OPM closing D.C. offices early, but commuting feds still flustered

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UPDATE: The Office of Personnel Management has decided to close the federal government in the Washington, D.C. area for Monday. Read the full story.

The Office of Personnel Management’s decision to close Friday at noon in the wake of the D.C. metro area’s first major blizzard this year fell on deaf ears for federal employees who still have to commute.

In an announcement on the agency’s website posted late Thursday night, OPM updated all federal offices’ operating status to open until 12 p.m. with the option for unscheduled telework and unscheduled leave.

Commuting employees may be able to beat the snow and traffic if they came into work earlier. OPM also announced in its status update employees are on “staggered early departure” meaning as long as they’ve worked a full four hours, they can leave before the 12 p.m. cutoff.

Many feds on social media are calling OPM’s decision to hold employees at work until the time of predicted snowfall “irresponsible.”

“Are….are you out of your minds? You set the closing time to just in time for the storm to show up?” said Christopher Greer in a comment to OPM’s Facebook page. “Did you notice Wednesday night? Or Commutageddon in 2011? I know you’re terrified of being criticized, but you’re putting people in danger with this.”

Commuting feds fear the flood of cars on the road during the storm could cause significant traffic jams like the one the District, Maryland and Virginia (DMV) area experienced Wednesday night when a sudden clipper storm caused more than 700 car crashes and one death on the Beltway during rush hour.

Commuters who live south of the city could see even more snow on their way home if they live along Interstate 66 in Virginia.  WTOP reports  snowfall already has hit parts of the state as of 10 a.m.

OPM made almost no changes to its Washington-area dismissal and closure procedures for the 2015-16 season, but stressed the agency managers promote telework as a way for employees to ensure continuity of operations during a weather emergency.

But even employees who have the option to work from home are frustrated with the lack of clarity around OPM’s teleworking policies.Tricia Crumley commented about OPM’s confusing guidelines on the agency’s Facebook page after the status update was announced:

One issue that needs to be clarified, now or in the future, is how mandatory early departures and office closures affect teleworkers. Staff who are sent home will be granted administrative leave, but are staff who are teleworking required to continue working? What about staff who do not have telework agreements? If they are granted administrative leave, but staff who telework must take personal leave if they need to provide child care because schools are closed, it’s inequitable. But more, the guidelines are unclear with respect to teleworking staff. It would be helpful if OPM could provide more detailed guidance.

Despite the mostly negative criticism, some feds seem glad OPM decided to close after there were concerns they might not announce anything at all.

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