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'Liberal Leave' for D.C.-Area Federal Offices

By Ed O'Keefe

Washington, D.C. may look something like this by day's end.

Washington, D.C.-area federal offices will operate today under "liberal leave" or "unscheduled leave" and delayed arrival status, meaning employees who cannot make it to work can request off, or should otherwise arrive to work no more than two hours later than normal, according to the Office of Personnel Management.

The decision comes as school districts across the region have closed or delayed their openings due to the largest anticipated snowstorm of the season.

In the event of inclement conditions, the OPM director consults with local, state and federal agencies such as the National Weather Service before determining how weather conditions could impact commutes and transportation options. Federal workers in the nation's capital have not had a day off due to inclement weather conditions since Hurricane Isabel hit the region in September 2003. Employees may check the work status by calling 202-606-1900 or by visiting

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By Ed O'Keefe  | March 2, 2009; 4:22 AM ET
Categories:  Agencies and Departments, Workplace Issues  
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Liberal leave huh? That's great! Leave damn you and don't come back, my pocket book is much safer if you're gone.

Posted by: roncee | March 2, 2009 5:13 AM | Report abuse

Ed, you owe it to your readers to be more exact in your language. What's today called "unscheduled leave" may in the past have been called "liberal leave", but if so it no longer is. Search for "liberal" and you won't find any reference in relation to operating status. By using the correct term, you minimize the chance for confusion and also for political football, as in the previous comment.

I'm no fan of officialese, but in this case OPM did us all a favor by substituting a more precise term without political overtones.

Posted by: AndrewSchulman | March 2, 2009 5:29 AM | Report abuse

This always drives me nuts. OPM must seem to have all it's employees work in the District. 2 hour delayed leave means since my train operates on its own schedule (Virginia Railway Express) the last train leaves well before the 2 hours. What buncha dorks makes the decision?

Posted by: jacquie1 | March 2, 2009 6:06 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for considering families, OPM. If Montgomery, PG and Fairfax County schools are closed, then opening federal offices puts a huge burden on about half the federal workforce. And since bunches of D.C. businesses do whatever the feds do, you can probably double the nuisance/impact.

It's okay—why should kids get a snow day any more? Guess I'll be taking mine to work. Way to go!

Posted by: ThisAmericanVoter | March 2, 2009 6:18 AM | Report abuse

In addition to Jacquie's train schedule, didn't OPM consider the metro busses? In NoVA, the busses are only running on snow emergency routes. No work for me today.

Posted by: mallemployee | March 2, 2009 6:45 AM | Report abuse

I wish someone would clarify who this covers outside the beltway. We are on a Naval base in southern MD and it is considered part of the Washington region EXCEPT when it comes to opm announcements of snow day or whatever. The base commander (that makes our decision) lives on the base. So they never close this base. Of course we have hundreds of folks commuting from many miles away... this causes accidents and it is dangerous. But like any other Navy officer, they do whatever they want to do!

Posted by: darmar40 | March 2, 2009 6:51 AM | Report abuse

Not a Fed but our esteemed company directors defer to the Fed policy. Do they think everyone lives walking distance to the Metro? And how about people with schoolchildren?

I'm not risking life, limb, and automobile to spend four times as long to get to work, only to have them close early (oh, why? because it's a snowstorm!)

Posted by: chunche | March 2, 2009 7:23 AM | Report abuse

OPM isn't thinking of DC residents. I live in the District and on a good day could walk downtown. Not today. Not a side road has been plowed yet and none of the sidewalks are shoveled. It will take me an hour and a half at least to get in.

Posted by: endoftheorangeline | March 2, 2009 7:31 AM | Report abuse

Everyone uses the term "liberal leave." Please stick with it, as it provides additional free entertainment when the patriots who bristle at the term "liberal" come out of their holes to protest.

Posted by: waldowaldensian | March 2, 2009 7:32 AM | Report abuse

Why not just take people's leave. Liberal leave is just not realistic, but a myth and excuse for making people take part of their regular leave.

Posted by: paulnolan97 | March 2, 2009 7:40 AM | Report abuse

I love people whining about calling it "liberal leave." What an outrage! We should call it "Freedom Leave!"

Posted by: jochpo | March 2, 2009 7:49 AM | Report abuse

Is there such a thing as 4 hour delayed opening? Because today seems like the day for it . . . . forecasts have the snow continuing until mid-morning. It's not like the roads will be any better at 10am than 8am.

Posted by: ah___ | March 2, 2009 7:57 AM | Report abuse

I'd rather have liberal leave than those godda mn neocons.

Posted by: bs2004 | March 2, 2009 8:08 AM | Report abuse

Seems to me that Obama's comments complaining about the school snow day in Jan significantly influenced the OPM's decision to open today. News flash Mr. President: You're NOT in Chicago anymore!

Posted by: NoVACommuter | March 2, 2009 8:08 AM | Report abuse

I cannot fathom how the DC government is open today. Considering how historically the Fed Gov't closes with the "threat" of impending snow, and just this past January when there were 2in we were granted a closing. Now we have 5-7in of snow in NW (I live 1.5 miles from the White House) and I have to dig my car out from said 5-7in of snow and try and navigate through unplowed streets to get to work? Can't do it! I drive a Mustang and she does not like the inclement weater!

So walk, people may suggest. No thanks! I'm not trudging through that mess with a purse, laptop bag, and umbrella. This is absurd. Me thinks Fenty is trying to prove how "tough" we are after President Obama called say it nicely, babies...after the January cancellations. Totally annoyed.

Posted by: croller77 | March 2, 2009 8:11 AM | Report abuse

Will the trillion dollas we are spending claen the snow any faster, how many people die on snow covered roads today?

Posted by: twm8009 | March 2, 2009 8:23 AM | Report abuse

Hey Feds, Consider it a perk that you are getting 2 hours **paid** leave to take extra time to get to work today. Private sector companies don't normally offer that! And, if you can't make it in, then take leave, like the rest of the private sector workforce. You don't **have** to risk your life to get into work. Take the day off and quit whining! Our budget deficit may benefit from eliminating the hours and hours of administrative leave our Federal workforce receive per year!

Posted by: BlueBird4 | March 2, 2009 8:44 AM | Report abuse

RE: Mustang doesn't like inclement weather . . .

I could sympathize with croller77 if she lived in Mobile, Alabama, Laredo Texas, or San Diego, California. However, she lives in the National Capitol Region (NCR).

Wake up. It snows in the NCR. The NCR is subject to freezing precipitation. Nothing has changed since my seven year ('73 - '80) tour in the NCR which included the President's Day (18-inch) snow storm of 1979. If one lives in an area which has a history of snow and freezing precipitation, one should consider acquiring a vehicle which "likes inclement weather." Croller77 was not forced to purchase an automobile (Mustang) which is known for being skittish on snow and ice. NOTE: I owned a '67 Mustang and am very familiar with it's ice/snow (mis-) handling. Rather, croller77's purchase/retention of a Mustang was and remains an exercise of her own free will.

My advice: if one lives on the Gulf Coast, complain not about hurricanes; if one lives in Kansas, complain not about tornados; and if one lives in an area which has a history of snow/freezing precipitation, remain silent about the discomfort of living in an area subject to snow/freezing preciptation. The alternative is obvious -- relocate!

Posted by: dowert1 | March 2, 2009 8:45 AM | Report abuse

Come on - I am retired from FDA, but we can call it "French Leave!"

Think what wr can do with our time when we are home. French love?

Works for me.

Posted by: gary4books | March 2, 2009 8:46 AM | Report abuse

Its amazing how ppl are kissing up to Obama in regards to weather conditions. Don't get me wrong, I support our president to the maximum, but OPM and the DC gov are endangering people's lives and causing a bunch of liability by requiring us to go through snow like this just for 2 hours before everyone bails out of work, Just because Obama made comments about Chicago snow? What happened to anyone besides Obama having backbone in this city?

Posted by: jack5 | March 2, 2009 8:51 AM | Report abuse

I always used to joke to people that the reason Democrats vastly outnumbered Republicans in the Md./DC/Va. region was that, when inclement weather hit, they gave all the Democrats the day off while mandating that Republicans report to work........ man, would I get eye rolls and groans when I explained "liberal leave" to the then-puzzled folks.......

Posted by: LNER4472 | March 2, 2009 8:52 AM | Report abuse

As long as Obama is president the govt will not close unless we get 2 ft of snow, minimum. Heck, this is a balmy spring day in Chicago!

Posted by: Axel2 | March 2, 2009 8:57 AM | Report abuse

The other commenter is spot-on--this is entirely the OMB trying to kiss-up to President Obama after he teased DC for closing schools in January after that slight dusting--now they want to show him how Chicago we can all be--even after up to ten inches of snow. Proof? All Beltway Maryland and Virginia schools are closed, but DC publics are matching the Fed's two-hour delay. Madness.

Posted by: RolphNadir | March 2, 2009 9:01 AM | Report abuse

Federal workers get generous leave that most others can only dream about. If they don't want to make the effort to get in just use some of your annual leave and stay home. You probably wouldn't get much done anyway.

Posted by: brewstercounty | March 2, 2009 9:02 AM | Report abuse

Huh...I'm quite happy to have a job to go to, even if I may get there 2 hours late or have to take unscheduled leave.

Posted by: mlc5556 | March 2, 2009 9:08 AM | Report abuse

What a bunch of WIMPS. This federal worker caught an earlier train and made it to work twenty minutes early. Quit your whining people. Drive slow, leave extra space, and quit complaining.

Posted by: anarcho-liberal-tarian | March 2, 2009 9:17 AM | Report abuse

What a bunch of frickin crybabies. What are you 4th grade? Oh my gawd we actually have weather here in DC. Get off your whiny little butts put on an extra sweater and get to work. If your kids' daycare or school is closed deal with it. Stay home and take the leave, or have a neighbor watch the kids. what, none of you ever thought to plan ahead for weather? maybe talk to your neighbors in advance and arrange a rotation schedule for when weather hits and someone needs to stay home.
my gawd live your life, it's just snow, leave earlier than usual and drive slower than normal. if you stay home with the kids, go outside and make snow angels or snowmans and then come in the house and make hot chocolate. If the kids are driving you nuts just add some rum to your, not the kids', hot chocolate and go back out and have a snowball fight!

Posted by: JohnMike | March 2, 2009 9:32 AM | Report abuse

Obviously "liberal leave" means that conservatives can work in peace while the yappy whiner libs stay home with their hybrid snowblowers.

Pretty sweet here.

Posted by: Emma3 | March 2, 2009 9:33 AM | Report abuse

I work for the a component of a federal agency that fully supports telecommuting to enhance quality of work/family life, increase efficiency, reduce traffic and conserve energy resources. In inclement weather we are allowed to telecommute which is a very sound decision as it maintains efficiency (we are still working) and keeps cars off the icy/snowy roads. We have a host of communication options that allow us to conduct online meetings and conferences even when we are out of the office, even sharing our computer screens to give presentations. The technology exists at very reasonable cost. I wish more businesses supported this option to save energy and improve the quality of work/family life.

Posted by: Rosie09 | March 2, 2009 9:33 AM | Report abuse

It's called "Unscheduled Leave" not "Liberal Leave." Get your terms correct. "Liberal Leave" hasn't been used in over 13 years.

Posted by: cuse012 | March 2, 2009 9:35 AM | Report abuse

I'm from Northern NY and went to college just south of Canada. We laughed at the weather-phobia when we first moved here 20 years ago. But now I consider this: we don't have snow tires as we did in NY --mandated when I was a kid; we don't get much practice driving in snow due to the infrequency; we don't have much practice clearing it away. In addition, closing every time it snows in NY (or Chicago or Michigan) would be impossible. Nothing would get done for months. But closing here everytime there's significant snowfall means a few days a year. Not such a bad exchange for safety.
And on a frivolous note, if we don't close school when it snows, it'll melt before the kids get home to play in it! ;-)

Posted by: GirlScoutMom | March 2, 2009 9:49 AM | Report abuse

A lot of you don't seem to realize that only Federal employees who've been working in the government for over 15 years are the ones with the awesome leave. The rest of us have less than or comparable leave to that within the private sector. Couple that with the fact that there's no maternity leave, so if you have two children as a government employee, you probably have almost no saved leave. Schools are closed, so many of these younger parents have to stay home, forsaking precious leave time. You people are unsympathetic to their needs. I live near the metro, but feel sorry for those who have to rely on buses (metro isn't running all of them and others are on snow routes) or those who must drive (most roads are NOT plowed). The government should have closed.

Posted by: Madgrrl70 | March 2, 2009 11:32 AM | Report abuse

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