Government workers who didn't make it in Friday because of the snowstorm may be given four hours of administrative (paid) leave--even if they were scheduled to be on sick leave or on vacation that day. In other words those employes may, if their supervisors agree, lose only half a day of leave even though they missed the entire day of work.
Yesterday was a routine "late arrival/liberal annual leave" situation. But the brave souls who came in Friday will be paid for a full day and not charged any kind of leave, even though they were sent home early because of the blizzard that virtually stopped Washington in its tracks.
In a Solomon-like decision (that will probably please no one), the Office of Personnel Management yesterday issued a special "policy guidance" to agencies here, advising them how to handle their 342,000 workers. Some people made it in Friday just in time to be told to go home.
In case the horror of the situation has been blotted from your mind, this is what happened:
Early Friday morning, before the rush hour, the government announced a "late arrival/liberal annual leave" policy because of the falling snow. That meant workers could be excused for "a reasonable time" for weather-related tardiness, or could take a day of their own annual leave time without prior approval. Normally annual leave must be okayed in advance.
When it became apparent that the area was being hit by a major snowstorm, the government ordered the early release of those workers who had come in. Employes were sent home on a staggered, agency-by-agency basis beginning at 11 a.m. The last group of workers officially left at 1:30 p.m. Employes who came in were granted administrative leave, which is not charged to their annual leave account.
But many workers who didn't make it in complained it was unfair to charge them annual leave because of the snow emergency. They felt the government should have shut down all non-essential services for safety's sake.
OPM and agency officials met yesterday and issued the policy guidance. It says:
* People who came in Friday are granted administrative leave effective when they were sent home early. They will be paid for the whole day, and not charged any annual leave.
* People who did not show up Friday may be granted four hours of administrative leave, even if they were scheduled to be off Friday for annual leave or on sick leave.
Some agencies yesterday (before the OPM policy guidance was issued) told Friday no-shows they would be charged for eight hours of annual leave. Some of them may change that ruling, now that the OPM guidance is out.
Other Points of View: A caller from Kensington, who described herself as "an old lady" whose husband works in the private sector, offered this comment:
"Out here we didn't get any mail delivery because of the snow and no trash pickup. That is understandable. But still no government services were delivered. But on Sunday morning, teen-age kids and their mothers delivered a big fat newspaper, on time.
"Now you write [Sunday's column] that federal workers who didn't make it to work may get paid anyhow, if their supervisors okay it. I think this is an outrage. Government workers don't realize how good they have it. If they don't want to come to work let them take their annual leave. My husband went in Friday morning and didn't get back home until Saturday morning. It wouldn't occur to him to ask to be paid for not coming to work. You have a job to do and you do it!"
A number of feds who dragged into the office Friday called to urge the government not to grant special administrative leave to their less hardy colleagues. As one put it: "I came in and so did others who live far away. If they give excused leave time to people who didn't come in what does that say to us 'dummies' who came in?"