Schatz, Senators Call On Federal Government To Guarantee Protections For Federal Workers & Contractors Complying With Coronavirus Response

Federal Workers And Contractors Should Not Be Penalized For Following Guidance From Public Health Authorities

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i) and a group seven senators urged the United States Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to commit that federal workers and contractors will not be penalized for following recommended health procedures to prevent further spread of the coronavirus.

In a letter sent to OPM Director Dale Cabaniss, the senators wrote, “As the largest employer in the nation, it is paramount that the federal government lead by example and prioritize the health, economic well-being, and security of its employees and contractors as we mobilize to respond to the recent outbreak and spread of COVID-19. In addition to sharing recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about when employees exhibiting systems should stay home, we urge you to clarify that federal employees and contractors who follow such guidance will not be at risk of income insecurity, disciplinary action, or any other adverse employment actions.”

The senators continued, “We worry that OPM’s guidance to date does not demonstrate to our nation’s hardworking public servants that the federal government is prioritizing their health, well-being, and economic security. We urge you to swiftly develop and circulate guidance that does more to reassure them that they will not be penalized for heeding public health guidance, they will continue to receive pay while doing so, and they will not be expected to work while sick.”

Specifically, the senators called on OPM to:

  • Clarify that federal employees and contractors who follow CDC guidance will not be at risk of income insecurity, disciplinary action, or any other adverse employment actions;
  • Issue guidance immediately assuring federal employees and contractors that they will not be asked to choose between their ability to meet their financial obligations and their sense of duty to follow guidance that protects the public health;
  • Direct agencies to take a generous and public health-facing position on expanding telework availability;
  • Make clear that federal employees and contractors will not be expected to work while they or a loved one are ill and in need of rest, treatment, and/or recuperation—even if they have exhausted all of their available paid leave;
  • Take proactive and ongoing steps to educate agencies and human resources officials on applicable categories of paid leave that workers may access;
  • And work with health insurance providers to ensure federal employees can affordably access the preventive care and treatment they may need as a result of COVID-19.

In addition to Schatz, the letter was signed by U.S. Senators Mark Warner (D-Va.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawai‘i), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), and Gary Peters (D-Mich.).

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