Workforce

Union: IRS planning workforce evacuation order

IRS building, Washington DC shutterstock ID: 395325124 by  Rob Crandall 

The IRS is planning to issue an evacuation order that would allow its employees to telework due to concerns over COVID-19.

The National Treasury Employees Union, which represents 60,000 IRS employees, said that the agency had informed union leadership on March 26 the order could be issued as soon as March 27.

"In doing so, the IRS is invoking a provision in federal regulations that allows it to require telework-eligible employees to perform work from their home, regardless of whether they have a telework agreement in place at the time the evacuation notice is issued," NTEU wrote in an internal memo.

An evacuation order, though rarely used, allows agencies to move all telework-eligible employees to a mandatory telework posture, regardless of whether employees had a prior arrangement or signed up for the program.

Despite its ominous name, a federal evacuation order does not shutter agency buildings. The evacuation order has no effect upon employees whose jobs don't permit them to telework.

"With respect to employees who cannot perform work remotely, the IRS states it will follow [Office of Budget and Management] guidance and grant them weather and safety leave."

NTEU also said that the IRS indicated management would “reserve the right to direct employees to come into the office to perform mission critical work.”

The Bureau of Financial Services, another agency within the Treasury Department, issued a similar order on March 24.

NTEU has repeatedly pushed for the IRS to provide its service center workers with sanitation supplies when handling tax documents and find alternate means for employees to perform work duties without needing to be in close proximity to one another in order to prevent coronavirus transmission and promote social distancing.

In response to the coronavirus, the IRS also pushed back the federal income taxes filing date to July 15.

FCW contacted IRS for confirmation and comment and this story will be updated if officials reply.

About the Author

Lia Russell is a staff writer and associate editor at FCW covering the federal workforce. Before joining FCW, she worked as a freelance labor reporter in San Francisco for outlets such SF Weekly, The American Prospect and The Baffler. Russell graduated with a bachelor's degree from Bard College.

Contact Lia at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @LiaOffLeash.


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