Ever since Washington, D.C., became the nation’s capital government officials have wrestled — without much success — with what to do with government workers when it snows. Fifteen of every 100 feds live and/or work in our area. We don’t get much snow (except for that 33-incher a couple of years back) but when we do it can be a nightmare.
Now, we officially have the worst traffic in the nation — and, unofficially, some of the worst as in rudest drivers anywhere. There are not enough bridges over the Potomac, too many steep hills and traffic circles to make a speedy evacuation. Especially when it snows.
When snow threatens, the government has tried everything. It has told people to stay home and been ridiculed for doing it. It has told people to come in to work. Often that doesn’t work. It has told them to come to work then sent them home. Not good. And it has released employees by zones, based on their normal quitting time, etc. Again, no good.
Yesterday Uncle Sam got to do a first test of a new government snow plan. Just after 10 a.m. yesterday the Office of Personnel Management sent out emails alerting feds that they could take unscheduled leave or telework from home on Wednesday in anticipation of our first serious snow of the year.
At the time, forecasters were expecting that parts of the huge metro region (from the Chesapeake Bay to West Virginia) were likely to get a dusting while areas north and west of D.C. could expect 3 inches of more.
Like squirrels stockpiling for the winter, Washingtonians did what we always do when it’s supposed to snow: Like latter-day pioneers, we head for the nearest supermarket to stock up on white bread, toilet paper and milk. No one has ever satisfactorily explained why those three things. We just do it!
To give the area’s feds time to make good their escape, the OPM said that eligible employees could:
Use annual leave, earned comp time off, earned credit hours, or LWOP; or,
As permitted by their agency’s policies, procedures, and collective bargaining agreements, telework from home on a non-telework day, if the employees has a telework agreement in place that is approved for unscheduled telework.
Employees scheduled to telework on the day of the announcement are expected to begin telework on time or request unscheduled leave.
Non-emergency employees may request supervisory approval to change their AWS day off or rearrange their work hours under a flexible work schedule.
Non-emergency employees may request sick leave if they meet the qualifying conditions under law, OPM regulations, and follow their agency’s policies and procedures.
Emergency employees are expected to come in to work, on time, unless told otherwise by their agency.
The OPM alert prompted this email from someone whose handle implies that he is a not-so-hard working federal employee. It said:
“Every time it rains, snows, our country is under attack and now just a weather forecast — I can go home and collect my pay and benefits. I wasn’t doing anything at work anyway since I have a federal position and get paid for attendance — Thank God Gerry and the boys made it illegal to tie pay with performance. Bye and thank you taxpayers!!!!!”
Check out this neat list of all the various occupations of a medieval city. Alongside well-known jobs, such as judge and king, you’ll find occupations less well known: “catchpole” (responsible for tracking down debtors), “eggler” (an egg merchant) and the “fewterer” (the keeper of the hunting dogs).
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