Human Resources Guidance for the COVID-19 Emergency (March 26 Update)

I-2020-8


Effective Date: Expiration Date: Chapters:
March 29, 2020 Dec. 31, 2020 12   16  

Overview

On March 11, 2020, the Mayor declared both a public emergency and a public health emergency due to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). Following the Mayor's declarations, on March 17, 2020, the Council passed the COVID-19 Response Emergency Amendment Act of 2020 providing broad authority to address the critical needs of District residents and businesses.

The Department of Human Resources (DCHR) is releasing this guidance to assist agencies and employees in understanding personnel management changes that are in effect during the COVID-19 emergency. In this issuance, we are making updates to administrative leave provisions, which supersede and replace the provisions contained in Issuance No. 2020-6.

For the most up to date information on COVID-19 in Washington, DC, please visit https://coronavirus.dc.gov/.


Hiring and Promotions

During the public health emergency, District government agencies have several flexible hiring options available if it becomes necessary to quickly hire new employees. Agencies under the Mayor’s personnel authority shall work with DCHR’s recruitment specialists to identify the right hiring tools for agencies’ hiring needs to implement and effectuate these temporary assignments.

Details

An employee may be temporarily detailed to another position to meet the immediate needs of the agency or another agency to address the COVID-19 emergency. Details may be made within agencies and between agencies. If an agency needs assistance meeting a staffing need, the agency should reach out to their assigned Specialist at DCHR for assistance. Details may be made for up to 240 days. Details in excess of 240 days must be approved by DCHR.

Emergency Appointments

With DCHR’s approval, agencies may make non-competitive emergency Career Service appointments of up to 30 days to provide for maintenance of essential services to respond to a natural disaster or other similar emergency situations. Agencies cannot extend emergency appointments and may not promote, convert, transfer, or otherwise move the employee into a permanent position within the District government.

Non-Competitive Appointments

During the COVID-19 emergency, DCHR may authorize non-competitive appointments. Non-competitive appointments will be authorized when rapid appointment is reasonably necessary to respond to the COVID-19 emergency. DCHR may waive any applicable residency requirements, but these waivers must be approved in writing and contained in any offer letter.

Special Appointments

DCHR may authorize agencies to make special, non-competitive appointments to fill professional, scientific, or technical expert or consultant positions. These appointments are in the Excepted Service. For the duration of the COVID-19 emergency, the applicable residency requirement is suspended. After the emergency ends, appointees will have 180 days to relocate into the District or to compete internally for a position in a different service. There is no limit to the number of special appointments that can be made, and they are in addition to the Mayor’s allotted Excepted Service positions under D.C. Official Code § 1-609.03.

Temporary / Term Appointments 

Agencies may make temporary appointments to the Career, Education, and Management Supervisory Services to meet immediate, time-limited operational needs. During the COVID-19 emergency, and with DCHR’s approval, agencies may make these appointments non-competitively above grade 12. However, once the emergency ends, any appointments above grade 12 must be competed.

Additionally, agencies may extend any temporary or term appointment for up to 90 days without pre-authorization. Any extensions beyond 90 days must be approved by DCHR.

Promotions

DCHR may authorize the promotion of employees either on a temporary or permanent basis without competition to meet immediate operational needs. Time limits for temporary promotions are suspended during the COVID-19 emergency.  

Reassignments

For front-line agencies that are experiencing talent shortages, agencies may choose to reassign existing employees. If an agency has specific hiring needs with which it needs assistance, please contact the assigned Specialist at DCHR for assistance.

Residency Requirements

For the duration of the COVID-19 emergency, DCHR may suspend any residency requirements for positions to meet immediate operational needs to provide critical services or support for the COVID-19 emergency. All waivers by DCHR must be in writing and must include the scope and duration of the waiver. Agencies must supply a corresponding notice to the applicable candidate or employee.

Selection Certificates

Typically, selection certificates for vacancies may last no longer than 90 days. During the pendency of the COVID-19 emergency, and with the approval of DCHR, agencies may rely on certificates that are more than 90 days old.


Scheduling and Deployment

Childcare

The District government recognizes the difficulty of acquiring childcare during the COVID-19 emergency. As such, employees directed to telework may work from home and supervise their children during this emergency. Agencies may also consider alternative work hours and schedules for impacted employees. For example, agencies may authorize employees to work 12 hours shift for 4 days to allow time for both work and child supervision.

However, due to the critical nature of the jobs performed by employees who cannot telework or who are ordered to a duty station, these employees must find alternative arrangements for childcare. Only if operations permit may agencies approve at their discretion, leave for employees who cannot telework or who are ordered to a duty station but cannot physically report to work.

Commuter Delays

Metro has reduced services and updates its operating status frequently. For the current operational status, please visit Metro’s COVID-19 Operational Status webpage.

With the reduced service, employees will likely experience unexpected commuting delays when using Metro bus and rail service. Agencies should remain flexible and understanding when employees encounter commuting challenges. Employees should notify their supervisor immediately if they are impacted by commuting delays and will be unable to arrive at work as scheduled. Employees should receive pay only for those hours actually worked. If an employee arrives late due to commuting delays, a supervisor may approve an employee to work later than scheduled to make up the lost time.

Duties

Agencies may modify employees’ assigned duties as needed to support the COVID-19 response. Agencies may also modify employees’ assigned duties to accommodate remote and telework arrangements.

Duty Stations

Agencies may modify an employee’s duty station as appropriate to meet operational or service needs during the COVID-19 emergency.

Employee Scheduling

Agencies may modify employees’ work schedules as needed to adequately manage the city’s COVID-19 response and maintain critical services. This includes changing workdays and times, adding additional workdays, expanding worktimes, and ordering overtime. When modifying an employees’ schedule, agencies should provide employees at least 24 hours’ notice of the schedule change, except when the need for the schedule change was unforeseeable.

Employees who are exempt from the FLSA overtime provisions may be eligible to accrue exempt time off at the discretion of their agency. At this time, FLSA-exempt employees are not eligible for overtime pay. For additional guidelines on overtime and compensatory time (comp time), refer to Issuance 2020-2, Overtime.

Previously Approved Leave (Rescinding)

Agencies shall rescind any previously approved leave granted to an employee if the employee’s absence would impede the city’s COVID-19 response. An agency, at its discretion, may authorize the reimbursement of any actual financial loss suffered by an employee as a direct consequence of a recension of previously approved leave. For example, an agency may reimburse an employee for any travel change fees but not the entirety of the employee’s itinerary. Reimbursements will be made from centralized funding and will not impact agencies budgets.

Meetings

Agencies’ gatherings and in-person meetings shall be limited to fewer than 10 people at a time, when feasible; agencies are encouraged to use tele-conferencing, video-conferencing and other electronic options to the greatest extent possible. For more information, visit https://remote.dc.gov/.


Reporting Time

During the COVID-19 emergency, employees, and timekeepers for those agencies whose timekeepers enter employees’ time, will continue to enter work hours on their timesheets. Generally, time will be entered as usual. However, to properly account for new operating models, accurate time reporting is critical. 

Telework

Employees who are working from home must use the Situational Telework Time Reporting Code (TRC). This TRC is: “Telework (Situational) – STTW”. 

Recording COVID-19 Tasks 

Employees who perform any work due to COVID-19 should use the new “Task” field in PeopleSoft in addition to the appropriate TRC (“Telework (Situational) – STTW”, “Regular Pay - REG,” etc.). Employees should use the “Task” field to report regular work related to COVID-19 (work requiring you to report to a physical duty station), telework related COVID-19, and any COVID-19 related overtime. For more information on reporting COVID-19 tasks, please see Issuance 2020-7, COVID-19 Timekeeping and watch the following video for instructions on how to report COVID-19 related tasks.


Employee Protections and Requirements

Administrative Leave

Employees who are ordered or recommended to self-quarantine or quarantine may telework from home. However, an agency head may authorize administrative leave covering a 14-day period following the employee’s last day of work at a government worksite if the employee is unable to telework due to COVID-19 (see also Declaration-of-Emergency Leave). For employees who self-quarantine or quarantine, agencies shall require a doctor’s note prior to returning to the workplace clearing the employee to return.

DCHR is currently reviewing recently enacted federal legislation that may impact employees’ eligibility for paid time off. This section will likely be revised in the coming week.

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.)

Declaration-of-Emergency Leave (DC Family and Medical Leave Act)

An employee who is unable to work because of the COVID-19 emergency may be entitled to declaration-of-emergency (DOE) leave under the DC Family Medical Leave Act during the emergency. To be eligible for DOE leave, an employee must receive proper certification of their eligibility.

The following shall constitute acceptable certification of the need for DOE leave: a recorded order or recommendation from (1) the Mayor, (2) any District or federal agency, or (3) a medical professional that the employee self-quarantine. In the case of a government mandated quarantine or isolation, the declaration of public health emergency shall serve as certification of the need for such leave.

At their option, employees eligible for DOE leave may choose to telework from home instead of taking leave. Otherwise, employees may use any of their accrued leave (annual leave, sick leave, or both) during their absence from work and may receive advanced leave if their accrued leave does not cover the duration of their absence. Employees taking DOE leave due to self-quarantine must supply their agencies a doctor’s note clearing their return.  


Telework

Situational telework is when employees work remotely from a secure location, usually from home, to address an immediate situation. Situational telework is appropriate to address a declared emergency and for responding to COVID-19. Time spent in a situational telework status must be recorded in PeopleSoft using the Time Reporting Code “Telework (Situational).” All employees who have been directed to work from home during the COVID-19 emergency shall use this time reporting code on their timesheets. Employees who are not teleworking and are reporting to a duty station outside of their home should continue to use their normal time codes.

Employees must execute an application to telework and sign a telework agreement, have the necessary equipment to work remotely, and the agency head must approve the telework agreement. As part of any telework agreement, employees must agree to respond to phone calls and emails within 30 minutes and must have the ability to report to any duty station within the District of Columbia within 2 hours if directed to do so unless otherwise approved by the agency.

Telework Mandated

The Mayor has ordered that employees telework to the greatest extent possible during the COVID-19 emergency. For purposes of addressing COVID-19:

  • All employees shall be considered for telework regardless of whether they are probationary, temporary, term, or permanent, and regardless of any performance problems (including whether they were rated a marginal performer or lower for the last fiscal year or currently subject to a Performance Improvement Plan).
  • Agencies may not suspend public-facing services as part of their telework policy without approval from the Mayor or the Mayor’s designee.

Assessing Telework Options

Each agency shall continue to assess the positions in their agency and determine those positions that are eligible to telework. Below are general guidelines on situational telework based on the viability of telework given the nature of agencies’ operations.

Fully Telework Capable Agencies

Employees shall telework if they work at agencies where the entire workforce is capable of teleworking without disruption to District government services.

Please refer to coronavirus.dc.gov for the current operating status of each agency.

Partially Telework Capable Agencies

As part of the city’s response to COVID-19, some agencies will have a mix of jobs within their workforce, where telework is not practical for some employees but other employees are capable of teleworking without significant disruption to District government services. 

Please refer to coronavirus.dc.gov for the current operating status of each agency.

Agencies Without Telework Capabilities

Certain agencies whose primary missions focus on public safety and/or health emergency response may not exercise expanded telework options during the city’s COVID-19 response as these agencies have been deemed by the Mayor to be, in whole, essential to public well-being.

Please refer to coronavirus.dc.gov for the current operating status of each agency.

Teleworking Securely

Given the possibility of a larger percentage of District government network users (employees and contractors) working from home, the Office of the Chief Technology Officer (OCTO) is doing everything possible to make remote work as secure as possible. Remember, bad actors may know this is a vulnerable moment to try to access the District government network.

Ideally, everyone working remotely will be using a government issued device, such as a laptop, tablet, or mobile phone. These devices should have an OCTO-approved image installed, including updated antivirus, and each user should have a secure VPN account to access the same environment they normally access when at work. 

In addition to these practices, all employees and contractors must help in protecting our network and data during this response. OCTO has put together guidance for agency leadership to allow agencies to work remotely in the most secure way possible.  Use the following link to learn more about remote work options and remote work guidance.


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.

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.

Leave Without Pay (LWOP)

Leave Without Pay (LWOP) is a temporary non-pay status and absence from duty 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 D.C. FMLA, authorizing LWOP shall be a matter of administrative discretion.

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.


Workforce Management

Corrective and Adverse Actions

If an employee faces corrective or adverse actions as part of the progressive discipline process located in 6-B DCMR § 1600 et seq., employees are entitled to certain rights. Specifically, 6-B DCMR §1602.3 (a) states that a corrective or adverse action must be initiated no more than 90 business days after an agency knew or should have known about the performance or conduct supporting the action.  

However, during the COVID-19 emergency, the 90-business day limit is suspended. No days during the emergency shall be considered business days for purpose of 6-B DCMR § 1602.3(a). This suspension is necessary to avoid the diversion of critical resources to administrative investigations, and the practical challenges involved in investigating and taking corrective or adverse action while many employees are working remotely.

Fitness for Duty Evaluations

The DC Health recommends that all non-urgent medical procedures be “postposed to preserve health care capacity … [and] … to flatten the epidemic curve.” Fitness for duty evaluations are considered non-urgent. Accordingly, in compliance with DC Health’s recommendation, DCHR will not process any fitness for duty until DC Health recommends that non-urgent medical services should resume.

Travel for Government Purposes

Travel for government purposes falls into two categories: essential and non-essential. The category determines what restrictions and guidance apply.

Essential Government Travel

Essential government travel is domestic travel critical to the continued operations of the District government, or travel that is required by law. For example, travel for the purpose of testifying on behalf of the District of Columbia government before an administrative or judicial court is considered essential government travel. However, the District is following the CDC guidance as it relates to restricted travel to those areas where a travel ban is in place. All essential government travel must be approved by the agency head.

Non-Essential Government Travel

Non-essential government travel is all international travel as well as domestic, government-related travel that does not qualify as “essential” travel. This includes, among other purposes, travel for conferences and training.

Non-essential government travel commencing after March 11, 2020, is permitted only when the travel was approved and determined by the agency’s director or equivalent, or the relevant Deputy Mayor that the travel is in the best interest of the District of Columbia.

International travel and travel not otherwise permitted by this section is suspended until May 1, 2020, or as otherwise directed by the Mayor.


Human Resources Management

Supersession

The provisions of this issuance supersede any provisions within previous issuances, a collective bargaining agreement, or the District personnel regulations to the extent there is a conflict.

Time Limits

The personnel authority may authorize different time limits than that explicitly outlined in this issuance to appropriately respond to the COVID-19 emergency.

Updates

In the absence of the Director of the D.C. Department of Human Resources, the Associate Director for Policy and Compliance is authorized to make any required amendments to this issuance.


References

  1. Declaration of Public Emergency, Mayor’s Order 2020-045 (Mar. 11, 2020)
  2. Declaration of Public Health Emergency, Mayor’s Order 2020-046 (Mar. 11 2020)
  3. COVID-19 Response Emergency Amendment Act of 2020, Act 23-0246 (Mar. 17, 2020)
  4. Hours of Work, Legal Holidays and Leave, Chapter 12, Title 6-B of the DCMR (Eff. Mar. 1, 2020)
  5. Compressed, Flexible, and Telework Schedules, Issuance No. 12-58 (Sept. 28, 2016)

Attachments

  1. Attachment 1 - COVID-19 FAQ
  2. Attachment 2 - COVID-19 Personnel Time Tracking
  3. Attachment 3 - Checklist for Identifying Critical Staffing Shortages
  4. Attachment 4 - Administrative Leave Notice

Issued by Ventris C. Gibson, Director D.C. Department of Human Resources on March 29, 2020, midnight