White House Promotes Federal Workers’ Right to ‘Workplace Flexibilities’

by | Aug 27, 2014

Last Updated December 14, 2023
federal employee disability retirement

Are you a federal worker who would like to work at home part of the week so you can spend less time commuting to the office and more time with your family? If so, you may be interested in a memo that the White House sent to federal agency heads earlier this summer about workplace flexibilities.

The memo discusses a benefit that may be just as important to many workers as federal disability retirement and other benefits programs.

In the June 23 memo, the White House urges agency leaders to do a better job of advertising “workplace flexibilities” such as telework and to make sure the agency is doing what it can to offer this benefit to its workers, Government Executive reports.

As the memo points out, workers have a right to request this benefit through the law, collective bargaining agreement provisions or the agency’s policy, and they cannot be retaliated against for making a request for workplace flexibilities.

What Are Workplace Flexibilities?

When one thinks of workplace flexibilities, one of the first things that comes to mind is telework, which is more commonly called telecommuting or simply “working from home.”

If you are a disciplined person with proper space and equipment in your home, telework can be an excellent way to cut down on the gas money you spend and the stress you may feel while rushing between work and home every day.

You can learn more about telework at the federal government’s Telework.gov site, including what telework involves, how to become a teleworker and who to contact within your agency about this opportunity.

The entire point of President Barack Obama’s June 23 memo was to urge agency supervisors to do as much as possible to let workers know about telework and other opportunities that help to promote a healthy work-life balance, including:

  • Working a part-time or alternative schedule
  • Receiving counseling assistance
  • If you are a nursing mother, getting support such as on-site lactation resources.

What Should Your Agency Be Doing to Promote Workplace Flexibilities?

The White House memo instructs federal agencies to give careful consideration to a worker’s request for workplace flexibilities and to give a response in writing within 20 days after a request is made.

Additionally, the memo orders the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to issue guidelines concerning workplace flexibilities to federal agencies by the end of the summer and to provide ongoing support to agencies in their efforts to expand workers’ access to workplace flexibilities.

Within roughly the next two months, each federal agency will need to file a report with OPM that describes what how the agency uses workplace flexibilities.

Hopefully, this memo will ultimately lead to federal agencies giving proper consideration to the importance of employees maintaining a balance between meeting the demands of their job and enjoying life outside of work.

Of course, if you find that your employer has taken adverse actions against you because you sought a more flexible work situation, make sure to protect your rights. It will help you to contact an attorney who has experience with helping workers who have experienced retaliation or discrimination in the workplace.

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