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Guidance for Federal Agencies

This section offers specific Office of Personnel Management (OPM) guidance to Federal agency staff responsible to implement the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010. The guidance is presented in question/answer format, based on the most commonly received questions from the agencies on the Act.

 

General Questions on the Act

What is the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010 (the Act) and why is it important?

The Telework Enhancement Act of 2010 (Act) is the common name for Public Law 111-292, signed by President Barack Obama on December 9, 2010. The passage and signing of the Act was a significant milestone in the history of Federal telework. It is a key factor in the Federal Government's ability to achieve greater flexibility in managing its workforce through the use of telework. The Act reflects the Federal Government's conviction that well-established and implemented telework programs provide agencies a valuable tool to meet mission objectives while helping employees enhance work/life effectiveness.

What does the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010 (the Act) require Federal agencies to do?

Among other provisions, the Act:

  • requires each Federal agency to establish a policy under which eligible employees can telework
  • mandates that each agency determine the eligibility for all of its employees to participate in telework
  • requires that each agency notify all of its employees of their eligibility to telework
  • directs agencies to designate a Telework Managing Officer (TMO)
  • requires agencies to provide interactive telework training to eligible employees and their managers and requires employees to complete the training prior to signing a telework agreement
  • outlines responsibilities and expectations for agencies with regard to policy, policy guidance and support; reporting and monitoring of the progress of telework in the various agencies

Does the Act mandate telework for Federal employees?

No, the Act does not mandate telework or promote telework for its own sake. Instead, it asks agencies to implement telework as a workplace flexibility that assists agencies to maintain continuity of operations and reduce management costs while also improving Federal employees' ability to balance their work and life commitments. The Act encourages an increase in the use of telework, but only for employees who choose to do so.

How long do agencies have to implement the provisions of the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010 (the Act)?

The Act requires Federal Executive agencies to immediately:

  • designate a Telework Managing Officer (TMO)
  • take steps to incorporate telework into their Continuity of Operations (COOP) plans

Within 180 days from enactment of the Act (i.e., by June 7, 2011), agencies are required to:

  • establish a policy under which eligible agency employees may be authorized to telework
  • determine employee eligibility to participate in telework
  • notify all employees of their eligibility to telework.

What agency roles and responsibilities are outlined in the Act?

Every Federal Executive agency is responsible to:

  • establish a policy under which eligible employees may be authorized to telework
  • determine employee eligibility to participate in telework
  • notify all employees of their eligibility to telework
  • incorporate telework into Continuity of Operations (COOP) plans
  • ensure that each eligible employee authorized to telework enters into a written telework agreement with his/her supervisor
  • ensure that an interactive telework training program is provided to eligible employees and their managers and that employees successfully complete training prior to entering into a written telework agreement
  • designate a Telework Managing Officer (TMO) to serve as the primary point of contact with OPM on telework matters on behalf of the agency
  • while developing telework policies, consult with OPM as needed for policy guidance in various areas such as performance management, pay and leave, recruitment and retention, etc.

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is responsible to:

  • provide consultation, policy and policy guidance to the agencies on telework in the areas of pay and leave; agency closure; performance management; official worksite; recruitment and retention; and accommodations for persons with disabilities.
  • assist each agency in establishing appropriate qualitative and quantitative measures and teleworking goals
  • consult with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the General Services Administration (GSA), and the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) on telework policy in areas that include COOP, technology, equipment, dependent care, and records management

OPM is further responsible to maintain a central telework website (www.telework.gov), that includes telework links, announcements, and guidance developed by OPM or submitted by FEMA and GSA (OPM is required to post FEMA and GSA guidance no later than 10 business days from receipt).

OPM, in collaboration with each Federal executive agency, is required to compile and submit annual reports on the telework programs of each agency, beginning with the first report not later than 18 months after enactment of the Act (June 2012), and on a yearly basis thereafter. In addition, OPM is tasked with researching the utilization of telework by public and private sector entities that identify best practices and recommendations for the Federal government; and to review the outcomes associated with an increase in telework, including the effects of telework on energy consumption, job creation and availability, urban transportation patterns, and the ability to anticipate the dispersal of work during periods of emergency, and to make findings available to the public.

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is required to:

  • consult with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), to issue guidelines to ensure the adequacy of information and security protections for information and information systems used while teleworking, by June 7, 2011 (180 days from enactment of the Act
  • issue policy guidance no later than 120 days from enactment (April 8, 2011), requiring each agency, when purchasing computer systems, to purchase systems that enable and support telework, unless the agency head determines that there is a mission-specific reason not to do so.

The General Services Administration (GSA) will be available to consult with OPM on policy and policy guidance for telework in the areas of:

  • telework centers
  • travel
  • technology
  • equipment
  • dependent care

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will be available to consult with OPM on policy and policy guidance for telework in the areas of:

  • continuation of operations
  • long-term emergencies

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) will be available to consult with OPM on policy and policy guidance for telework in the areas of:

  • efficient and effective records management
  • preservation of records, including Presidential and Vice-Presidential records

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Telework Policies

The Telework Enhancement Act of 2010 (the Act) requires that each executive agency shall "establish a policy under which eligible employees of the agency may be authorized to telework." Our agency already had a telework policy in place before the law was passed. Are we required to develop a new policy?

Not necessarily. Section 359 of Public Law 106-346 (October 23, 2000), stated that "[e]ach executive agency shall establish a policy under which eligible employees of the agency may participate in telecommuting to the maximum extent possible without diminished employee performance." Therefore, the law has required executive agencies to have a telework policy in place long before the passage of Public Law 111-292 (the Act). However, the Act expands upon and strengthens the Federal Government's commitment to the telework program. As such, it is incumbent upon each executive agency to carefully review and revise the telework policy already in place to ensure it meets the requirements of the Act. For example, the prior legislation did not offer details on the elements necessary to establish a telework program at an agency (e.g., creating telework agreements) or how to go about implementing the day-to-day operational aspects of telework. The Act provided several clarifying criteria and agencies incorporated the changes into their existing policies. One key example is the law's requirement that the agency's telework policy include specific language to "require a written agreement that is entered into between an agency manager and an employee authorized to telework, that outlines the specific work arrangement that is agreed to; and is mandatory in order for any employee to participate in telework." Another example is the mandate that "[e]ach executive agency shall incorporate telework into the continuity of operations plan of that agency." With this in mind, each agency should take time to review their present telework policy to ensure it meets the requirements of the Act. To the extent that agencies have a viable telework policy in place, this should be an exercise in revision rather than creation of a new telework policy. Agencies also should allow pre-decisional involvement to the fullest extent practicable as provided in Executive Order 13522 and satisfy collective bargaining obligations by working with labor when developing their telework policies and agreements.

Does the law require that our agency submit its telework policy to OPM for their review?

No, there is no requirement in the Act that an agency submit their telework policy to OPM for their review or to determine compliance with the law. What the Act does require is that each executive agency "consult with the Office of Personnel Management in developing telework policies." The law further explains that OPM shall "provide policy and policy guidance for telework in the areas of pay and leave, agency closure, performance management, official worksite, recruitment and retention, and accommodations for employees with disabilities." Additionally, OPM will "assist each agency in establishing appropriate qualitative and quantitative measures and teleworking goals." OPM provides consultation by means of telework guidance and information offered on the central website at www.telework.gov and at regularly-scheduled OPM-sponsored forums with Telework Managing Officers in the course of the year.

In 2009-2010, we submitted our agency's telework policy to OPM for review and evaluation. Is there a relationship between that policy review and the Act's requirement to establish a telework policy?

While the policy review initiative was not directly related to the Act, we consider the work accomplished to have laid a firm foundation for the development of sound telework policies as required by the Act. OPM provided feedback to agencies at the conclusion of the review to recommend revisions to their policies. The criteria by which policies were evaluated by OPM were derived from a thorough review of current research and best practices in telework, conducted by an interagency group of Federal telework experts. Some of the experts with whom we consulted were from agencies with premier telework programs that may have served as models for the legislation. Because of the close interaction between experts in the Federal telework community, it should come as no surprise that the criteria for the policy review correspond so closely with the key criteria emphasized in the law. The effect of this is that agencies that have been implementing the feedback OPM provided for the policy review are already well on their way to meeting the law's requirement to establish an effective telework policy.

Can an agency's telework policy stipulate that an eligible employee that occupies a telework-suitable position be required to telework?

There does not appear to be any language in the Act that would lead us to revise our understanding that telework is a voluntary flexibility. In other words, an agency may not compel an employee to telework, even if the duties of the position make that employee "telework eligible." However, although entering into a telework arrangement is voluntary, once the employee is under such an arrangement, he or she may be required to telework outside of his or her normal telework schedule in the case of a temporary emergency situation if that understanding has been clearly communicated by the agency to the teleworking employee in the written telework agreement. Also, it is important to remember that the intent of the Act is to promote the use of telework and agencies should make every effort to encourage employees and managers accordingly.

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Eligibility (including limitations and exceptions)

If an employee's position is determined to be telework suitable and the employee is eligible to participate, can the employee be required to telework even though he/she has indicated a desire not to telework?

No. An employee's "eligibility" for telework does not automatically confer the right or the obligation for an employee to "participate" in telework. Agencies have discretion to make their own eligibility and participation determinations for employees subject to operational needs while considering the specific requirements of the Act. The fact that an employee may be deemed "eligible" does not mean that the employee can be compelled to "participate" because telework is a voluntary workplace flexibility. In other words, an agency may not compel an employee to telework, even if the duties of the position make that employee "telework eligible." Keep in mind that although entering into a telework arrangement is voluntary, once the employee is under such an arrangement, he or she may be required to telework outside of his or her normal telework schedule in the case of a temporary emergency situation if that understanding has been clearly communicated by the agency to the teleworking employee in the written telework agreement.

Is OPM going to publish a Government-wide standard for eligibility for telework? Similarly, does OPM have plans to provide agencies standard letters or language to use in notifying their employees of their eligibility or non-eligibility for telework?

While OPM will continue to provide helpful tips to agencies, we have no plans to provide standard letters or a suggested Government-wide standard. Due to the variety of circumstances in each individual agency with regard to position classification, organizational structures and agency mission areas, it would be impractical and inadvisable for OPM to develop generic language that would imply a "one-size-fits- all" approach to making eligibility determinations and in notifying employees of eligibility.

Agencies have discretion to make their own eligibility determinations for employees subject to operational needs while considering the specific requirements described in the Act. In making these decisions, individual agencies are in the best position to define what it means to "ensure that telework does not diminish employee performance or agency operations."

Bear in mind that the Act makes a clear distinction between "eligibility" and "participation." To be able to participate in telework, an employee must first be identified as eligible. The Act specifies two categories of employees who may not be deemed eligible under any circumstances: an employee who has been officially disciplined for being absent without permission for more than 5 days in any calendar year; and an employee has been officially disciplined for violations of subpart G of the Standards of Ethical Conduct of Employees of the Executive Branch for reviewing, downloading, or exchanging pornography, including child pornography, on a Federal Government computer or while performing official Federal Government duties (Telework Enhancement Act, 6502(a)(2)(A)(B)) Thus, the Act does not establish new eligibility standards; rather, it specifies two conditions that make an employee ineligible. As before the signing of the Telework Act, specific determinations for eligibility are left to the discretion of agencies and should reflect agreement with standards established in individual agency policies.

Keep in mind that agencies cannot require employees to telework, but instead should rely upon voluntary participation. Further, while each manager should remember that the intent of the Act is to promote and encourage telework, employees should understand that participation is not a "right;" rather, it should be based upon sound business and performance management principles. Participation may be limited because of the duties encompassed by the position. Some are simply not conducive to telework, for example, positions involving sensitive materials and those requiring daily face-to-face contact. Remember, according to the Act, participation shall ensure that telework does not diminish employee performance or agency operations (subsection 6502(b)(1)).

Does the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010 (the Act) apply only to domestic Federal employees or does it apply to individuals stationed overseas as well?

The Act applies to all Federal Executive agency employees, regardless of geographic location. Our interpretation is that the geographic location of the employee's permanent duty station does not determine the applicability of the Act. Subject to the limitations specifically described in the Act, the law applies to all employees in Executive agencies - we do not see any distinction made that would disqualify overseas employees from consideration. In the definitions section of the Act (Sec. 6501), the law refers to 5 USC 2105 for the meaning of the term "employee." You may look up this citation at the following link: http://www.gpoaccess.gov/uscode. If your agency is considered to be an Executive agency and if all of your employees fall within the definition in 5 USC 2105, the law applies, regardless of the location of any given employee's permanent duty station.

On a related note, there are some cases in which overseas employees may be prohibited from telework based on security reasons related to the position in question (e.g., some Department of Defense employees stationed overseas). However, note that in those cases, the determining factor for eligibility is NOT geographic location; rather, limitations due to the security-related nature of the position, which is consistent with the limitations described in the Act.

In Section 6502(a)(2), the Act describes two key limitations regarding which employees may not telework. Specifically, it says that an employee may not telework if A) the employee has been officially disciplined for being absent without permission for more than 5 days in any calendar year; or B) the employee has been officially disciplined for violations of subpart G of the Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Executive Branch for viewing, downloading, or exchanging pornography, including child pornography, on a Federal Government computer or while performing official Federal Government duties.

What does the term "officially disciplined" mean? If an employee has been officially disciplined as described, does this permanently bar that employee from telework or is there a specific time limitation after which the employee may now be considered for telework?

Generally, agencies have written policies that govern disciplinary and adverse actions. These actions can range from oral admonishments, to written letters of reprimand, and to suspension, termination or removal actions. These policies also often put time limits on maintaining documentation of specific actions. The term "official discipline" should be understood as a disciplinary action that results in the placement of a document in an employee's official personnel file (OPF). In OPM's view, the bar on participation would remain in effect as long as the document stays in the employee's OPF. For example, an admonishment or reprimand usually comes out of the file after one or two years, respectively. However, a suspension and termination never come out of the file. Based on this reasoning and in this context, suspension and termination actions, related to the two categories of employees described in the law, which result in a document that permanently remains in the OPF would translate to a permanent prohibition on telework participation. Please note that the law excludes telework only in the two narrow instances cited in the Act.

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Telework Agreements

What should an agency consider when developing telework agreements?

The Telework Enhancement Act of 2010 (the Act) requires all telework participants to have a written agreement, for every type of telework entered into between an agency manager and an employee authorized to telework, that outlines the specific work arrangement that is agreed to; and mandatory in order for any employee to participate in telework. Many agency policies and collective bargaining agreements currently describe specific requirements for the agreement, or make agreement templates available to employees and managers. For agencies seeking to develop or revise agreement forms, it might be helpful for you to consider this bulleted outline when drafting specific content. The following are recommended tips based on best practices to guide planning; they are not specifically required in the Act:

  • Term of the agreement: consider a one-year renewable agreement, or even a six-month agreement in telework situations that may need to be revised more frequently;
  • Type of telework specified by the agreement: describe if the agreement is for regular, recurring telework or ad hoc/situational/episodic telework;
  • Schedule: specify days of the week and the hours to be worked during telework days;
  • Requirements: outline any additional requirements (e.g., technology) beyond the prerequisites to telework outlined in the Act (e.g., training, written agreement);
  • Expectations: clarify any assumptions, for example, regarding work location (e.g., if expected to work only from home) and frequency and modes of communication (e.g., email vs. telephone, core hours for contact, speed for returning calls);
  • Equipment and other expenses: determine and specify equipment and/or expenses that will be covered by the agency, employee, or shared;
  • Information security: provide a summary for data security procedures in the agreement;
  • Safety: provide a self-certification safety checklist to telework employees as a guide when preparing the alternative work location for telework;
  • Termination/modification: ensure that employees know the agreement can be terminated or modified, and outline the conditions for termination/modification.

Agencies also should allow pre-decisional involvement to the fullest extent practicable as provided in Executive Order 13522 and satisfy collective bargaining obligations by working with labor when developing their telework policies and agreements.

Is it necessary for an employee who only teleworks on a case-by-case basis to have a written telework agreement?

Yes, the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010 requires every employee who participates in telework to have a written agreement, regardless of the type of telework.

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Continuity of Operations

What is my agency's responsibility under the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010 (the Act) with regard to emergency preparedness and Continuity of Operations (COOP)?

Telework must be a part of all agency emergency planning. In fact, Section 6504(d)(1) of the Act requires each executive agency to "incorporate telework into the continuity of operations plan of that agency." The Federal Emergency Management Agency's Federal Continuity Directive 1 defines COOP planning as "an effort within individual agencies to ensure they can continue to perform their Mission Essential Functions (MEFs) and Primary Mission Essential Functions (PMEFs) during a wide range of emergencies, including localized acts of nature, accidents, and technological or attack-related emergencies. There is a direct relationship between the COOP plan and telework. Telework can help ensure that essential Federal functions continue during emergency situations. As such, management must be committed to implementing work arrangements as broadly as possible to take full advantage of the potential for telework for this purpose.

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Training

Has OPM made any decisions regarding training provided on the telework.gov website? Does the training presently available on www.telework.gov meet the definition of an "interactive telework training program" described in the Act?

The basic "Telework 101" training modules for managers and employees presently on www.telework.gov are adequate for the moment to meet the requirement of the Act to provide an interactive telework training program. OPM is working with a vendor to revisit these telework.gov training modules to update and enhance the information, format and learning experience for managers and teleworking employees alike. We will keep the agencies informed of new developments.

Is there additional training out there for managers to help them make a successful transition to telework both for themselves and their teleworking employees?

Yes, specialized training for managers is available through OPM's Eastern and Western Management Development Centers. Details on the Development Centers and course scheduled can be found at www.leadership.opm.gov.

The Act requires the successful completion of "an interactive telework training program" for employees prior to entering into a written telework agreement. By "interactive," does this mean that training must be "instructor-led" or face-to-face rather than via computer?

In fact, no definition appears in the law for the term "interactive," thereby leaving it subject to interpretation. OPM has always considered the "Telework 101" training on www.telework.gov (and therefore, online) to meet the definition of "interactive" in that there is a built-in opportunity for the trainee to self-assess his/her understanding through the use of frequent questions and answers and progress checks throughout. For this reason, we maintain that the training currently on telework.gov meets the requirement of the law. In 2011, OPM engaged a vendor to enhance this training in a number of ways, including both substance and format. This is being accomplished keeping in mind improved "interactivity" through the selective use of media tools that will make the training more engaging for employees. However, OPM's interpretation is that there is no requirement that this training be instructor-led as compared to computer, i.e., Internet-based.

Many of our employees have been teleworking for some time now. Are they still required to take the telework training?

Not necessarily. The Act states that the head of the agency may provide for an exemption from the training requirements "if the head of the agency determines that the training would be unnecessary because the employee is already teleworking under a work arrangement in effect before the date of enactment…" The bottom line is that employees who have already been teleworking may be exempted from this training requirement; however, the decision to waive this training requirement must be made by the agency head and implemented in the manner in which that is normally done in your agency.

Even if employees are specifically exempted, OPM recommends that agencies provide to employees at least updated information related to the Act since their original training would not have covered its requirements.

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Pay and Leave

Where can I find guidance on pay and leave issues related to telework?

Agencies are encouraged to consult the OPM website section titled Information on Federal Pay and Leave, at www.opm.gov/oca, for guidance on pay and leave issues related to telework.

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Agency Closure

Where can I go for answers to my questions about the use of telework during dismissal or closure situations, i.e., when Government offices are closed to the public due to weather or other emergencies?

In addition to incorporating telework into their Continuity of Operations (COOP) plans, agencies should have clear telework policies with regard to other situations that may disrupt normal operations such as early dismissals or closure of offices to the public as a result of inclement weather. Policies and telework agreements should provide clear instructions and describe expectations for employees and management during such times. For example, agency telework policies and individual telework agreements should spell out whether or not employees are expected to work from an alternative work location on days that they are regularly scheduled to telework and the Federal Government has announced unscheduled leave/unscheduled telework, delayed arrival, early departure, or that offices are closed to the public. Agencies are encouraged to consult the OPM publication, Washington, DC, Area Dismissal and Closure Procedures, for answers to questions about dismissal or closure situations.

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Performance Management

Where can I find guidance on performance management issues related to telework?

Agencies are encouraged to consult the OPM website section on Performance Management, at www.opm.gov/perform, for guidance on performance management issues related to telework.

How do I know what my employees are doing when I can't see them?

Performance standards for employees working from alternative work sites are the same as performance standards for those working at the traditional work site. Management expectations of a teleworker's performance should be clearly addressed in the employee's performance plan, and performance plans should be reviewed to ensure the standards do not create inequities or inconsistencies between non-teleworking and teleworking employees. Of course, teleworkers can and must be held accountable for the results they produce, as are non-teleworkers. The bottom line is that good performance management techniques practiced by a manager will mean a smooth, easy transition to a telework environment.

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Official Worksite

Where can I find guidance on official worksite issues related to telework?

Agencies are encouraged to consult the Official Worksite, Travel, and Related Policies section of www.telework.gov, for guidance on official worksite issues related to telework. On the main page, select the tab Policies and Procedures and you will find the link on the left-hand navigation menu.

Recruitment and Retention

How are agency efforts in recruitment and retention impacted by the implementation of the Telework Enhancement Act (the Act) of 2010?

The implementation of the Act provides a unique opportunity to leverage telework as a human capital management tool. Managers are encouraged to use telework as a tool to help attract, recruit, and retain the best possible workforce. Many people seek jobs with an option to telework as a means to reduce commuting time and costs and improve their work/life effectiveness. Telework can broaden the pool of highly qualified candidates because it provides flexibilities that meet varying needs. For example, an agency's telework policy may enhance the agency's ability to grant reasonable accommodations that work well for the agency and persons with disabilities who may request them. While not all persons with disabilities need, or want, to work from an alternative location, such as from home, telework provides a viable option for individuals with disabilities that affect mobility or pose related challenges. Additionally, telework allows employers to hire individuals who live further away from what would be considered a reasonable commuting distance from their place of employment and who are not able to relocate. It also helps employers retain top-performing employees who want or need to relocate their residence beyond the local commuting area.

Telework can also help managers in other ways. For example, it can be used as an effective succession planning tool. Telework is an appealing option for many retirees who are willing to continue working with their former organization, thereby helping to facilitate a smooth and continuous transition of institutional knowledge and technical competencies.

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Accommodations for Employees with Disabilities

How should telework be viewed in relation to a "reasonable accommodation" for employees with disabilities?

The flexible arrangements we describe as "telework" are governed by the telework laws, i.e., Public Law 106-346, § 359 (2000); Public Law 108-199, Division B, § 627 (2004); Public Law 108-447, Division B, § 622 (2004); and, most recently, Public Law 111-292 (the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010). Although an agency with a robust, well-functioning telework policy may find that such a policy also enhances the agency's ability to grant reasonable accommodations that work well for the agency and the persons with disabilities who request them alike, it is important that requests to telework be analyzed and evaluated under their appropriate scheme, i.e., the telework laws and that requests for reasonable accommodations be analyzed and evaluated under the statutory framework that applies to them.

When considering telework for employees with disabilities, what factors should I keep in mind?

Reasonable accommodations are governed by Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Rehabilitation Act), as amended, 29 U.S.C. § 791 et seq., which was made applicable to Federal employees pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Rehabilitation Act requires Federal employers to provide requested "reasonable accommodations" to employees with disabilities, unless to do so would cause an "undue hardship." The determination as to whether an employee may be granted the accommodation requested should be made through a flexible "interactive process" between the employer and the employee. Executive Order 13164, Requiring Federal Agencies to Establish Procedures to Facilitate the Provision of Reasonable Accommodation, requires all Federal agencies to develop a Reasonable Accommodation Policy. Therefore, agencies should refer to their Reasonable Accommodation Policy when considering reasonable accommodation requests. For example, depending upon the facts of a particular accommodation request, an agency that might have determined that a particular position should be ineligible for telework, might be required nevertheless to permit an employee with a disability within the meaning of the Rehabilitation Act to work from home to some degree. For more information on reasonable accommodation and the interactive process, see The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's (EEOC) Revised Enforcement Guidance: Reasonable Accommodation and Undue Hardship Under the Americans With Disabilities Act, at http://www.eeoc.gov/policy/docs/accommodation.html. The EEOC has also provided guidance that focuses more specifically on the use of work from home as a reasonable accommodation in some circumstances. See the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Guidance on Work At Home/Telework as a Reasonable Accommodation, at www.eeoc.gov/facts/telework.html, for more information.

It is important to distinguish between ordinary requests to telework and requests from persons with disabilities for reasonable accommodations and to know which is being requested in any given situation before attempting to analyze the request. If there is any ambiguity about what is being requested, managers and supervisors should clarify that ambiguity at the outset. It is often very fruitful for agency managers and supervisors to consult with the agency's reasonable accommodation manager and/or the agency's counsel as part of the interactive process established by the Rehabilitation Act, in order to fully understand managers' and supervisors' responsibilities under the law.

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Telework Managing Officer

Do you have more information on the roles and responsibilities of the Telework Managing Officer (TMO)?

The Telework Enhancement Act of 2010 (Act) requires that each executive agency designate a Telework Managing Officer (TMO). Before the law was passed, most agencies fulfilled the day-to-day operational aspects of telework through a telework coordinator (with telework coordinators at the subagency level). The telework coordinator served as the key contact for policy and program questions. Many coordinators, however, had telework as a collateral responsibility without much authority or contact with senior leaders. The Act requires the TMO to assume these duties as the main agency official on telework matters. The TMO is a senior official of the agency, established within the office of the Chief Human Capital Officer (CHCO), or its equivalent, and who has direct access to the head of the agency. Note that s/he does not need to be the CHCO. The important thing is that the position be given direct access to the head of the agency. We believe it is the intent of this legislation that the TMO be a strategic thinker and planner who will help the agency to incorporate telework in a way that makes good business sense.

The TMO is responsible for policy development and implementation related to telework programs; serves as an advisor to agency leadership; and is the primary point of contact with OPM on telework matters. In addition to making telework an integral way of doing business in the agency, the TMO will be responsible for helping with the development of goals and metrics in order to evaluate the effectiveness of the program. In designating a TMO, agencies should look for the same leadership competencies and high standards that they would consider in selecting for any leadership position.

Please explain the difference between the Telework Managing Officer (TMO) and the Telework Coordinator that has overseen the telework program in my agency up until now.

The TMO designation is new with the passage of the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010. The TMO is a single person at each agency who is ultimately accountable for that agency's telework program. This position is meant to be a high-level advisor to the agency leadership, a resource on telework issues for managers and employees, and is responsible for policy development and implementation related to the agency's telework program.

The way agencies implemented telework before the law was passed was that each agency had a "Telework Coordinator" at the Department/Agency level (e.g., Department of Homeland Security), and also individual "telework coordinators" at the subagency/subcomponent level (e.g., Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Transportation Security Administration, etc.). Whenever OPM would require agency-wide information on telework such as for the annual aggregate data collected on telework participation, it would work with the single point of contact at the Department/Agency-level. The Agency-wide coordinator would then work with his/her subcomponent "coordinators" to gather the information for their respective areas and then would tally everything to submit the data in a single report to OPM on behalf of the entire agency.

The TMO position more closely resembles what was formerly the Department-level "Telework Coordinator." This means that the role within an agency of pulling together information on telework from various internal sources and then reporting to OPM now falls on the TMO. However, the TMO is much more than that since his/her duties extend beyond operational day-to-day aspects of telework and delve more into policy, advising, and an overarching management of the entire telework program for his/her agency.

Agencies have discretion as to whether or not, or how, they will continue to utilize "telework coordinators" to implement the day-to-day aspects of telework subject to the oversight of the TMO. The bottom line, however, is that each agency will have only one individual, i.e., the TMO, who is the single accountable person according to the law for the agency's telework program. In other words, when OPM contacts any given agency in the future to either request or disseminate information on Federal telework, the person with whom we will interact will be the sole point of contact, i.e., the TMO. It will then be up to the TMO to coordinate internally with other staff members assisting with operational telework issues in that agency. Human Resource staff or agency employees that have questions or issues about telework should be encouraged to direct their concerns to the agency's TMO.

Is it the role of the TMO to intervene when employees in an entire office are denied telework?

According to the law, among other responsibilities, the TMO "shall be devoted to policy development and implementation related to agency telework programs" and is to "serve as an advisor for agency leadership, including the Chief Human Capital Officer" and is to be "a resource for managers and employees." Since the intent of the Act is to encourage the maximum use of telework by Federal employees, given the duties described in the law, it would be appropriate for the TMO to advise agency management and leadership about the feasibility of denying telework participation to employees in an office. Of course, situations will vary and the TMO will need to take into account all of the facts that went into such a decision as well as potential opportunities for a synergistic approach to telework given the circumstances.

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Reporting

Given the new telework legislation, can you tell us the status of the annual Call for Telework Data? Will there be a data collection for calendar year 2010?

At this time, we cannot provide agencies with a definitive timetable or format for the next call for telework data. OPM is working with an interagency group of telework experts to carefully analyze the section of the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010 (Act) that describes the data required for purposes of reporting. Some requested data under the Act will be the same as what we have asked for in prior years; however, other data will be different. We will provide agencies an update once we have a better sense of what the Act requires. What is clear is that the first Governmentwide report must be issued to Congress by OPM no later than 18 months from the signing of the Act. Given this timeframe, it appears likely that we would begin to collect data in late summer or early fall 2011; however, it is difficult to say exactly when just yet. Of course, we will share updated information with all agency Telework Managing Officers as this begins to take shape.

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Facilities and Equipment

I have heard that GSA will no longer be supporting telework centers. Is this true? If so, does that mean that all telework centers will be closing?

Yes, it is true. GSA decided to withdraw from the telework center initiative as of March 2011. This withdrawal means withdrawal of funding and support for the centers. Note, however, that it does not necessarily mean the closing of all of the centers. Some centers have decided to independently continue to provide telework center workstations. As of this writing, the four centers listed below remain open as privately operated facilities after March 31, 2011:

  • Fairfax, VA - contact Emeka Ezidinma at 703-279-3301
  • Manassas, VA - contact Patricia Peacock at 703-993-9371
  • Stafford, VA - contact Leigh Anderson at 540-288-3000
  • Woodbridge, VA - contact Keith Lesser at 540-710-5002
  • Also, you may want to review the information at this link http://gsateleworkcenters.org/main.php.

OPM will continue to coordinate information with GSA about travel, technology, equipment and dependent care, and will share that information along with any updates about telework centers via www.telework.gov.