Portland: City employees work from home into 2021

Multnomah County

The city postpones plans to begin returning employees to their job sites because of COVID 19 increases

A woman works at a home office (KOIN, file)

PORTLAND, Ore. (Portland Tribune) — Because of the recent increase in COVID-19 cases, city of Portland employees working from home will now continue doing so until at least early 2021.

Approximately 60% of the city’s roughly 7,600 employees are currently teleworking. A city workgroup has been developing guidelines that were expected to begin returning at least some of those employees to their job site in the fall. 

But on Thursday, Portland Chief Administrative Officer Tom Rinehart sent an email all city employees that told those “who are currently teleworking to plan on continuing to do so through 2020 and into the beginning of 2021.”

The city has around 35 job sites, including office, public safety facilities, utility and parks buildings. When the pandemic first hit in early March, all non-essential employees were told to work at home to slow the spread of the virus. The workgroup had hoped to finalize guidelines in August that would allow them to begin returning in the fall. But Rinehart said that is on hold now because COVID-19 cases are increasing.

“While we had hoped to begin bringing more staff back to worksites this fall in a modified fashion, our top priority is health and safety for employees, families, and the community as a whole,” the July 16 email said.

Here is Rinehart’s complete email:

Teleworking Timelines for City Staff

As you know, a team has been hard at work developing City-wide guidance for workplace health and safety — covering both staff who have continued reporting to worksites throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and staff who have been fully or partially teleworking. I look forward to sharing that guidance in August, but want to update you now on our timeline. We have seen COVID-19 cases continue to escalate in Oregon. In order to keep those who have and will continue to work at City facilities as safe as possible, we must limit the number of employees working in those facilities. Therefore, we will ask the vast majority of City employees who are currently teleworking to plan on continuing to do so through 2020 and into the beginning of 2021. While we had hoped to begin bringing more staff back to worksites this fall in a modified fashion, our top priority is health and safety for employees, families, and the community as a whole. I will share more details in the coming weeks, and you can always talk to your supervisor about individual concerns. We wanted to share this change in expectations so you can plan ahead for you and your household.

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