Still Confused About Telework?

It’s no wonder with conflicting messages coming out each week from upper management. Here’s National President Tony Reardon’s take on the negotiating process with the IRS and what the contract actually says:

“Two-day Reporting Requirement

There has been much discussion about the new language in Section 1A4 that requires Frequent teleworkers to report to their POD for a full day twice a pay period, but also authorizes managers to grant a waiver of the requirement to report. We raised the IRS’s unilaterally-issued guidance to its supervisors which, among other things: instructs supervisors that they may grant one-day waivers only where there is an “emergency”; creates a “Frequent Telework/TOD Board” (FT/TOD) to approve waivers; and, suggests that an extended waiver request must be accompanied by a request for a reasonable accommodation.

As to one-day waivers of the requirement to report, we discussed with the IRS the fact that at the term table the parties did not agree that the waivers would be limited only to emergency situations. Under the express language of the contract, waivers could be sought by employees and granted for non-emergency reasons. The parties also never discussed the creation of a FT/TOD Board, and we have no idea how such a process would even work, e.g., who will sit on the Board, what criteria will the Board apply in reviewing requests for extended waivers, how often will the Board meet, and how long would an employee have to wait for a determination. We advised the IRS that the establishment of such a complex, bureaucratic process will cause confusion and slow down employees’ waiver requests.

The IRS asserted that the purpose of the new reporting language is to require employees to report to the POD for their entire TOD; and it does not want managers to simply ignore the new rules. The IRS acknowledged that no bargaining unit employees must utilize a form to request a waiver. The form mentioned in its Supervisor Guidance (Form 15072) is for managers to fill out only. On one-day waiver requests, the IRS stated that managers do have the authority to grant waivers in non-emergency situations, which it described as “one-off” situations. As to extended waivers, the IRS stated that it has created the Board to ensure that extended waivers are granted in a uniform manner. The IRS acknowledged that no employees who seek an extended waiver are required to file a request for a reasonable accommodation, as SB/SE has instructed its managers. The IRS acknowledges there could be a number of reasons why an employee would not be able to report into the POD twice a pay period and simply wants employees and managers to be aware of various options that could address it. The IRS mentioned the use of the temporary hardship authority in Article 15 as a possibility.

Field Going (aka, Mobile) Employees

We discussed reports we were receiving from certain chapters that field-going employees were being told that under the new reporting requirements, they had a new obligation to be in the field at least twice a pay period for their entire TOD. The IRS agreed with us that the Section 1A4 language has absolutely no bearing on field-going employees; the rules concerning them have not changed. This means that such employees do not have to report to the POD twice a pay period or even report to the POD after a field visit that ends before their TOD ends. Whatever field visitation/office visitation practices that field-going employees have had in the past should continue.

We also raised with the IRS information we have become aware of that indicates managers are not being required to meet the new two-day reporting requirements. The IRS assured us that all employees — non-bargaining unit and bargaining unit — are going to be held to the new standard and required to report to their POD twice a pay period for their entire tour of duty. If anyone is aware of instances in which managers are not required to meet this standard, please let us know immediately.

Use of Skype

Lastly, we raised the fact that some of the guidance issued by business divisions (e.g., CFO) has been incorrect on the Skype online communication tool. In Article 50, Section 5A3, we agreed that managers may require employees who are teleworking to use “online communication tools” if it determines that it would be useful in performing their duties at the telework site. We did not agree that management has a right to direct all non-teleworking employees to utilize Skype and, in fact, we filed a national grievance over the agency’s unilateral rollout of Skype to all employees. In our discussion with the IRS, it maintains that the use of Skype has merely been a replacement for the (Microsoft) Office Communicator System (OCS), and that in the employees’ use of Skype, it will continue to abide by the OCS Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and practices that were created under that MOU, namely that non-teleworking employees are not required to use the “Instant Messaging” or “Presence” functionality of Skype.”

Any of your chapter leaders are available to help with specific questions or issues you run across when exercising your right to telework.