White House Push to Reduce Agency Telework Could Lead to Increased Manager Vulnerability
As a federal manager, you have encountered unprecedented challenges in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the office environment. As we enter fall 2023, managers are still being forced to overcome significant hurdles in returning employees to the office. For federal managers, this issue is especially acute, as the White House will continue to push federal agencies to decrease the use of remote work in favor of onsite work this fall.
In conjunction with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the administration previously stated that it wants agencies to cut back on telework now that the CDC has lifted the COVID-19 public health emergency declaration, so newer federal employees and leaders may work in-person with their teams.
The House Oversight Committee has sent letters to 23 federal agencies renewing a request for information about telework and remote work policies, as agencies struggle to track how many employees are teleworking or working remotely, in addition to the frequency of telework throughout the work week.
As agency departments and the American Federation of Government Employees work to find middle ground, managers will have to carefully navigate compliance with return-to-work policies within their teams. Adjusting these policies and procedures, which began during the COVID-19 pandemic, could be challenging and lead to increased vulnerabilities for federal managers nationwide. Managers may see an increase in reasonable accommodation requests from employees, which can be incredibly difficult to handle; if one employee’s request is granted and another’s request is not, the manager’s decision-making process may be called into question. Additionally, many employees have grown accustomed to their teleworking schedules and may push back against any changes. Making decisions about teleworking privileges can open managers up to allegations of discrimination and unequal treatment from their employees, as well as scrutiny from agency officials.
Allegations against federal managers can lead to agency investigations. If an allegation is made against you, it is a necessity, not luxury, to have knowledgeable and effective counsel advocating on your behalf. Your agency attorney is not your attorney. It is the job of the agency attorney to defend the agency – not you. As a federal employee, you need to have counsel that has specific experience representing employees with your professional vulnerabilities.
FEDS Protection offers federal employee policies with $1 million, $2 million, or $3 million in civil liability protection for attorney’s fees and indemnity costs in the event you are sued in your civil capacity. The FEDS policy also includes $200,000 of legal representation coverage per incident for administrative actions and $100,000 of coverage for criminal defense costs. Annual premiums for FEDS Protection PLI start at $290 and federal managers and law enforcement officers are eligible for a reimbursement of up to 50% the cost of their PLI policy through their agency. To learn more about how a FEDS PLI policy can protect you and your career, visit www.fedsprotection.com or call (866) 955-FEDS, M-F 8:30am-6pm to speak directly to a representative.
*This article is provided for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.
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"I always say that if you don’t have someone complaining about what you’re doing, you’re probably not leading, so I’ve carried PLI (like a security blanket) for most of my 20+ years as a career senior exec. Unfortunately, there are just too many ways for disgruntled employees to attack what you’re doing by making allegations that are ultimately unfounded. For example, when I was Chief HR Officer with the IRS, I had a staffer complain to the IG about a procurement impropriety I had allegedly committed (the employee just didn’t like what I had procured), and I used my PLI to pay for a lawyer to sit with me during the IG interview. I simply couldn’t have afforded to do so otherwise. In the end, the IG dismissed all charges, but it was comforting to have my PLI-paid lawyers with me.”
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