(CNSNews.com) - In January, the U.S. Agriculture Department issued new rules for its telework program, saying "its use must be balanced" to make sure employees are getting their jobs done.
At a congressional hearing on Wednesday, USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue was asked to discuss why his department felt the need to crack down on teleworking:
What we were finding in some of the processes there, things were not moving nearly as fast. And as we began exploring that, some of the excuses were, "So and so's teleworking." And there had been waivers where some people were teleworking a majority of the time.
One kind of funny anecdote I'll relate:
In the barbershop, where a lot of things...(get) talked about, one guy was complaining about our new telework policy, and one of my aides was down there listening.
He (Perdue's aide) said, "Well, tell me about that." He said, "What's the problem?"
And he (the USDA employee) said, "Well, I'm only going to telework two days out of a pay period."
He (the aide) said, "Well, what's your job?"
He said, "Maintenance."
And that -- that's kind of a hyperbolic example of what was happening there. People - it became an entitlement that people felt like they could just telework from any job, and there were some jobs that didn't fit teleworking.
The USDA's new telework policy runs 12 pages and says employees who sign telework agreements may work from home no more than two days a pay period.
USDA says the use of telework may not "diminish employee performance or agency and staff office operations, or negatively affect the ability of the Department to achieve its mission and provide high quality service to its customers."
Employees are ineligible for telework if their duties require their physical presence on a daily basis; if they require access to specialized equipment on a daily basis; or if they need to access classified materials on a daily basis.
An employee's performance and conduct may also make them ineligible for telework.