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Watchdog to Review Return-to-Office Plans for Federal HR Agency

July 8, 2020, 3:22 PM

The Office of Personnel Management’s independent watchdog will keep tabs on the government’s central human resources agency as it looks to return employees to their regular workplaces.

The agency’s Office of the Inspector General will “open a review into OPM’s policies for returning OPM employees and contractors to OPM office buildings,” Norbert Vint, the deputy inspector general, said in a letter to Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.).

Connolly, who chairs the House Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on Government Operations, had sent letters last month to 24 agency watchdogs across the federal bureaucracy, asking them to review plans to return workers to office-based work. Vint’s letter was a response to that request.

Connolly said in a tweet on Tuesday that other agency watchdog’s should follow Vint’s lead. “Now, IGs across government must do the same. Nothing less than the health and safety of 2.1 million federal employees demands it,” Connolly said.

No ‘One-Size-Fits-All Solution’

OPM issued guidance on its return-to-work plans in May. The agency’s rank-and-file employees, like at most other federal workers, have been teleworking to the maximum extent possible during the Covid-19 pandemic. The agency’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., is one of more than 20 locations that housed OPM employees prior to the public health emergency.

The OPM guidance states “there is no one-size-fits-all solution” to returning employees to office-based work because of the variety of locations, echoing guidance the White House Office of Management and Budget issued for federal agencies in April.

Federal employee unions disagree with this approach and are seeking uniform procedures across the government to ensure worker safety.

OPM didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment about the watchdog review and the current status of employees at its various facilities.

To contact the reporter on this story: Louis C. LaBrecque in Washington at llabrecque@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: John Lauinger at jlauinger@bloomberglaw.com; Jay-Anne B. Casuga at jcasuga@bloomberglaw.com

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