EEOC pauses reentry plans, agrees to bargain with union on telework

Members of the American Federation of Government Employees set up a banner before a protest of a government shutdown on Jan. 8, 2019, in Philadelphia. Mark Makela / Getty Images)

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The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has paused plans for staff reentry to the office and agreed to bargain with a federal labor union on future changes made to telework policy.

In a statement Monday, the department said it had taken the decision to halt return-to-office plans in light of new COVID-19 omicron variant data and said it would give employees at least 30 days’ notice before any expected reentry.

“The EEOC’s COVID-19 coordination team is closely monitoring pandemic conditions, and is currently in the process of drafting a proposed Reentry Plan and, once cleared by the Chair of the EEOC, will present it to the union for review and comment,” the agency said. “The union will be offered every opportunity to bargain the impact and implementation of the initial reentry plan.”

The clarification comes after the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) filed two unfair labor practice complaints against the department in which it argued that the agency was refusing to bargain in good faith over proposed telework changes.

EEOC is one of many federal agencies deciding how to manage the return to office for staff and the changes to technology systems needed to increase flexibility for employees.

In December, the Environmental Protection Agency struck an agreement with its federal staff union so that employees within each bargaining unit will be required to come into the office just twice over the course of each pay period.

Commenting on EEOC’s decision to pause its reentry plans, Rachel Shonfield, president of AFGE Council 216, said: “We are very happy that employees can continue to work safely from home for now, especially given the transmissibility of the omicron variant.”

“The union recommends that the EEOC take advantage of the postponement to reset management’s posture toward bargaining obligations. For good-faith bargaining to occur, there cannot be lines in the sand for dates, phases, and telework,” Shonfield added.

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American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), COVID-19, EEOC, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), telework
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