The Internal Revenue Service says it wants about 10,000 “mission-critical” employees to return to work as soon as this week ― and to remain masked while on agency premises. But since the IRS says it may not be able to provide masks for everyone, workers will have to provide their own.
IRS officials said in a Friday email, obtained and shared online by Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee, that returning employees would be required to wear face masks at all IRS facilities and workspaces to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“Although the IRS is seeking to procure personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks and gloves, each IRS facility may not be able to initially procure the PPE for all employees immediately,” officials wrote. “Employees are therefore required to bring personal face coverings for their nose and mouth area when they come to work.”
If employees fail to cover their faces, they “may be required to return home until such time the employee adheres to these requirements,” the email added.
In a blistering statement, Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.), chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, and Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), chairman of Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee, said it was “completely irresponsible and unethical for the IRS to demand those workers obtain their own protective equipment.”
“This is the responsibility of the federal government to its workers,” the lawmakers continued. “The agency is expecting entirely too much of employees who are likely distraught over the health risks returning to work presents for themselves and for their families, as well as the potential repercussions they could face if they do not clock in ... with the mandated equipment in-hand.”
The National Treasury Employees Union, which represents about 70,000 IRS employees, told NPR that the agency has first asked for volunteers to return to work and has offered them incentive pay to do so.
The union said, however, that if there aren’t sufficient volunteers, the IRS “will direct employees to return to the workplace.”
At least 100 IRS employees have been diagnosed with COVID-19 to date, according to the agency. Four of them have died.
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BEFORE YOU GO
How to vote
Vote-by-mail ballot request deadline: Varies by state
For the Nov 3 election: States are making it easier for citizens to vote absentee by mail this year due to the coronavirus. Each state has its own rules for mail-in absentee voting. Visit your state election office website to find out if you can vote by mail.Get more informationTrack ballot status
In-person early voting dates: Varies by state
Sometimes circumstances make it hard or impossible for you to vote on Election Day. But your state may let you vote during a designated early voting period. You don't need an excuse to vote early. Visit your state election office website to find out whether they offer early voting.My Election Office
General Election: Nov 3, 2020
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