August 10, 2020

Van Hollen, Lankford, Sinema Announce Bipartisan Legislation Requiring Federal Agencies to Maximize Telework

Today, U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) announced the bipartisan Pandemic Federal Telework Act, legislation to require federal agencies to maximize telework for federal employees for the duration of the COVID-19 public health emergency. The Senators previously introduced similar legislation, the Emergency Telework Act at the onset of this crisis, and are doubling down on their efforts as cases across the country continue to rise, but federal agencies have begun moving forward with plans to require employees to return to in-person work. Senator Van Hollen and Senator Lankford are members of the Appropriations Committee and serve on the Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government. Senator Lankford and Senator Sinema serve as the Chair and Ranking Member of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs and Federal Management.

“Federal employees serve our country and our constituents day in and day out. Maximizing telework is a no brainer – it keeps employees on the job while also keeping them safe and healthy and reduces the spread of the virus in our communities. This is the best way to keep workers safe so they can continue providing vital services to the American people during this difficult time. I’m proud to join in this bipartisan effort with Senators Lankford and Sinema to ensure our federal agencies are operating safely and efficiently, and I will be pushing this provision in the next relief package,” said Senator Van Hollen.

“I am glad to join Senators Van Hollen and Sinema on the Pandemic Federal Telework Act, which helps ensure federal employees have clarity on their telework status during the remainder of the COVID-19 pandemic and ensures we equip teleworking federal employees with necessary training on security protocols,” said Senator Lankford, chairman of the Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs and Federal Management. “Last week, I chaired a subcommittee hearing to learn best practices and valuable insights from the private sector who have utilized telework both before and during the pandemic. Their insight was incredibly valuable as the federal government continues to function with many federal employees in full-time telework status. I look forward to utilizing what we’ve learned and recommended to increase the availability and security of federal teleworking through this crisis and when we are finally past this crisis.”

“The federal government should lead by example and slow the spread of coronavirus by continuing to ensure employees are teleworking,” said Senator Sinema.

“The majority of federal employees have been successfully teleworking since the start of the pandemic, performing their duties remotely while helping to keep their communities safe,” said Everett Kelley, National President of the American Federation of Government Employees. “It is imperative that all federal agencies continue to maximize their use of telework for the duration of the coronavirus emergency.  We applaud Senators Van Hollen, Lankford and Sinema for introducing the Pandemic Federal Telework Act, which will require agencies to do just that.  This will save lives and help stop the spread of the virus.”

“Throughout this pandemic, federal employees have shown that telework is an effective option for getting the work of the federal government done. NTEU is pleased to support this legislation to ensure that maximum telework continues for the safety of employees, their families and our communities,” said NTEU National President Tony Reardon. “I want to thank Sen. Van Hollen and Sen. Lankford for their leadership on this legislation and for recognizing the important role telework plays for government agencies and our frontline workers.”

“The Partnership for Public Service urges Congress to move forward quickly on the Pandemic Federal Telework Act. This bill wisely will maintain our government’s ability to serve the American people during the COVID crisis.  It also will help create government efficiencies that last well beyond the pandemic, by enhancing telework capabilities and equipping managers and supervisors to oversee a remote workforce.  This bipartisan effort is a great example of reaping lessons of today to build a better government for tomorrow,” said Max Stier, President and CEO of the Partnership for Public Service.

“Our nation’s Assistant U.S. Attorneys have proven they are able to effectively and safely administer justice while predominately teleworking. The Pandemic Federal Telework Act will ensure our prosecutor’s primary focus is on maintaining the rule of law, rather than worrying about potential health risks associated with working in federal facilities for non-essential purposes. While some work will require prosecutors to enter federal facilities, NAAUSA appreciates Senators Van Hollen, Lankford, and Sinema for working to ensure our members have access to telework and the technology needed to support telework when working remotely aligns with our mission and for as long as this pandemic may last,” said Larry Leiser, President of the National Association of Assistant U.S. Attorneys.

“As we have already seen, it is inevitable that some IRS employees will need to report to federal facilities to handle taxpayer needs, such as sorting the thousands of pieces of mail correspondence the IRS receives every day. To ensure these individuals and other IRS employees are not placed at a heightened risk for exposure to the coronavirus pandemic, it is critical that all employees who can complete their mission remotely do so to allow for social distancing in federal facilities for those who cannot telework. PMA encourages passage of the Pandemic Federal Telework Act to ensure the IRS is pursuing innovative ways to increase telework and the IRS’s technological capacity to increase telework during times of national crisis,” said Chad Hooper, National President of the Professional Managers Association.

“Telework has become necessary for ensuring the federal workforce can safely and effectively deliver services and support to the American people during the coronavirus pandemic. The Pandemic Federal Telework Act will provide federal leaders with access to the training, autonomy, and technology modernization funds to ensure our workforce is able to continue teleworking for as long as this disease spreads through our nation. SEA thanks Senators Van Hollen, Lankford, and Sinema for their commitment to the safety of our federal workforce, our nation’s greatest asset in the fight against this pandemic,” said Bob Corsi, Interim President of the Senior Executives Assocation.

The Pandemic Federal Telework Act would:

  • Require federal agencies to allow all telework-eligible federal workers to telework full-time for the duration of the COVID-19 public health emergency.
  • Require federal agencies to evaluate whether non-telework-eligible employees can be made telework-eligible.
  • Allow agency heads to waive any of the above requirements for employees where there is a compelling reason to do so. This sets a default for maximum telework, but provides flexibility for jobs that cannot be done remotely.
  • Compel the Executive Branch to develop a plan to maximize telework in the event of a future public health emergency for an infectious disease.
  • Clarify that the Technology Modernization Fund may be used for technology-related modernization activities to facilitate telework.
  • Require that managers and supervisors, including political appointees, receive training on telework and management of a remote workforce, within 180 days of assuming a management or supervisory role over teleworking employees.

The text of the legislation is available here.