Federal Worker Safety Bill Advances to House Floor

Press Release May 13, 2021

Washington D.C. – Federal agencies would be required to publish specific safety plans for protecting the health of federal employees as office buildings reopen, according to legislation that now awaits a vote by the full House. 

The Chai Suthammanont Remembrance Act (H.R. 978), which is endorsed by the National Treasury Employees Union, passed the House Committee on Oversight and Reform today. 

“This legislation, sponsored by Rep. Gerald Connolly (D-VA), would provide assurances that agencies are taking all the necessary steps to build a safe working environment as the pandemic begins to subside and more teleworking employees are allowed back into their place of work,” said NTEU National President Tony Reardon. “Together with the guidance of President Biden’s Safer Federal Workforce Task Force, we believe this legislation would give employees the information they need to feel secure upon their return.” 

The legislation is named for an employee in the kitchen at a child care facility on a Marine Corps base in Virginia who died from coronavirus-related complications. 

If it becomes law, agencies would have to develop plans that address a wide range of health and safety protocols at the workplace, as well as vaccination accessibility, employee travel, visitor policies, and how agencies will address employees who are medically high risk. 

“We don’t know when agencies will fully reopen all of their buildings, but it is certainly not too early to plan for employees’ safe return,” Reardon said. “At NTEU, we are urging agencies to maintain expansive telework policies and flexible scheduling to keep offices from being crowded, improve ventilation and air filtering systems, establish a transparent process for notifying employees when a coworker or contractor tests positive for covid-19, and to maintain stringent cleaning and disinfecting protocols.”  

During the committee vote, Democrats defeated a Republican amendment that would have essentially eliminated telework for federal employees by requiring agencies to plan for all federal employees to report to the workplace within 60 days. 

NTEU represents employees in 34 federal agencies and offices.