Home Mark Warner Sen. Warner Pushes DoD to Clarify Personnel Guidance Amid COVID-19 Outbreak

Sen. Warner Pushes DoD to Clarify Personnel Guidance Amid COVID-19 Outbreak

"Urges department to clarify leave and telework policies"

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From Sen. Mark Warner:

WARNER PUSHES DoD TO CLARIFY PERSONNEL GUIDANCE AMID COVID-19 OUTBREAK

~ Urges department to clarify leave and telework policies ~

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA), Vice Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, pushed the Department of Defense (DoD) to issue guidance for uniformed, civilian, and contractor personnel to help them better understand their options for paid leave and telework amid the COVID-19 outbreak. In a letter to Secretary Mark T. Esper, Sen. Warner requested that the DoD clarify what types of leave are applicable in a variety of COVID-19 related scenarios, and provide guidance on the types of DoD workers that are eligible for telework.

“An area of particular concern is how administrative leave, weather and safety leave, sick leave, and annual leave apply under a variety of COVID-19 related scenarios,” wrote Sen. Warner. “These personnel should not face uncertainty or obstacles in their efforts to preserve our individual or collective health.”

Currently, there is fragmentation in the DoD’s current leave policy that creates ambiguity regarding the kind of leave that would apply if employees needed to take time off work in the event that they were symptomatic, exposed but not symptomatic, or if they needed to care for family members who have contracted COVID-19.

In his letter, Sen. Warner, who has heard from several Virginians who have been forbidden from teleworking despite considerable safety concerns, also urged the DoD to clarify which employees occupy mission-critical positions, and which are eligible for telework.

“The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and Office of Personnel Management (OPM) issued guidance for agencies to expand telework flexibility, but at present, guidance issued by OMB, OPM, and the Department have ambiguity that is creating confusion and anxiety,” he continued. “Personnel whose duties and responsibilities do not immediately contribute to a critical national security function would benefit from a clear directive instructing them to work remotely and would make a significant impact for our nation.”

In his letter, Sen. Warner encouraged the Department to create further telework options, as appropriate, for employees currently deemed ineligible for telework in order to protect their safety and health and that of their family members. He also emphasized that any guidance should be consistent and transparent for all eligible personnel stationed across the country and abroad.

Sen. Warner has been a strong advocate for federal workers amid the COVID-19 outbreak. Yesterday, he led seven of his Senate colleagues in calling on the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to post department and agency contingency plans amid the COVID-19 outbreak as more federal agencies begin to ramp up teleworking capabilities. Additionally, he has urged President Trump to immediately issue an executive order directing agencies to utilize telework capabilities to the maximum possible extent, and has called on the House and Senate to address the potential financial hardship for Congress’ support workforce if their work schedules are unexpectedly disrupted as the result of changes to congressional operations.

A copy of the letter is available here and below, and a full list of Sen. Warner’s work to protect Americans amid the coronavirus outbreak is available here.

The Honorable Mark T. Esper
Secretary
U.S. Department of Defense 
Washington, D.C.  20301 

Dear Secretary Esper:

I write to ask you to clarify personnel policy governing the Department’s response to COVID-19 so that uniformed, civilian, and contractor personnel better understand how they can and should adapt to minimize the spread and impact of this virus.

An area of particular concern is how administrative leave, weather and safety leave, sick leave, and annual leave apply under a variety of COVID-19 related scenarios, to include for personnel whose normal duty station is a classified facility, whether personnel occupy a mission critical position or not, if they are symptomatic or exposed but not symptomatic, and if they must care for family members who have contracted COVID-19.

These personnel should not face uncertainty or obstacles in their efforts to preserve our individual or collective health. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and Office of Personnel Management (OPM) issued guidance for agencies to expand telework flexibility, but at present, guidance issued by OMB, OPM, and the Department have ambiguity that is creating confusion and anxiety.  For example, personnel should have due flexibility to telework, as appropriate, to protect their safety and health and that of their family members.

Personnel whose duties and responsibilities do not immediately contribute to a critical national security function would benefit from a clear directive instructing them to work remotely and would make a significant impact for our nation.  For personnel deemed ineligible for telework, the Department should investigate and create further options, when possible, to temporarily make them eligible. The urgency for the Department to take necessary steps and clarify concerns about telework options for personnel will ensure personnel do not feel aggrieved during the outbreak of COVID-19.  This guidance should be consistent and transparent for all eligible personnel stationed across the country and abroad. 

Maintaining a healthy workforce with confidence in the government’s commitment to their welfare is of the utmost importance to us.  Thank you in advance for your prompt response and attention to this matter. 

I look forward to working with you to address this matter of urgent priority.

 

Sincerely,