Hot news! Be advised:
Bureaucrats who count on kind bosses and Uncle Sam's official "misery index" to rescue them from sweltering offices are in for some suprises starting July 1.
Next month the government will shift to a tough new heat-release policy. It will, in most cases, require civil servants who can't stand the heat to take sick leave or vacation -- rather than wait for Uncle Sam to give them an excused absence -- if they want to go home early.
For the last 40 years the government has used a heat-humidity chart (outlined here June 16) to guide bosses as to when they could release employes because air-conditioners are on the blink, or when the office becomes too close for comfort. When indoor temperatures and humidity readings matched the levels on the misery index, employes could be and sometimes were excused from duty at full pay. Gone are the days!
A new heat-release policy, due out officially June 30 from the Office of Personnel Management, will revise the guidelines and deemphasize the importance of the misery-index during steamy summers here and in other outposts of the federal government. In addition to giving local managers more authority and flexibility to deal with hot, sticky weather, the Republican-style guidelines move away from New Deal-type paternalism under which government decided when it was hot enough that people couldn't stand it.
The new guidelines will say that workers who can't stand the heat at the office can be excused -- but on their own time and with their own money. Here are the guidelines that will be sent to agencies June 30:
"Dismissals due to unusual employment or work conditions created by a temporary disruption of air cooling or heating systems should be rare, and emphasis should be placed on the correction of these conditions. Employes are expected to work if conditions at the place of work are reasonably adequate, in the agency's judgment, although these conditions may not be normal and may involve minor discomfort.
"Individual employes affected by unusual levels of temperature to the extent that they are incapacitated for duty, or to the extent that continuance on duty would adversely affect their health may be granted annual or sick leave. Before administrative excusal (paid leave) may be granted, it must be clearly established by reasonable standards of judgment that the conditions are such as to actually prevent working. Agencies are advised to consider such matters as the physical requirements of the positions involved as well as the temperatures of the work areas."
OPM does not expect the guidelines will result in "widespread dismissals of employes" but rather that freebie afternoons off will be rare and "limited to extreme situations. Further, it does not mean that if any groups of employes are excused, equity will require the excusing of others." What all this means is that if this continues to be a hot sticky summer you should consider bringing in a safe (GSA-approved) fan, or be prepared to take off on your own time if the air-conditioning breaks down.