VA HANDBOOK 5011/28 October 12, 2016
u. Weather and Emergency Situations
(1) Definition. An emergency situation may be caused be heavy snow, severe icing, flooding, earthquakes, hurricanes, massive power failures, fuel shortages, major fires, strikes, public transportation crises, riots, mass demonstrations, etc. The emergency must be general rather than personal in scope and impact. It should be severe enough to prevent employees in significant numbers from reporting for work, or may necessitate the closing of Federal facilities in whole or in part. Usually, an emergency of this type will be the subject of a public declaration of emergency by appropriate Governmental authority. [Personal impact situations such as an employee’s absence as recommended in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines may also meet the definition of emergency situation for these purposes.]
(2) Employees Providing "Critical" Services. There are certain critical VA operations which cannot be curtailed even though it may be generally necessary to excuse employees for all or part of a day.
(a) VA Medical Centers, Domiciliaries, and Outpatient Clinics. All employees of these facilities are deemed to be providing critical services. Incumbents of these positions are required to be at work regardless of emergency situations or any general dismissal authorization.
(b) Other VA Facilities. Heads of other types of VA facilities should identify positions that are also deemed to be providing a critical service. Except for office closings, incumbents of these critical positions are also required to be at work regardless of emergency situations or any general dismissal authorization. Employees so designated should be made aware, preferably in writing, of the special requirements placed on them for reporting to, or remaining at, their work-sites in emergency situations.
(c) Identification. It may be necessary to provide employees of critical positions with some identifi-cation that would enable them to commute at times when only emergency travel is allowed on the highways.
(3) Absences Due to Emergency Situations. Where it is determined that an employee in a non-critical position made every reasonable effort to get to work and was unable to do so, excused absence without charge to leave [Administrative Absence] may be authorized. These excused absences do not generally apply to employees who provide critical services as discussed in paragraph (2), because of the need to assure continuity of essential VA operations. However, in a rare instance, where certain employees who provide critical services make every reasonable effort to get to work and are unable to do so, the facility Director may approve excused absence without charge to leave as provided in paragraph (8)(a).
(4) Early Dismissals
(a) When early dismissal is authorized, excused absence without charge to leave [Administrative Absence] may be granted to employees who are in duty status. This includes employees deemed to be providing critical services. For this purpose, employees are considered to be in duty status if they are:
1. Actually on duty at time of dismissal;
2. Excused from duty (or on approved leave) at the time of dismissal with the expectation that they will return to duty before the close of the business day; or
3. On duty when the office issues formal notification of the scheduled early dismissal, but request and are granted leave between notification and actual dismissal.
(b) Employees who are not in a duty status as described above when notification of dismissal occurs after opening hours will be charged appropriate leave for the entire period of absence.
(5) Tardiness. Under emergency situations, some tardiness may be excused without charge to leave [Administrative Absence] if it is determined on an individual or general basis that the tardiness was not reasonably avoidable. This includes employees deemed to be providing critical services.
(6) Coordinated Group Actions. Except for VA employees providing critical services, where there are two or more Federal installations in the community, there should be a coordinated effort in group dismissals or in excusing groups of employees from reporting for duty [Administrative Absence]. In this regard, facility directors are advised to coordinate actions with other local VA installations, Federal Executive Boards and other Federal agencies. Where it appears that consistent action cannot be obtained locally, facilities should seek advice and coordination through appropriate Departmental channels.
(7) Unusable Workspace. Where an emergency situation makes the workspace unusable and no other suitable space can be provided as a worksite, employees may be excused from duty without charge to leave [Administrative Absence]. This includes employees deemed to be providing critical services.
(8) Authority for Excusing Employees From Duty
(a) Field Facilities
1. Field facility heads are authorized to excuse employees from duty [Administrative Absence] and from reporting to duty up to two consecutive days as outlined in subparagraphs (1) through (7) above.
2. The appropriate Central Office administration or staff office head must approve any period of excused absence [ Administrative Absence] for field facility employees in excess of two consecutive workdays.
(b) Central Office
1. Only the Secretary may issue orders excusing all employees from duty or excusing groups of employees[Administrative Absence].
2. An Administration Head, Assistant Secretary, or Other Key Official or designee may excuse an individual employee for any tardiness and for absence [Administrative Absence], not to exceed one workday, due to weather or public emergency situations.
(9) Emergencies of Indefinite Duration. Where it is necessary to close operations for some prolonged or regularly recurring period (such as during a fuel crisis), the use of excused absence is inappropriate. Other options, which should be considered, are as follows: