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 discomforts.
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 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.
The above, like it or not, is Uncle Sam's official policy statement (FPM Letter 610-6, dated June 30, 1981) concerning those August days when the air conditioning breaks down, or January when it is 15 degrees outside and 45 (if everybody breathes heavy) indoors at the office.
What it all means, in English, is that if it you can't stand the heat (or the cold) at the office and want to go home, you must take vacation or sick leave. Federal agencies can, and do, send people home when it gets too hot or too cold. But, using the new guidelines, they don't do it very often.
General Services Administration's FPMR (federal property management regulations) 101.20.16-3 say that federal buildings should be between 65 and 68 degrees during cold month working hours, and not more than 55 degrees during nonworking hours.
Hundreds of feds called The Washington Post yesterday protesting that it was too cold to type, be a civil servant or do anything but try to keep warm.
Many asked if we could dig up and publish the federal rule spelling out how cold it must be before people can be sent home on paid leave. Sadly for them, there is no magic U.S.-approved temperature. The policy is not clear cut. Even if you can see your breath indoors, the boss has the final word on when and if employes can be sent home on paid leave because of the cold weather.