Long-time feds can remember back in the day, when Jan. 20 was theirs and theirs alone. Most feds here got the day off every four years. Most feds beyond the Beltway had to work. Even inside the Beltway, some people were more equal than others when it came to Inauguration Day.
Until the mid-1980s, federal pay and leave rules stated that “Inauguration Day is a legal public holiday for pay and leave purposes for Federal employees in the Washington, DC, metropolitan area only.” And that was that!
Government workers in nearby Baltimore, Richmond or Philadephia didn’t get the day off, unless they took annual leave. The rules for civil servants working in the metro area were also tricky and often confusing. In those days, feds were cruelly divided into two classes:
Either you were essential or you were nonessential. No way to sugar-coat it. The good news is that being nonessential had its perks too.
There were elaborate maps, zones, etc., which showed where the Inauguration Day holiday zone began and ended. If you worked inside the zone and you had, what in those days before political correctness was known as a “nonessential job,” you got the day off. “Essential” employees, then and now, still had to work. So although it may have hurt to be thought of as nonessential, at least you got the 20th off. The designations have since been changed to “emergency” and “nonemergency” jobs.
When the Martin Luther King Jr., holiday was signed into law in 1983, D.C. area feds got a chance at two almost back-to-back holidays: The King holiday which is the third Monday in January (his birthday is the 15th) and Inauguration Day itself.
Banks will be closed today — for the MLK holiday — but many area stores and restaurants will be open for what they hope is big business. Metro will run a rush-hour schedule most of the day (good luck with that!) and parking will be restricted big time in and around the Capitol and the parade route to the White House.
If you go, bundle up. Supposed to be a cold one. If you stay home and watch it on TV (or listen to Federal News Radio) have fun.
If you are working today, whether in your federal job in D.C. or in Austin or San Francisco, take comfort in the fact that somebody up there really thinks you are essential.
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