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

I-2020-30


Effective Date: Expiration Date: Chapters:
Dec. 22, 2020 When Superseded 11   12   16  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), ordering the temporary closure of non-essential business operations and prohibiting gatherings of 10 or more people. Subsequently, the Mayor announced Phases One and Two of Washington, DC’s Reopening through Mayor’s Orders 2020-067 and 2020-075, permitting the reopening of certain businesses, allowing gatherings of up to 50 individuals, mandating the wearing of masks in public, and requiring a 14-day quarantine for any travel from states designated as “high risk.” The District currently remains in Phase Two of Washington, DC’s reopening. For the most up to date information on COVID-19 in Washington, DC, please visit coronavirus.dc.gov.

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 during the ongoing COVID-19 emergency. This most recent update primarily implements the directives of Mayor’s Order 2020-110, Modified Requirements Regarding Self-Quarantines, Testing, and Travel During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency, effective, November 9, 2020.


Hiring and Promotions

During the public health emergency, District government agencies have several flexible hiring options available to them if it becomes necessary to quickly hire new employees.

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.

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

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 for Employees Reporting to the Workplace

Employees who physically report to a District government duty station are encouraged to be tested for COVID-19 at least once per month.

Consistent with Mayor’s Order 2020-110, agencies may permit critical infrastructure workers who are engaged in essential work, as defined by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, to physically report to a District government duty station. Other employees, particularly those who reside outside of the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia, are encouraged to continue to telework to the greatest extent possible.

Mayor’s Order 2020-110 imposes certain quarantine and COVID-19 testing restrictions on District residents and non-residents who are coming to the District of Columbia from high risk jurisdictions. However, these restrictions do not apply to non-resident employees who are reporting for duty for periods of less than 24 hours; residents of Maryland or Virginia; or, employees providing critical infrastructure work.

Community transmission of COVID-19 continues throughout the District of Columbia and travel to and from high risk states endangers the residents of the city. Therefore, as noted above, all employees who report to a duty station are encouraged to undergo COVID-19 testing at least once a month. Moreover, in collaboration with labor partners, agencies may require periodic COVID-19 testing for their employees who are not teleworking.

To learn more about getting tested, visit https://coronavirus.dc.gov/testing.

NOTE: Employees who have received COVID-19 vaccinations are not exempt from adhering to travel restrictions and reporting requirements.

Face Coverings

As employees return to the workplace, the District will employ universal safeguards that include physical distancing of at least six feet, the appropriate use of face coverings, and stringent sanitation and hygiene practices.

Accordingly, while on duty at a District government facility or worksite, and at a minimum, all employees must wear a face covering except for individuals who are alone within a private office.  This is a minimum requirement and agencies may require higher levels of personal protective equipment (PPE) for some employees due to the specific nature of their duties.

Agencies should post clear signage approved by the District’s Joint Information Center (JIC) that states that no person may enter the government facility without wearing a face covering, unless they cannot wear face covering due to a medical condition, a disability, or are under two years of age. Agencies shall provide employees and visitors with a face covering if they do not have one. For individuals who are able to wear a mask, agencies shall exclude or attempt to eject individuals who are not wearing masks or who remove their required masks.

Enforcement of Face Covering Requirements

Employees who knowingly fail to wear a face covering 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 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 summary action provisions of 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.  

NOTE: Employees who have received COVID-19 vaccinations are not exempt from wearing a mask.

Prohibition Against Retaliation

Agencies may not take adverse employment action against an employee for their refusal to serve a customer or client, or to work within 6 feet of an individual, who is not complying with official safety measures such as the wearing of face coverings and social distancing.

Additionally, agencies may not take adverse employment action against an employee for any of the reasons below:

  • The employee tested positive for COVID-19 (provided they did not physically report to work after receiving a positive test result);
  • The employee was exposed to someone with COVID-19 and needs to quarantine;
  • The employee is sick and is waiting for a COVID-19 test result; or
  • The employee is caring for or seeks to provide care for someone who is sick with COVID-19 symptoms or who is quarantined.

WHAT IS AN ADVERSE EMPLOYMENT ACTION?

An adverse employment action includes a threat, verbal warning, written warning, reduction of work hours, suspension, termination, discharge, demotion, harassment, material change in the terms or conditions of the employee’s employment, or any action that is reasonably likely to deter the employee from attempting to secure any right or protection contained in Title I of the law or to prevent or stop a violation of Title I of the Protecting Businesses and Workers from COVID-19 Emergency Amendment Act of 2020.

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. However, these telework arrangements may be terminated at any time by the Mayor or an agency head. If a telework arrangement is terminated, an employee shall report to his or her official duty station within 24 hours, unless otherwise directed.

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.

Ending Situational Telework

Unless there is a Collective Bargaining Agreement or other labor agreement that precludes returning employees to work, agencies at their discretion may permit and at times require employees who are situationally teleworking to physically report to their duty station. Agencies should consult the Assistant City Administrator and the Office of Labor Relations and Collective Bargaining prior to physically returning union employees who are currently on situational telework.


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 Sick Leave

The District government provides employees who are unable to work or telework up to 12 workweeks of paid COVID Sick Leave for certain circumstances relating to COVID-19. For more information about eligibility and applying for COVID Sick Leave, please refer to Issuance 2020-11, COVID-19 Sick Leave.

COVID-19 Leave (DC FMLA)

In addition to paid COVID Sick Leave, the District government also offers additional 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 until the end of the public health emergency. 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 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.

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 CDC guidance and 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 test positive, but never display any symptoms, you must wait until at least 10 days have passed since you were tested.
*Persons who experienced severe illness are recommended to consult with their doctors as they may have to isolate until 20 days have passed since symptoms first started.
CDC and DC Health recommend 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.

In addition to the guidance provided by the CDC and DC Health, the District government also requires all employees who return to work following a positive COVID-19 test or who were advised to quarantine because of symptoms consistent with COVID-19 to provide documentation from their healthcare provider which demonstrates that the employee has met the criteria for discontinuing home isolation and that the employee is cleared to return to work. Employees are also required to cooperate with the District’s contact tracing efforts and answer calls from DC Health contact tracers or contact tracers from their local health authority.


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.


References


Attachments

  1. Attachment 1 - COVID-19 Personnel Time Tracking
  2. Attachment 2 - Checklist for Identifying Critical Staffing Shortages

Issued by Ventris C. Gibson, Director D.C. Department of Human Resources on Dec. 22, 2020, 9:32 a.m.