces that Federal offices will be closed on February 3rd. Susan’s outpatient procedure is canceled due to the snowstorm.
Susan’s agency should cancel her sick leave as it is no longer valid. Because she is subject to a telework agreement that requires her to telework on a day when Federal offices are closed, she must either perform telework or request leave (e.g., annual leave, compensatory time off, or leave without pay).
Example 3 Ray is a non-telework-ready Federal employee scheduled to be on sick leave for the entire day for a scheduled outpatient procedure on February 3rd. On February 2nd, a massive snowstorm hits the Washington, DC, area. OPM announces that Federal offices will be closed on February 3rd. Ray’s outpatient procedure is canceled due to the snowstorm. Ray’s agency should cancel his sick leave as it is no longer valid. Ray receives excused absence because he is not telework-ready.
Example 4 David is a telework-ready Federal employee scheduled to be on sick leave because he has flu-like symptoms and cannot perform work. On February 2nd, a massive snowstorm hits the Washington, DC, area. OPM announces that Federal offices will be closed on February 3rd. David remains on sick leave because he cannot perform work.