The State Worker

State government keeps workplace options open as ‘Pineapple Express’ storm approaches

A pedestrian walks in rain-soaked Sacramento in November, 2014.
A pedestrian walks in rain-soaked Sacramento in November, 2014. The Sacramento Bee

With a massive storm bearing down on Sacramento, state government officials say that they are ready to be flexible this week as conditions merit.

The California Environmental Protection Agency, for example, plans to keep its 1001 I Street headquarters open for business on Thursday, but is “leaving it up to the discretion of our boards and departments” whether to let any of their total 5,500 workers take time off.

“They will take into consideration their business needs in granting requests from employees to telecommute or requests from employees,” agency spokeswoman Amy Norris said, “with alternate work schedules to switch days off.”

Officials at the California Public Employees’ Retirement System plan for normal business at their campus near the intersection of Interstate 50 and Interstate 5.

“If the power goes out we have partial emergency lighting,” said CalPERS spokesman Brad Pacheco. “We stay in contact with the power companies to evaluate the timing on restoring power. If it goes long then we consider letting staff go.”

The state’s standing policy gives departments room to maneuver when confronting the potential impact of a big storm, said Lynda Gledhill, deputy communications secretary for the state Government Operations Agency.

“We want people to be safe, obviously,” she said, so state managers and supervisors can adjust staffing as necessary. “It’s within the normal realm of how we do business.”

Forecasters expect the biggest storm in six years will dump rain on the region starting Wednesday evening with the heaviest downpours hitting Thursday.

It’s likely that some roads around Sacramento and along the Interstate 50 corridor where many state employees work will flood. Power around the area could be knocked out.

Worst-case situations could trigger state regulations that allow employees to take time off if a natural disaster prompts the governor to declare a state of emergency.

The regulations went into effect last summer after Gov. Jerry Brown declared emergencies in Napa, Solano and Sonoma counties following an August earthquake and month later after wildfires scarred El Dorado and Siskiyou counties.

If a torrent this week prompts an emergency declaration, impacted state employees can take up five days of paid administrative leave with their departments’ approval subject to certain criteria. Among the reasons: the employee’s workplace is temporarily closes, immediate family or property is in danger or the emergency cuts off work routes.

State workers can get up to a calendar month of paid administrative leave, but that requires approval by the Department of Human Resources, and only if the situation that forced a five-day leave continues to exist.

Call Jon Ortiz, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 321-1043.

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