COVID HR Guidance - November 2021 Mask Update

I-2021-42


Effective Date: Expiration Date: Chapters:
Nov. 22, 2021 When Superseded 11   12   16  

Overview

This issuance provides ongoing updates to Human Resources policy and procedures affected by COVID-19 to assist agencies and employees in understanding revised personnel management policies that are in effect regarding COVID-19. This most recent update provides updated guidance concerning the wearing of face coverings in the workplace, implement Mayor's Order 2021-142 and City Adminisator's Order 2021-7.


Employee Protections and Requirements

Colds, Flus or other Communicable Illnesses

Employees suffering or who appear to be suffering from an acute respiratory illness (e.g., cough, fever, shortness of breath) at work shall be separated from other employees and sent home immediately. Employees shall not come to work until they are free of a fever (100.4°F or greater using an oral thermometer), signs of a fever, and any other symptoms for at least 24 hours without the use of symptom altering medicines.

An employee who has a cold, flu, or other communicable disease or illness shall consult their supervisors about flexible leave usage policies and any situational telework options. Prior to returning to the workplace, agencies shall require a doctor’s note clearing the employee to return. In rare cases, employees returning from leave or situational telework following an illness may be asked to undergo a fitness for duty evaluation. However, such evaluations may only be ordered with DCHR’s approval. (For more information on fitness for duty evaluations, please refer to 6-B DCMR § 2005.)

COVID-19 Reporting Requirement

Employees who are required to physically report to work but who have tested positive for COVID-19 must immediately report their active COVID-19 infection to their immediate supervisor or their FMLA Coordinator. An active COVID-19 infection is an infection confirmed by a diagnostic test for COVID-19 and not an antibody test. Supervisors should arrange for employees who test positive to telework, if able, or refer the employee to the FMLA Coordinator to determine the employee’s available leave options. Employees who test positive for COVID-19 must have medical clearance from a healthcare provider before returning to work.

An employee’s medical diagnosis is confidential information and a supervisor shall not disclose the status of an employee to any unauthorized entities. For purposes of this paragraph, an authorized entity means the Department of Health or another District or federal agency engaged in COVID-19 contact tracing. Any disclosure made to an authorized entity should be done in consultation with the agency’s General Counsel’s Office.

NOTE: Agencies should take the following steps described in D.C. Health's guidance after an employee reports they tested positive.

 

COVID-19 Testing Requirement

Employees who are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19 must get tested every week for COVID-19 and submit a negative test result to PeopleSoft within 7 days of when they got tested in accordance with issuance I-2021-28.

Face Coverings

The District government will employ the appropriate use of face coverings for employees on duty.

In accordance with City Administrator’s Order 2021-7, while on duty at a District government facility or worksite, employees must wear a face covering except for employees who are fully vaccinated and have reported and uploaded proof of their vaccination status in PeopleSoft.

However, fully vaccinated employees must continue to wear a face covering if they are:

  • Interacting in person with a member of the public, including customers, constituents, clients, and patients;
  • In a space in a District government building where members of the public are routinely present, such as a customer service area or a public-serving area in a library or recreation center, when such space is open to the public;
  • In a location where masks are currently required by federal or District law, regulation, or guidance (e.g., schools and other educational facilities, childcare facilities, healthcare facilities, etc.); or
  • Required to wear a mask by a specific entity or establishment.

Exemptions

Individuals will not have to wear a mask under the following conditions if they are:

  • Unable to wear a mask due to a bona fide medical condition or disability, or they are physically unable to remove a mask;
  • Two years of age or younger;
  • Working remotely from their private residence;
  • Eating or drinking;
  • Giving a speech for broadcast to an audience, provided that an appropriate social distance is maintained between the speaker and other persons;
  • Speaking and must have their lips read by a person who is deaf or hard of hearing;
  • Actively working in a job where the equipment required for the job precludes the wearing of a mask and the person is wearing that equipment, or when wearing a mask would endanger public safety; or
  • Lawfully asked to remove their mask for facial recognition purposes.

Enforcement of Face Covering Requirements

Employees who knowingly fail to wear a face covering when required threaten the integrity of the District government, create an immediate hazard to other District employees, and engage in conduct that is detrimental to the public health. For this reason, unless an accommodation is required for medical or other qualifying reasons, an employee who does not wear a face covering when required is subject to summary administrative action, which may include an immediate one-day suspension with instructions to return to the workplace the following day, and to wear a face covering. Agencies should adhere to the summary action provisions consistent with Chapter 16 of the District Personnel Manual or any applicable Collective Bargaining Agreements when enforcing face covering requirements.

If an employee refuses to leave the workplace following their summary suspension, agencies should contact the Department of General Services’ Protective Services Division for assistance by calling (202) 727-8031.


Vaccination Reporting and Incentives

Prior to July 12, 2021, all District government employees must report their COVID-19 vaccination status through PeopleSoft. To report your status, go to https://ess.dc.gov, and select the My COVID Vaccination tile. Once you have selected the tile, report your status as appropriate and click submit. While managers and supervisors will not have direct access to an individuals’ data or response to the vaccine status survey, managers and supervisors should remind employees that they are required to complete the survey. Any employee providing a false statement relating to their vaccination status is subject to appropriate administrative action. Claims of full or partial vaccination status may be subject to audit for verification.

Access to Data

Agency General Counsels, Directors, and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Coordinators may have access to their agency employees’ “My COVID-19 Vaccination” data for purposes of verifying an employee’s need to quarantine due to potential COVID-19 exposure in the workplace.

Managers concerned that employees have not properly completed this submission should first inquire with the agency’s ADA Coordinator before approaching an employee. Managers should be mindful not to ask an employee why they are or are not vaccinated.

The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has stated that it is not a disability related inquiry for an employer to inquire about or request documentation or other confirmation that an employee obtained the COVID-19 vaccine from a third party in the community, such as a pharmacy, personal health care provider, or public clinic.

For the sole purposes of verifying an employee’s need to quarantine due to potential COVID-19 exposure in the workplace or enforcing the District’s face covering policy, managers may request employee vaccine data solely for their direct reports, if necessary, using the following procedures:

  1. Any requests for employee vaccine statuses must be made through the agency ADA Coordinator.
  2. Agency ADA Coordinators shall transmit the data in a secure and confidential manner to the manager who shall treat the information as confidential employee medical information.
  3. Managers are prohibited from transmitting the information to any other employee and if necessary, must use the information solely for the purposes identified above. As noted previously, managers are prohibited from asking an employee why they are or are not vaccinated. 

Verifying Vaccination Status

If an ADA coordinator cannot verify an employee’s vaccination status because the employee has not reported their status using the vaccination tile in PeopleSoft, the ADA coordinator should notify the employee’s supervisor. The employee’s supervisor should remind the employee to report their status as required. The employee’s supervisor should also inform the employee that failure to report their vaccine status may result in counseling up to suspension, as appropriate. The supervisor should not ask the employee their vaccination status. For additional questions, please contact DCHR’s policy team at dchr.policy@dc.gov.


Situational Telework

If operationally feasible, agencies may authorize employees to situationally telework if they are required to isolate or quarantine due to COVID-19. Agencies may also authorize employees to situationally telework to monitor their children who have been directed to quarantine by their school or childcare provider. Situational telework may be considered feasible where the employee feels well enough to work and their position may be performed via telework. If telework is not a feasible option, employees may use their annual, sick, donated, paid family, and other leave if needed.


Leave

Requesting Leave

Employees are required to request approval to take leave from their immediate supervisor or, if the immediate supervisor is unavailable, from another supervisor within the employee’s chain of command. To the greatest extent possible, employees who require unscheduled leave must contact their supervisor no later than two hours prior to the start of their scheduled tour of duty. All leave requests shall continue to be made according to existing policies.

Absence Without Leave (AWOL)

Notwithstanding COVID-19, if employees need to take unscheduled leave, they must continue to inform their supervisor, or if their supervisor is not available, another supervisor or manager within their chain of command. Except when authorized by a supervisor, employees who do not arrive to their duty station at the start of their scheduled tour of duty may be considered AWOL. An employee whose leave request is denied and who fails to report for duty as scheduled is also considered AWOL. An employee can be charged with AWOL regardless of whether the employee has accrued leave.

If it is later determined that the absence was excusable, or that the employee was ill, agencies may change the charge to AWOL to a charge against annual leave, compensatory time, restored leave, sick leave, leave without pay, or another leave type as appropriate. See 6-B DCMR § 1268 for additional details.

Unless directed otherwise, all District employees must continue to report to work as scheduled and take leave in accordance with District personnel regulations, the policies outlined in this issuance and any existing agency-specific leave policies. To the extent there is a conflict between the leave policies in this issuance and existing regulations and agency policies, the provisions of this guidance shall control.

Advanced Sick leave and Annual Leave

If an employee exhausts their accrued annual leave, sick leave, or both, agencies may advance leave to the employee.

Agencies may advance annual leave to eligible employees up to the amount of annual leave expected to be earned during the balance of the current leave year or the remainder of the employee’s time-limited appointment, whichever is sooner. For more information on advancing annual leave, please refer to 6-B DCMR § 1237.

In cases of serious disability or ailments, agencies may advance up to a maximum of 240 hours of sick leave to employees who have exhausted all their accumulated sick leave except when the agency has reason to believe that the employee may not be able to repay the advanced leave. For term and temporary employees, agencies may advance only up to the total sick leave the employee would earn during the remainder of the time-limited appointment. For more information on advancing sick leave, please refer to 6-B DCMR § 1243.

COVID-19 Leave (DC FMLA)

The District government offers unpaid leave under the District’s own FMLA program. District government employees who are eligible for COVID-19 Leave under DC FMLA may qualify for up to 16 workweeks of unpaid leave. For more information on eligibility and applying for COVID-19 Leave under DC FMLA, please refer to  Family and Medical Leave guidance.

Leave Without Pay (LWOP)

Leave Without Pay (LWOP) is a temporary non-pay status and absence from duty that may be granted at the employee's request or as otherwise authorized by regulations. The permissive nature of LWOP distinguishes it from absences without official leave (AWOL), which is unauthorized leave that may subject an employee to corrective or adverse action. Agencies may approve a maximum of 52 calendar weeks of LWOP. Except as provided by DC FMLA, authorizing LWOP shall be a matter of administrative discretion.

Sick Leave

An employee is entitled to use an unlimited amount of their accrued sick leave when they are unable to perform their duties due to physical or mental illness or are symptomatic due to a disease. Employees are entitled to use sick leave to care for family members who are symptomatic due to a quarantinable communicable disease. Please refer to 6-B DCMR § 1242.1 for other permissible uses of sick leave. For sick leave absences in excess of three consecutive workdays, and until further notice, employees must supply a medical release from their health care provider clearing their return to work. No agency shall permit an employee to return to the workplace without such a release unless this requirement is waived by DCHR.


Returning to Work

In order to return to work, employees who contract COVID-19 must meet the following conditions which are based on DC Health guidance

Conditions for Return
  • At least 10 days* have passed since your symptoms first started; AND
  • At least 24 hours after your fever resolves without medication; AND
  • Your other symptoms have improved.
  • If you tested positive, but never displayed any symptoms, you may only return after completing 10 days of self-isolation after the date of your positive COVID-19 test.
*Employees who experienced severe illness or who are severely immunocompromised may have to isolate for up to 20 days after their symptoms first started or after their positive test result, in consultation with their healthcare provider.
DC Health recommends an individual self-quarantine for 14 days in the event they come in close contact (within 6 feet for at least 15 minutes total) with an individual known to have COVID-19. 

Employees are responsible for notifying their supervisor or agency HR representative when they test positive for COVID-19. If an employee contacts a supervisor or agency HR representative regarding a positive COVID-19 test, the supervisor or HR representative should make the employee aware of the conditions for return, advise the employee that they may only return to the workplace after satisfying the conditions for return, and provide the employee with a copy of “What to do if you test positive for COVID-19: Employee Steps.


References


Updates

This issuance was last updated November 22, 2021.

4/29/21 - Revised Enforcement of Face Covering Requirements section to include "or other qualifying reasons" as an exemption to the face covering requirement. Added Overview link to the Return to Work Guide.

5/18/21 – Added additional guidance for employees regarding domestic and international travel.

6/1/21 - Updated guidance for vaccinations, vaccination incentives, and telework.

7/6/21 - Updated guidance for face coverings and telework with respect to return to the physical workplace.

7/14/21 - Updated guidance for access to COVID vaccine status data.

7/30/21 – Renewed face covering requirement.

8/29/21 – Removed references to expired COVID Sick Leave provisions.

11/22/21 – Removed outdated time reporting and travel sections. Revised face covering guidance to reflect CAO 2021-7. Revised “Returning to Work” section to reflect current DC Health guidance.  Revised references and legal authorities.


Attachments

  1. Attachment 1 - Checklist for Identifying Critical Staff Shortages
  2. Attachment 2 - What to do if you test positive for COVID-19: Employee Steps

Issued by Interim Director E. Lindsey Maxwell II, Esq., D.C. Department of Human Resources on Nov. 22, 2021, 9:02 a.m.