March 28, 2022
M E M O R A N D U M
RE: NTEU Files Petition Asking OPM to Change Its Regulations/Guidance Affecting Employees in COVID-19 Quarantine and Isolation
SUMMARY: NTEU has filed a petition with OPM asking it to issue regulations and updated guidance allowing weather and safety leave for non-telework-eligible employees who must quarantine or isolate because of COVID-19 exposure or infection.
OPM currently interprets its own guidance to allow weather and safety leave (WSL) for non-teleworking employees if they must quarantine for COVID-19 exposure, but not for required isolation due to a positive test and/or symptoms. Most agency policies incorporate this prohibition. Emergency paid leave under the American Rescue Plan expired in September 2021, forcing employees to use personal leave when agencies require them to isolate for the safety of others—even if the employee is otherwise ready, willing, and able to come to work.
This is unfair to federal employees who, in many cases, have faithfully reported to their worksites to perform their duties throughout the pandemic, despite the serious health risks to themselves and their families. It is also a critical time for OPM to change its policies and guidance because thousands more employees will soon be required to return to shared worksites after teleworking for the past two years.
NTEU firmly believes that employees should not be required to use their personal leave when they are required to isolate for the safety and wellbeing of other employees and members of the public in the worksite. Rather, in those circumstances, employees should be provided WSL. Today, NTEU filed the attached petition asking OPM to: (1) issue regulations explicitly allowing WSL for non-teleworking employees in either quarantine or isolation; and (2) modify its guidance to explicitly allow WSL in these situations. At a minimum, the petition asks OPM to allow WSL for all quarantining employees and asymptomatic employees in isolation because there is no legal reason to treat these groups differently.