Are teleworking state employees working? Pa. House hearing looks for answers

This Week in Pennsylvania

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Tuesday marks the one-year anniversary since tens of thousands of state workers were sent home and told to work remotely. In a state House of Representatives hearing on Monday, some lawmakers questioned whether they’re actually on the job.

State policemen, correctional officers, doctors and nurses are among the 42,000 of the state’s 72,000 workers showing up every day. But the rest are following doctor’s orders from last March.

“Unless impossible, all businesses must conduct their operations remotely,” said Michael Newsome, Pa. Secretary of Administration.

Of the 15,000 workers under Governor Wolf’s control in the Capitol Complex, around 76% — or 11,500 — are working remotely.

“We don’t focus on where the employee works, but how the employee works,” said Reid Walsh, Deputy Secretary of Administration.

But state Rep. Frank Ryan says he knows of state workers upset that colleagues aren’t even phoning it in.

“They are complaining about those who are not going into work at all and spending a half-hour to an hour a day on a Zoom call and getting full pay and they feel the inequity and injustice of that,” Rep. Frank Ryan (R-Lebanon) said.

Walsh says there are checks in place to prevent representatives from doing so.

“We continue to rely on our managers and supervisors to monitor performance,” Walsh said.

Rep. Margo Davidson (D-Delaware) says Capitol employees should be held accountable.

“That is of course fraud, and theft of service, and that should be reported to the proper authorities,” Rep. Davidson said.

There is also talk that state workers will be ordered back on June 1, 2021. Idle chatter, Secretary Newsome insists.

“Until you hear officially from us there has been no date that has been set,” Newsome said.

But they should come back as soon as possible, many lawmakers argued, because the state isn’t doing what the state should be doing Legislative staff are getting the angry phone calls, too.

“Our constituents simply want someone at a state agency answering the phone who can help them with the issue they’re dealing with,” Rep. Russ Diamond (R-Lebanon) said.

The administration Secretary said at first, many workers were apprehensive about teleworking but now a majority favor it, citing a better work-life balance. He also said productivity has not dropped.

In a statement sent to abc27 News from Dan Egan, spokesperson for the Office of Administration, Rep. Ryan is asked to be more specific before asserting certain claims.

“We would encourage Rep. Ryan, as we did in October 2020, to provide specific examples of the situations he alleges are taking place, in order for OA to refer it to the relevant agency for any appropriate action,” Egan said. “Six months after the request was made, the representative has failed to deliver any evidence or specific details to back up his baseless claim.”

Just as in the private sector, managers and supervisors are responsible for their employees whether they are working remotely or in-person. Performance expectations for employees are the same, regardless of where they are working. As Secretary Newsome testified today, and other cabinet secretaries have testified during their budget hearings, state employees are continuing to work every day in service to their fellow Pennsylvanians. The secretaries have also indicated that productivity of their programs has generally remained the same as pre-pandemic levels and has increased in some areas. If a teleworking employee is not performing satisfactorily, the employee can be subject to a range of corrective and/or disciplinary measures, including loss of telework privileges and possibly termination. 

Dan Egan, Pa. Office of Administration

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Trending Stories

Don't Miss