December 8, 2003
SUBJECT: Early Dismissal or Closure of Activity Due to Emergency Conditions
TO: Administrative Officers
AMS, APHIS, and GIPSA
Marketing and Regulatory Programs
This is an annual reminder of the policy and procedures nonemergency employees are to follow for early dismissal or closure of activities due to emergency conditions. This information applies to snow emergencies, severe icing conditions, floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, air pollution, power failures, interruptions of public transportation, and other situations in which significant numbers of employees are prevented from reporting for work on time or which require agencies to close all or part of their activities.
Designation of “Emergency Employees”
“Emergency employees” are defined as those who occupy critical positions that may be vital to public health, safety, welfare, national defense, or the operation of essential facilities or functions. At least annually, managers and supervisors should identify employees meeting this definition and notify them, in writing, of this designation. The written notification should include the requirement that as “emergency employees” they are required to report for or remain at work in emergency situations, as well as an explanation that dismissal or closure announcements do not apply to them unless they are specifically instructed otherwise. NOTE: If for any reason, a determination is made that a situation requires nonemergency employees to report for or remain at work during an emergency, procedures should also be established for notifying them individually.
In addition, Programs may identify a cadre of “mission-critical“ emergency employees who may be called to work during extended emergencies, emergencies dealing with national security, or other unique situations. Programs must identify the emergency situations in which “mission-critical“ emergency employees will be expected to report for work and notify these employees, in writing. Such employees must be advised if they are expected to report for work at their regular worksite or alternative worksite. Further, “mission-critical“ emergency employees are expected to remain in contact with their Programs at all times during any closure situation. Programs may wish to issue communications and other equipment to such employees to facilitate contact in these situations.
Washington, D. C. Metropolitan Area inside the Capital Beltway (including MRP offices in Riverdale, Maryland):
When any emergency occurs which affects Federal employees working inside the Washington Capital Beltway, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) makes the final decision regarding dismissal of employees and closure of executive agencies. That decision, including the time of the earliest dismissal, is communicated through the USDA Director of Human Resources Management to the MRP Assistant Human Resources (HR) Officers. The MRPHR Officers immediately relay this information to designated officials of AMS, APHIS, and GIPSA for dissemination within their respective agencies. OPM also provides such announcements to the media.
EMERGENCIES BEFORE THE WORKDAY BEGINS. OPM will make one of the following five announcements to the media when an emergency occurs before the workday begins (usually by 6:00 a.m.).
An employee on a flexible or compressed work schedule whose day off is the same workday on which a Federal activity is closed is not entitled to another day off “in lieu of” the workday on which the Federal activity was closed. Furthermore, there is no basis for granting excused absence to such an employee on the day off.
EMERGENCIES DURING NORMAL WORK HOURS. OPM is unlikely to announce an “early dismissal” policy to permit the early dismissal of Federal employees when an emergency develops during normal work hours because the bus and subway systems would find it difficult to organize an early rush hour. However, when an “early dismissal” is authorized by OPM, employees should be dismissed relative to their normal departure times from work. For example, if a 3 hour early dismissal is announced as a result of a snowstorm or hurricane, workers who normally leave their offices at 5:00 p.m. would be authorized to leave at 2:00 p.m. Workers who normally leave at 6:00 p.m. would be authorized to leave at 3:00 p.m. Employees who must leave work earlier than their official dismissal time will be charged annual leave or leave without pay from the time of their departure through the remainder of their scheduled workday. Employees on pre-approved leave should be charged leave for the entire day. Emergency employees are expected to remain at work.
EXCUSED ABSENCE. Everyone is encouraged to follow these procedures. However, MRP agencies will continue to have discretionary authority to grant a reasonable amount of excused absence for individual hardships or circumstances unique to an employee. For example, factors such as distance, availability of transportation, or available alternatives to childcare or eldercare may be considered.
MRP generally looks to OPM to coordinate any decisions to dismiss Washington, DC, area Federal employees from work with local and Federal agencies, transportation authorities, and the media so as to reduce traffic congestion and ensure that affected employees are treated as consistently as possible. Therefore, all employees are expected to report for work or remain at work unless specifically excused by their supervisors.
Emergency Dismissal or Closure Procedures Field Locations.
Field facilities should develop their own emergency dismissal or closure plans. The offices must designate officials who will notify employees within their geographical areas of early dismissal. Decisions to excuse employees will be based on any one of the following:
Please distribute this information to your employees. Additional information may be obtained through any of the following sources:
Personnel Management Specialist
Human Resources Enhancement Branch