More than 40,000 federal workers in the outlying suburbs of Maryland and Northern Virginia may have to work Jan. 21 while their colleagues in the District and close-in counties get the day off.

Inauguration Day (or the day following, if it falls on Sunday) is a special holiday for feds who work in the District, Montgomery, Prince George's, Arlington and Fairfax counties, and the cities of Alexandria and Falls Church.

The idea behind the Washington area-only holiday, authorized by Congress in 1957, is to clear city streets for parades and tourists. It also clears federal buildings for security purposes during the inaugural ceremonies and parades. People invited to view the parade from offices along Pennsylvania Avenue are supposed to be screened carefully.

The special holiday act was passed when the Washington area -- as defined by the government -- was much smaller than it is now. The metropolitan area then included only the four Maryland and Virginia counties, and the two independent cities in Virginia within those counties.

Last year the government officially expanded the metropolitan statistical area to include the Maryland counties of Charles, Calvert and Frederick, and the Virginia counties of Loudoun, Prince William, Stafford and the cities of Fairfax, Manassas and Manassas Park. Many people work for the federal government in those areas.

Although the outlying jurisdictions are now part of the official metropolitan area, they are not covered by the Inauguration Day law written two decades ago. Federal officials say that means those employes will not get the day off, unless the White House issues a special executive order.

An Office of Personnel Management official said yesterday that the office had "just learned about the situation." He said he didn't know if his agency, or the Office of Management and Budget would recommend that workers in the newly expanded portions of the metro area be included in the holiday.

Federal workers in other cities, including nearly 60,000 in Baltimore, are not due to get the day off either.