Feds in DC: Five Days Off With One Day of Leave

December 17, 2020 12:56 PM , Updated January 15, 2021 8:05 AM
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illustration with words 'presidential inauguration' shown over an American flag

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If you are a federal employee working in the Washington, DC metropolitan area, you will probably have two holidays during Inauguration week in January 2021.

Inauguration day is on Wednesday, January 20, 2021. That is a federal holiday for employees in the Washington area. For those who are seeking an extra-long weekend, here is more good news: Monday, January 18th is another holiday for federal employees that same week. This holiday is celebrating the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr.

5-Days Off With One Day of Leave

This means that for federal employees working in the Washington metropolitan area, they can have a five-day weekend by taking one day of annual leave on Tuesday, January 19, 2021.

Overlaying the good news is some bad news for some federal employees in the DC area: traffic congestion.

According to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), “Federal employees who report to their duty station in the downtown Washington, DC area and its vicinity on January 19 and 20 should expect possible commuting delays and travel disruptions due to road closures, mass transit changes, motorcades, and the establishment of security perimeters.”

2020 has been an unusual year and, because of COVID, many federal employees are not going to work at the offices in Washington as they are working at home. But, as far as the federal holiday is concerned, that does not make any difference. As OPM has advised agencies:

Nonetheless, federal statute establishes Inauguration Day as a holiday for Federal employees in the District and surrounding areas and, in accordance with this provision of law, federal employees will be granted this extra day off if they meet conditions outlined in this memorandum.   

What is the Washington Metro Area?

For those who work somewhere that is arguably in the Washington, DC metropolitan area, and who may be wondering if this extra holiday will apply to you, here is the answer.

To receive this extra holiday, federal employees must work in the District of Columbia, Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties in Maryland, Arlington and Fairfax Counties in Virginia, and the cities of Alexandria and Falls Church in Virginia. The City of Fairfax is considered part of Fairfax County for this purpose.  

In the past, during Inauguration week, a federal employee would be eligible for holiday time off on Inauguration Day if the employee would be scheduled to work in the designated area as described above.

This means the following employees would normally have a day off on Inauguration Day:

  1. Employees with an official worksite in the Inauguration Day area, unless they are scheduled to be working outside the Inauguration Day area due to official duty away from the official worksite (e.g., a 1-day assignment), official travel, or telework; and
  2. Employees with an official worksite outside the Inauguration Day area who are scheduled to be working in the Inauguration Day area due to an official duty away from the official worksite (e.g., 1-day assignment), official travel, or telework. 

With COVID uprooting many of our normal procedures, why should the Inauguration Day holiday be any different?

Expanding Coverage of Inauguration Day Holiday

The government’s procedures that have been used to minimize contracting the COVID virus will impact which federal employees will have the Inauguration Day holiday.

This year, the holiday will be given to some federal employees who would not normally qualify for the extra time off.

OPM is modifying the usual rules in 2021. Federal employees who are teleworking will be considered to be “employed in” the Inauguration Day area even if they are scheduled to telework outside the Inauguration Day area on January 20, under the following conditions:

  • The employee’s official worksite is located in the Inauguration Day area;
  • But for the COVID-19 national emergency, the employee would be scheduled to work at the official worksite at least 2 days per biweekly pay period; and
  • The employee’s telework location on January 20 is one from which the employee regularly commuted to the employee’s official worksite prior to the COVID-19 emergency or is within a realistic commuting distance from the official worksite (generally no more than 2.5 hours commuting time or 125 miles in distance).  

Also, the Inauguration Day holiday will also be given to an employee under a telework agreement if the employee would be scheduled to telework on January 20 at a location within the Inauguration Day area, regardless of the location of the employee’s official worksite.

What About Federal Employees Outside Washington?

We often receive questions from readers working outside of Washington asking why they do not also receive the Inauguration Day holiday.

It is a holiday only in Washington primarily because of the traffic, congestion and problems moving around the downtown Washington, DC area. It also allows federal employees who work in Washington to view the ceremonies if they wish to do so.

Since it is not a typical federal holiday that is given to all federal workers, it is treated differently than others for pay purposes.

© 2021 Ralph R. Smith. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced without express written consent from Ralph R. Smith.

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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

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