House OKs telecommuting for federal contractors

The House of Representatives March 20 approved 421-0 a bill that would allow increased telecommuting among private-sector employees doing work for the federal government.

The Freedom to Telecommute Act of 2002, H.R. 3924, prohibits federal agencies from penalizing contractors who allow their employees to telework. Currently, federal agencies may refuse a bid proposal from a contractor that allows telecommuting.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., would ban agencies from continuing this practice unless the contracting officer certifies in writing that telecommuting would conflict with the agency's needs. For example, this exception may apply if a contractor must handle classified or sensitive information.

The bill also prohibits agencies from issuing solicitations that would reduce the scoring of proposals from contractors that use telecommuting. The bill is co-sponsored by Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind.

About 19 million people telework today, and the number is increasing, Davis said.

"The federal government should be a telecommuting leader," he said. "Unfortunately, federal agencies have been reluctant to embrace the concept." For instance, federal managers would no longer in a position to monitor employees directly, he said.

"This attitude ignores the increased employee morale and productivity that results," Davis said. "It's time for federal managers to shift their focus from process-oriented performance measurement to results-driven measurements."

"When the federal government contracts with companies that embrace telework initiatives, the federal work force is directly exposed to the concept. This is one more way to help break down the managerial barriers to successful telecommuting in the federal government," he said.

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