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Nuts and Bolts: Bad Weather and Federal Holidays

By Ed O'Keefe

Snow blankets the U.S. Capitol back in Jan. 2005. Will it happen again this Winter?

The start of the holiday season and the drop in temperatures is a good excuse to revive conversations about federal work holidays and what happens when bad weather strikes.

Nuts and Bolts

Thanksgiving Day is the second-to-last federal work holiday of 2008, Christmas of course being the last. (See the full list here.) The Fridays after both holidays are considered work days.

Next year's holiday schedule is as follows:

Thursday, January 1: New Year’s Day
Monday, January 19: Birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Monday, February 16: Washington’s Birthday/President's Day
Monday, May 25: Memorial Day
Friday, July 3: Independence Day
Monday, September 7: Labor Day
Monday, October 12: Columbus Day
Wednesday, November 11: Veterans Day
Thursday, November 26: Thanksgiving Day
Friday, December 25: Christmas Day

Federal law states that when a holiday falls on a "non-workday" -- basically Saturday or Sunday -- then the holiday is observed on a Monday if the holiday is on a Sunday, or Friday if the holiday is on a Saturday. Federal workers will enjoy a three-day weekend starting Friday, July 3rd since July 4th, 2009 is a Saturday.

Inauguration Day, Jan. 20, 2009, will also be a holiday for federal employees that perform non-overtime work in Washington, D.C., Montgomery or Prince George's County, Md. or Arlington or Fairfax Counties in Virginia, or the cities of Alexandria or Falls Church, Va. The holiday does not apply to federal workers living and working in other parts of the country. Any federal worker in the D.C. region who is not normally scheduled to work on Jan. 20 cannot take the holiday on another day, according to federal law.

As for the weather, D.C.-area federal workers have not had a day off due to inclement conditions since a blizzard and Hurricane Isabel hit in 2003, according to Office of Personnel Management spokesman Peter Graves. This year may be no different, since forecast models predict a cold and snowy winter, but nothing historic or unprecedented.

In the event of bad weather, the OPM director will consult with local, state and federal agencies such as the Weather Service before determining how weather conditions could impact commutes and transportation options. The director could then make one of five announcements:

1.) Federal agencies in the D.C. region are open.
2.) Federal agencies in the D.C. region are closed.
3.) Federal agencies in the D.C. region are open under an unscheduled leave policy. This allows federal employees to request unscheduled leave if they cannot make it to work.
4.) Federal agencies in the D.C. region are open under a delayed arrival policy. This means federal employees should arrive for work no more than a set number of hours later than their normal start time.
5.) Federal agencies in the D.C. region are open under a delayed arrival/unscheduled leave policy, essentially a combination of options 3 and 4.

In almost all cases however, regardless of the weather, emergency federal employees have to report for work on time. Federal employees can learn of their work status by calling 202-606-1900 or by visiting and clicking on the red bar that says "Operating Status" in the upper right.

The longest most recent stretch of excused leave due to weather was Sept. 18-19, 2003 for Hurricane Isabel, Graves said.

By Ed O'Keefe  | November 28, 2008; 8:05 AM ET
Categories:  Nuts and Bolts  
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if memory serves me correctly there are certain conditions when employees are given authorized leave on days prior to holidays so that they can go shopping. Generally approved by the regional Commissioner. Thanksgiving christmas and new years come to mind :-)

Posted by: Parcons | November 30, 2008 9:06 PM | Report abuse

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