OPM Issues Guidance Regarding D.C.-Area Metro Delays

Jeff Pon, director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, released a memo for Chief Human Capital Officers (CHCOs) across government this week, highlighting special considerations within the D.C. Metropolitan area in light of the city’s transportation improvement initiative, which has intermittently hobbled certain portions of the area’s Metro system.

Pon noted that, in light of major track work scheduled to occur persistently over the next two weeks, OPM reminded agencies “to review the policies and procedures on workplace flexibilities that they established during the 2016 WMATA SafeTrack project and update them as necessary.”

In the memo, OPM strongly urged agencies “to allow affected employees to utilize various workplace flexibilities throughout the upcoming improvement project,” noting that each individual agency would ultimately be “responsible for ensuring continuity of operations and…in the best position to determine which flexibilities are appropriate for their workforce.”

The flexibilities are likely to be needed again in the near future, with the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) reportedly scheduled to begin a new effort to rebuild Metro station platforms beginning next year, with a number of stations in Northern Virginia scheduled for closure for four months.

The guidance comes amidst ongoing debate surrounding telework in federal agencies. Last week, Democrat Representatives Gerry Connolly and John Sarbanes introduced a bill called the Telework Metrics and Cost Savings Act, which according to Erich Wagner of GovExec, “would prohibit agencies from instituting agency-wide restrictions on how frequently employees use telework” and “would require agencies to notify both the Office of Personnel Management and Congress of any plans to reduce telework going forward.”

The legislation was introduced following the decisions of some agencies, such as the Department of Agriculture, to drastically reduce employees’ options to telework, arguing the decision was intended to “be responsible to the taxpayers and responsive to the customers.” The impact of any teleworking policy changes is sweeping, with one-third of the USDA’s 97,200-strong workforce currently teleworking.

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