Today, Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Government Operations, sent a letter urging Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Acting Director Kathleen McGettigan to continue placing the health and safety of our dedicated federal and contractor personnel at the forefront of any discussions regarding how and when to bring employees back to their physical worksites.
“I understand some may be pushing to return federal employees to physical offices as soon as possible. While I am hopeful that we are getting closer to that reality, thanks in great part to the unprecedented efforts of the Biden Administration to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine, the health and safety of federal employees remains of paramount concern,” said Chairman Conolly. “We must ensure that Administration officials are cautious and prudent when requiring federal employees and contractors to return to federal office buildings, while continuing our responsibility to meet agency missions.”
Uncertainty on best practices and agency policies—and a general lack of communication with federal staff—led to tragedy last year for one of Chairman Connolly’s constituents. Chai Suthammanont continued working during the pandemic and ultimately succumbed to the coronavirus after likely being exposed at work by a fellow employee who tested positive for the virus. Although not all stories ended in tragedy, thousands of other federal employees also contracted the virus while they continued to execute their agencies’ missions bravely throughout the pandemic. To protect the federal workforce as the pandemic continues, any talk of returning employees to their offices should only be done in conjunction with discussions of how to do so safely.
On February 11, 2021, Chairman Connolly reintroduced the Chai Suthammanont Remembrance Act of 2021. On May 13, 2021, the bill was reported favorably by the Committee on Oversight and Reform. The bill would require every federal agency to prepare and communicate a safety plan for returning workers to physical worksites.
“Until this bill passes Congress and is signed into law by President Biden, I urge OPM to ensure that agencies put appropriate safety plans in place as they return their employees to federal facilities,” added Chairman Connolly. “In conjunction with the Biden Administration’s efforts to advocate for safe workspaces for federal employees, we all have an opportunity to ensure that federal employees can return to their offices while still feeling safe to perform their jobs in service to the nation.”
Click here to read today’s letter to OPM.