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House Votes to End Telework for 100,000’s of Federal Employees

Yesterday, the House of Representatives passed legislation which would require hundreds of thousands of federal employees to return to their offices.  This bill would essentially roll back the clock to pre-2019 COVID policies and end telework policies that have been in place for the past three years for approximately 500,000 federal workers. The bill, known as the Stopping Home Office Work’s Unproductive Problems Act or the “SHOW UP Act,” is unlikely to make it through the Senate. Nonetheless, it does raise debate anew on whether telework is wasting taxpayer/employer money and/or creating a productivity shortfall due to the inefficiency of remote workers.

Recent U.S. Office of Personnel Management data shows the number of federal employees who are now teleworking/remote working has doubled since 2018 and has surpassed 1,000,000 workers. Advocates for the bill argue backlogs of claims at federal agencies like the IRS, SSA and VA are increasing because of the new telework policies and the resulting huge number of federal employees taking advantage of the situation.

Under the terms of the “SHOW UP Act,” federal executive branch agencies would be required to “reinstate and apply the telework policies, practices, and levels of the agency as in effect on December 31, 2019.”  Under the bill, not only would the agencies need to implement these policies but they would be required to do so in short order – within 30 days of the bill being signed into law.

As expected, the legislation passed in the House of Representatives on Wednesday down party lines with just one Republican and two Democrats voting against their respective party’s position.  Next, the bill will go to the Senate where it is expected to die.

Federal workers and their unions m claim remote/telework improves overall efficiency and performance while increasing job satisfaction and performance. Employees claim they can get their work done faster and easier when working from home.

Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, (D) voted against the bill, and sighted at Monday’s hearing on the bill that telework is being utilized by the federal government to help recruit employees and improve efficiencies, “The American workplace is changing because of extraordinary new technology, and a new focus on productivity and efficiency, as opposed to industrial age, assembly line, seating and command and control work relations. We cannot enter a time machine and simply disappear the utility of telework in recruiting and retaining new generations of federal workers. We should embrace it as part of a balanced workplace to promote employee satisfaction and productivity.”

Union leaders representing impacted workers have warned the legislation could run afoul of collective bargaining agreements between the United States government and unions. They also predict a retirement bubble looms on the horizon for many federal workers, which could potentially burst if a measure like this was ultimately imposed.

Private business owners and HR executives are facing many of the same issues as the federal government.  And while the federal government can’t mandate private sector workers return to full-time, in office work, businesses owners will need to weigh the very same issues currently being debated on Capitol Hill and make their own decisions on how to balance business needs with those of their workers.

Brody and Associates regularly advises management on complying with the latest local, state and federal employment laws.  If we can be of assistance in this area, please contact us at info@brodyandassociates.com or 203.454.0560.