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Justice Department to Start Plan for More Staff in Office (1)

Feb. 15, 2022, 7:48 PMUpdated: Feb. 15, 2022, 8:34 PM

The Justice Department will start phasing out its maximum telework flexibility for employees in March, citing improvements in Covid-19 rates and potential vaccine availability for young children.

Although “many thousands” of DOJ’s some 115,000 workers have continued to report to the office during the pandemic, “we are ready for a shift away from our agency-wide maximum telework posture,” Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco told employees in an email obtained by Bloomberg Law and later confirmed by the agency.

The agency’s No. 2 official pledged in the Monday email that “this does not mean merely a return to pre-pandemic operations,” and added that each agency component will be finalizing specific policies that meet their workforce’s unique needs and include “increased telework where practicable.”

The transition will begin the week of March 14 and is expected to be fully implemented by May 1, Monaco said.

The surge in Covid-19 infections across the U.S. fueled by the omicron variant has delayed many government agency plans to begin requiring federal employees to report to work at the start of 2022. Attorneys at Main Justice and at U.S. attorney offices have continued to take advantage of telework flexibility.

A voluntary organization of DOJ line attorneys, the National Association of Assistant United States Attorneys, wrote to Monaco Jan. 19, criticizing leadership’s “decentralized” approach to telework. The letter requested the adoption of a uniform nationwide policy that would permit all 6,000 assistant U.S. attorneys to take at least two days of remote work flexibility per week.

Justice Department spokesman Wyn Hornbuckle confirmed Monaco’s email outlining the timeline. “As stated in that message, components are finalizing their plans,” Hornbuckle said.

(Updated with DOJ response)

To contact the reporter on this story: Ben Penn in Washington at bpenn@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Seth Stern at sstern@bloomberglaw.com; John Crawley at jcrawley@bloomberglaw.com