Workplace Flexibilities & Metro SafeTrack Work

NTEU Chapter 280 is discussing enhanced flexibility with EPA to relieve bargaining unit employees of the some of the pains associated with Metro's SafeTrack repair plans. Honestly, our discussions have been difficult. There are a number of flexibilities that are used throughout the federal government that are being opposed by EPA management. In fact, some of the flexibilities are actually in use in other EPA regions, and one is in active use within on EPA HQ office. Despite this, EPA HQ management refuses to grant those same flexibilities to HQ scientists, attorneys, and other professionals.

President Obama directed all federal agencies in June of last year to offer "expanded availability of workplace flexibilities" and to "identify and eliminate any arbitrary or unnecessary barriers or limitations to the use of these flexibilities[.]" The President was clear:  he wants workplace flexibilities used to the "maximum extent practicable" "to foster a more balanced workplace[;]" not just when it's convenient for managers, but rather "with an emphasis on furthering positive outcomes for employees[.]" We're frankly surprised that obvious and easy solutions to make your commuting lives less stressful are being so vigorously opposed by the current EPA leadership, particularly in the face of a Metro crisis, which impacts nearly all DC-area federal commuters.

Despite the lack of EPA management agreement with the President on workplace flexibility, NTEU did secure some help when you're late due to Metro. Article 23, Section 5, of the NTEU Collective Bargaining Agreement, states that managers will excuse infrequent tardiness of less than one hour when the employee’s lateness is due to an understandable cause outside an employee’s control. Metro surely falls into this category. Additionally, If Metro makes you more than one hour late, you may request to make up the time up at the end of the regularly-scheduled shift rather than taking leave. If you're late due to Metro problems, send an email to your first-line supervisor, request that the lateness be excused, and cite Article 23, Section 5.

We continue meeting with management's representatives and will continue pushing for more workplace flexibilities during this transit crisis. One bright spot for newer EPA employees is that we expect that management will waive the 90-day to 6-month waiting period normally required before being allowed to telework. We'll keep you posted here as we learn more.