Issue Briefs

OPM has revised its guidance on dismissing federal employees from work for weather or other emergency reasons, reflecting a change earlier this year that created a specific new type of leave, weather and safety leave, in place of general excused absence (or administrative leave) authority, as required by a 2016 change in law.

The range of operating status determinations now is:

• Agencies are open. Employees are expected to report to their worksite or begin telework on time.

• Agencies are open, with an option for unscheduled leave or unscheduled telework.

• Agencies are open with delayed arrival of a designated number of hours later than the employee’s normal arrival time, with an option for unscheduled leave or unscheduled telework. Employees who report to the regular worksite are granted weather and safety leave for the hours between the employee’s typical arrival time and the final reporting time, except that such leave is reduced if the employee arrives at work before the final reporting time. As an alternative, eligible employees may notify their supervisors that they are using the option of unscheduled leave or unscheduled telework instead of reporting to the regular worksite, in which case they will not receive weather and safety leave—and will be responsible for accounting for the entire workday by taking other leave (or paid time off), performing telework, or a combination.

• Agencies are open with a delayed arrival and employees should report to their worksites no later than a designated time, with an option for unscheduled leave or unscheduled telework. Employees should plan their commutes to arrive at the worksite by no later than the final reporting time in the announcement. Employees who report to the worksite are granted weather and safety leave for the hours between the employee’s typical arrival time and the final reporting time, except that such leave is reduced if the employee arrives at work before the final reporting time. If employees choose to use unscheduled telework versus reporting to the worksite, they will not receive weather and safety leave. Employees who request unscheduled leave or other paid time off will be charged leave or other paid time off for the entire period of their workday; they will not receive weather and safety leave for the number of hours that are provided to employees who commute into their worksite.

• Agencies are open with a staggered early departure. Employees leave the workplace a designated number of hours earlier than their normal departure time, with weather and safety leave for the time remaining in their work days. Telework program participants working in the office when an early departure is announced generally may receive weather and safety leave only for the amount of time required to commute home (excluding the period of time for an unpaid lunch break, if applicable). This means that telework program participants must complete any remaining time in their workday by either teleworking or taking leave (paid or unpaid) or other paid time off once they arrive home unless an exception applies: if working at an alternative worksite would itself be unsafe, or if a telework-ready employee could not have reasonably anticipated the severe weather or other emergency condition and therefore did not take home needed equipment or work. If an employee arrives home after his or her workday has concluded, there are no hours remaining in the workday; therefore, the employee would not be required or expected to work. Employees who were already performing telework when an early departure announcement is made similarly must continue to telework or take unscheduled leave or other paid time off, or a combination of both, for the remainder of their tour of duty unless an exception applies.

• Agencies are open with a staggered early departure and all employees must leave by a designated time, at which time offices are closed. Employees leave the workplace a designated number of hours earlier than their normal departure time, with weather and safety leave for the number of hours remaining in their workday. Policies regarding telework are the same as those above.

• Immediate departure—federal offices are closed. Employees working in the office must depart immediately and will receive weather and safety leave for the number of hours remaining in their workday, except as otherwise provided for telework program participants. Telework program participants working in the office may receive weather and safety leave only for the time it takes to commute home from the office (excluding the period of time for an unpaid lunch break, if applicable). This means that a telework program participant must complete the remaining time in the workday by either teleworking from home, requesting other leave or paid time off, or a combination of both, and an employee already performing telework when an immediate departure announcement is made generally must continue to telework, request unscheduled leave or other paid time off, or a combination, for the remainder of his or her tour of duty—in both cases unless one of the exceptions described above applies.

• Federal offices are closed. In general, employees will be granted weather and safety leave for the number of hours they were scheduled to work unless they are an emergency employee, a telework program participant, on official travel outside of the duty station, on preapproved leave (paid or unpaid) or other time off, or on an alternative work schedule day off or other non-workday. Telework program participants do not receive weather and safety leave when a closure is announced. Instead, they must telework for the entire workday, take other leave (paid or unpaid) or other time off, or use a combination of telework and leave or other paid time off unless one of the exceptions applies described above applies.

• Shelter in place. This typically will be ordered if severe conditions or other emergencies arise during the working day. Offices are closed and employees are to follow their agency’s procedures for such situations. Employees performing telework are expected to continue working during the shelter-in-place unless affected by the emergency or otherwise notified by their agencies.

The dismissal procedures guide describes policies for various special situations such as when employees are on leave without pay, are traveling, or have a scheduled day off under an alternative work schedule.