Agencies reminded of emergency options as hurricane impacts US

The first major hurricane of the Atlantic season reached the coasts of the Carolinas early Sept. 5, and the Office of Personnel Management encouraged agencies in the region to keep emergency flexibilities in mind when considering the safety of employees in the path of the storm.

“As the United States prepares to respond to Hurricane Dorian, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management would like to remind agencies of the wide range of human resources flexibilities and procedures currently available to assist federal employees affected by emergency situations,” acting OPM Director Margaret Weichert wrote in a memo to agency heads Sept. 4.

The memo encourages agencies to offer telework to those employees that have been approved for it, and who may be put in danger by trying to come into the office. If employees can’t telework, or their usually approved telework location is also unsafe, agencies can provide weather and safety leave, which continues to pay employees if OPM or an agency issues an operating status announcement.

Hurricanes can also cause significant, long-term disruption due to severe winds and high storm-surges that may force residents to evacuate from an area entirely. In such situations, agencies can authorize advance payments, continuation of pay and payments for travel and subsistence expenses for feds that are ordered to evacuate.

Agencies may also take advantage of emergency leave transfer programs — where other federal employees may donate some of their accrued leave to those in need of it — to help feds that are so severely impacted they will not be able to come back to work right away.

Agencies must contact OPM to establish and authorize an ELTP, if they feel one is necessary.

According to the National Weather Service, Dorian is expected to cause storm surge and dangerous winds along the coasts of North and South Carolina, as well as southern parts of Virginia, over the next couple of days, and is expected to move past the eastern coast of the United States over the weekend.

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