Agency Heads Given Discretion To Grant Excused Absences During Pre-Inauguration Ceremonies

OPM issued guidance to heads of federal agencies and departments urging them to encourage their employees to telework or take annual leave to alleviate congestion for Inauguration Day.

Not only do most federal employees in the Washington D.C. area get Thursday, Jan. 20 off for Inauguration Day, many will also get approved leave or absence on Wednesday, Jan. 19 as a result of several pre-inauguration events expected to draw huge crowds.

Office of Personnel Management Director Kay Coles James issued guidance to heads of federal agencies and departments urging them to encourage their employees to telework or take annual leave Wednesday, Jan. 19 to alleviate traffic gridlock for the Presidential Inaugural “Celebration of Freedom” event on the White House Ellipse. James also reminded agency heads that they have the flexibility and discretion to grant excused absences if circumstances dictate.

“A large crowd of attendees is expected at the Presidential Inaugural ‘Celebration of Freedom’ event on the White House Ellipse,” James wrote in the memorandum.

“There are planned street closures in an area bordered by Constitution Avenue and E Street, and 15th and 17th Streets, NW., that day to accommodate the celebration. As a result, we anticipate major traffic congestion problems in the downtown Washington, DC, area. These problems will be especially acute for Federal workers who must commute from Washington, DC, to Northern Virginia or vice versa.

“To reduce the potential for traffic gridlock, please urge federal employees whose official duty stations are located in the downtown Washington, D.C., area to request annual leave, previously earned compensatory time off, or leave without pay,” James stated.

Apart from the memorandum, James said, “federal agencies along the event routes should be aware of security and street access issues that may impact their work forces. Federal employees should look to their agencies for specific guidance on the status of their agency operations throughout the week.”

James also suggested employees on alternative work schedules schedule their AWS day-off or use credit hours, if available, on that day. With supervisory approval under a written or oral telework agreement, employees may work at home or at a telework center on January 19. James recommended that employees who choose to work that day use public transportation.

Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, also urged agencies to give employees “wide latitude” on the day before the inauguration and asked agency heads to consider dismissing non-essential employees as early as possible and asked that they inform employees of their decisions quickly so they can make appropriate plans.

About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47