OPM encourages unscheduled leave, telework for D.C. feds on March 16

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UPDATE (6:18 p.m.): Washington D.C. area federal employees will have the options of unscheduled leave or telework on March 16 due to the Metrorail closing.

Samuel Schumach, press secretary for the Office of Personnel Management, sent Federal News Radio the following statement:

“Due to the MetroRail closure on Wednesday, March 16, Federal agencies in the National Capital Region are OPEN, but employees have the option for unscheduled leave or unscheduled telework. To help alleviate the transportation difficulties that may be associated with the temporary MetroRail closure, OPM is encouraging all agencies to allow their employees to take full advantage of this ‘change of status’ and permit their employees to telework, take leave, or use their AWS Day off.”

OPM also sent out a status update, which said that federal agencies in the Washington, D.C. area would be open, and non-emergency employees would have the following options:

  • earned annual leave, compensatory time off, credit hours, or sick leave, as appropriate;
  • leave without pay;
  • their alternative work schedule (AWS) day off or rearrange their work hours under flexible work schedules; or
  • unscheduled telework (if telework-ready).

UPDATE (6:05 p.m.): OPM is on a call currently with the Council of Governments to decide the status of the federal government tomorrow.


The Washington, D.C.,  Metrorail will be closing on March 16, according to officials who are citing “safety concerns.”

PaulWiedefeld
Paul Wiedefeld/WMATA

General manager and CEO of WMATA Paul Wiedefeld held a press conference at 4:30 p.m. to make the official announcement.

The shutdown is prompted by an incident on March 14 at McPherson Square Metro Station. An investigation into a cable fire shut down the orange, blue and silver lines.

“We must take action immediately,” Wiedefeld said. “When I say safety is our highest priority, I mean it. I fully recognize the hardship this causes to the region and the community.”

WMATA is inspecting 600 jumper cables and will announce additional outages if needed within 24 hours.

The shutdown begins at midnight March 15.

“We are working with the federal government,” Wiedefeld said. The Office of Personnel Management told Federal News Radio it is following the situation and will provide an update later today.

Thirty-five Metrorail stations serve federal facilities and 42 percent of Metrorail’s peak period commuters are federal employees. On Metrobus, 16 percent of peak period commuters are federal employees,” according to WMATA’s 2015 Metro Facts.

Wiedefeld said that Metrobus services will continue as usual.

At 4:19 p.m., Rep. Gerald Connolly (D-Va.) released a statement calling for the Office of Personnel Management to offer unscheduled leave or telework for federal employees:

“Today’s decision by General Manager Wiedefied to shut down the Metrorail system for 24 hours is a gut punch to the hundreds of thousands of commuters who depend on the system. This decision, while perhaps necessary, will cause significant inconvenience and will disrupt the functioning of the federal government in our nation’s capital. OPM must recognize that challenge and should, at a minimum, grant unscheduled leave or telework for federal employees tomorrow. While I am extremely frustrated with this news, safety must be our number one priority. This dramatic action highlights the need for long-term safety and reliability improvements throughout the system.”

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) also released a statement:

“The shutdown of the Metrorail system for an entire day in the middle of the work week is an astonishing admission that safety has not been the priority it needs to be at WMATA. In light of the massive inconvenience this shutdown will cause my constituents and everyone who commutes in the DMV region, OPM should grant federal workers unscheduled leave or the option to telework tomorrow, and WMATA should offer bus service free of charge, system wide.”

“It’s sad that it’s come to this, but hundreds of thousands of people depend on the safety of the Metro system. We need to take it seriously,” Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) said in a statement a short time later. “I’m glad that Metro’s new leadership is treating system safety with an appropriate sense of urgency.”

“Other than weather conditions, where we have been closed down before, this is the first time it has been closed down for nonweather conditions” said Jack Evans, D.C. council member of Ward 2.

No decision has been made on reimbursement for weekly or monthly passes.

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