The union that represents IRS workers is calling on the agency to shut down its Austin, Texas, campus after dozens of employees contracted Covid-19.
The IRS on June 1 recalled workers in Texas who couldn’t perform their jobs from home. Since then, 29 employees have been confirmed as testing positive for the virus, according to the National Treasury Employees Union. The increase correlates with a general spike in cases in the state.
“I believe the entire campus operation needs to be closed for the safety of the roughly 2,400 employees there and the Austin community,” NTEU’s national president Tony Reardon said Thursday in a statement emailed to Bloomberg Tax.
This comes at a time when anxiety levels are already high among the thousands of employees who have been called back to offices in several states.
Reardon said he’s asked IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig to “take the appropriate and prudent step of sending these employees home until it is safe for them to return.”
The IRS has already recalled workers in 10 states, in addition to Texas, and one U.S. territory—California, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Oregon, Tennessee, Utah, and Puerto Rico. It plans to bring employees back to offices in all remaining states July 13.
These workers perform jobs, such as opening mail and processing paper tax returns, that are increasingly important as the agency attempts to tackle a massive backlog of about 11 million pieces of unopened mail and wrap up an extended filing season ending July 15.
IRS spokesperson Jodie Reynolds in an email Thursday attributed the rising case numbers in Texas to the state’s increased testing and trace capabilities.
“The IRS emphasizes the majority of the uptick in positive case notifications are employees who have been out of the workplace for extended periods, in some instances since mid-March,” she also told Bloomberg Tax.
“These are not necessarily related to the IRS reopening,” she said, adding the agency will continue to closely monitor the situation.