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Posted at 10:40 AM ET, 03/ 4/2011

Government updates weather closings policy

By Ed O'Keefe

(Photo by Washington Post)

In response to a series of flubs during recent winter storms, federal employees in the Washington area may now leave even earlier than permitted on days the government closes early because of bad weather.

The change "is simply meant to highlight that employees have the option to request unscheduled leave or unscheduled telework if they wish to leave prior to their designated early departure times," the Office of Personnel Management said this week.

The policy will also be tweaked to include the word "staggered" to amplify the government's understanding that employees begin the work day at different hours. Because many employees show up for work as early as 6 a.m. (to beat the morning and afternoon rush-hour traffic), the hope is that they'll also leave earlier on days the government dismisses them early because of weather.

As anyone who drove to work in late January may recall, record-breaking traffic jams hampered attempts to get home ahead of an icy winter storm. Some commutes lasted more than 13 hours as drivers abandoned their vehicles on major thoroughfares.

OPM Director John Berry vowed to tweak the federal leave policy to avoid contributing to similar jams in the future.

"Our hope was that the majority would be on the road before 4 in the afternoon" on the day of the late January storm, Berry said at the time. "But the reality is with human nature being what it is, many people did not choose to take advantage of the option" to leave early.

OPM also said it will no longer require federal agencies to report on the number of workers who telework on bad weather days and plans instead to establish a way of collecting the data on a regular basis.

Agree or disagree with the decision? Will this change in policy convince you, your family members and colleagues to leave even earlier? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

By Ed O'Keefe  | March 4, 2011; 10:40 AM ET
Categories:  Workplace Issues  
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Is Berry still fretting about his flubs?

Posted by: getjiggly1 | March 4, 2011 1:12 PM | Report abuse

I always get a kick out the Post when its reporters and editors use "tweaking." Like my co-workers who are always "tweaking" documents, they must be aware of tweaking's alternate meaning:

"The most dangerous stage of methamphetamine abuse occurs when an abuser has not slept in 3-15 days and is irritable and paranoid. This behavior is referred to as "tweaking," and the user is known as the "tweaker."

"The tweaker craves more methamphetamine, but it is difficult to achieve the original high, causing frustration and unstable behavior in the user. Because of the tweaker's unpredictability, there have been reports that they can react violently, which can lead to involvement in domestic disputes, spur-of-the-moment crimes, or motor vehicle accidents."

Quoted from the University of Maryland Center for Substance Abuse Research web page.

Posted by: RockvilleBear | March 4, 2011 3:35 PM | Report abuse

This strikes me as OPM's attempt to exonerate itself and blame the workers for its bad decisions. Blame the workers for not being smart enough to realize that, in order to get home safely before a storm makes the region's roads impassable, they need to take personal leave rather than wait until the time at which OPM officially dismisses them. (And what if the mangers to whom the employees are now supposed to "apply" for unscheduled leave or telework refuse to grant it?) No. OPM needs to err on the side of safety, and dismiss workers well before such a storm is expected to hit. A few hours' work can and will be made up within the next several days.

Posted by: nan_lynn | March 4, 2011 11:41 PM | Report abuse

nan_lynn, it sounds like you want OPM to be responsible for Managing Personnel. I find this line of argument to be dangerously close to treason.

Posted by: getjiggly1 | March 7, 2011 1:59 PM | Report abuse

@ getjiggly1. Dude! Please shut down your parents computer and get back to doing your 5th grade homework, your anti-governement and anti-american sentiment is showing again. Please move FAR away from my USA! YOU are the loser!

That said... the american people need to start being informed how the federal workers establish their work schedule and their work! It is established by management, NOT the worker. Many govt workers DO NOT have a bundle of leave hours to curtsy off when there is bad weather. OPM and the agency management is responsible for the entire mess! Then the next problem is... there are hundreds, perhaps thousands of workers that commute from outside the beltway. Many must adhere to their local management and commanders whether they can go home or not. I work on a Navy base outside the beltway. The navy commander lives on base and doesn't have to commute. So we rarily never close and their ultimate, but many times late announcement is liberal leave. Such a lousy and arrogant cop-out. Hundreds of workers have to commute thru MD counties that sometimes have been CLOSED by the local govt... but our Navy base is open and don't care! Car crashes and fatalities happen EVERY storm, but they go unaccounted for!

Posted by: spankyfrost | March 9, 2011 7:28 AM | Report abuse

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