March 11, 2020

Hirono, Cardin, Van Hollen Introduce Bill to Expand Telework Opportunities for Federal Employees

Telework Metrics and Cost Savings Act provides federal employees more flexibility during novel coronavirus outbreak

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Senators Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) introduced S. 3428, the Telework Metrics and Cost Savings Act – legislation that requires federal agencies to expand teleworking after years of attacks by the Trump Administration. Expanding telework options for federal employees is particularly urgent as the growing coronavirus epidemic places greater strain on federal workers.

“Expanding telework options for federal employees is critical to ensure the federal government can continue to provide essential services like assisting veterans and answering questions as Americans file their taxes. A responsive federal government is essential during this outbreak,” Senator Hirono said. “The Trump Administration has put federal workers’ wellbeing in jeopardy with its open hostility to the federal workforce and its cuts to teleworking. The Telework Metrics and Cost Savings Act supports federal workers by expanding telework opportunities at a time when our nation needs this option.”

“Thanks to years of implementation in the federal government, we know that telework increases productivity, boosts employee morale, and saves taxpayer dollars. Emergencies such as the coronavirus outbreak make it clear that workers also may need the option to work from home for safety purposes,” said Senator Cardin. “We already have the technology to make expanded telework feasible. What we need is for federal agencies to move in the right direction, expanding telework options rather than contracting them.”

“As the private sector embraces new and innovative work practices, the federal government under the Trump Administration has regressed. We have fought to implement policies for our federal workforce that are smart, flexible, and efficient – including telework. Telework is proven to be effective and in emergency situations can help ensure federal employees are still able to provide crucial services to the American people. This bill will help prevent this Administration’s senseless rollback of telework policies,” Senator Van Hollen said. 

The Trump Administration has systematically been dismantling telework opportunities for federal workers, making positions in the federal government less accessible and less competitive in recruiting and retaining employees. The Administration has spent the last three years restricting teleworking at several agencies like the Department of Education, the Department of Agriculture, and the Social Security Administration.

Senators Hirono, Cardin, and Van Hollen introduce this legislation as scores of federal employees in acutely affected regions of the country like the Seattle area are being encouraged to work remotely to avoid the spread of the coronavirus. The Telework Metrics and Cost Savings Act sets annual goals for teleworking, improves tracking and reporting of telework, and prevents the federal government from backtracking on the increase of teleworking.

The Telework Metrics and Cost Savings Act bolsters federal telework programs by:

-          Requiring federal agencies to set goals for participation in agency-wide teleworking

-          Requiring agencies to report cost savings due to teleworking

-          Requiring agencies to notify Congress of plans to restrict telework, including a justification of that proposed change

-          Prohibiting the federal government from widespread canceling of telework availability

The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) own National Continuity Programs guidance calls attention to the “direct relationship” between a Continuity of Operations plan (COOP) and telework, noting that “telework can assist the sustainment of essential functions during a change to the normal operating status such as a pandemic…”

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) now strongly encourages agencies to expand access to telework for as many employees as possible during the current crisis. Its latest guidancenotes that “successful incorporation of telework and ‘social distancing’ in COOP and emergency planning will allow the federal government to continue functioning efficiently and effectively, while ensuring the health and safety of employees.” 

The legislation was introduced in the House by Representatives Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), John Sarbanes (D-Md.), and Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.). 

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