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Gianforte orders at least half of Montana’s state workers back to the office

(KPAX) The Gianforte administration has directed state agencies to bring at least 50% of their employees back to the office by June 14 and says no new “telework” agreements will be granted for now.

The directive, issued late last Friday, was described as “Stage Two” of the administration’s plan to return state workers to the office in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Many state workers have been working remotely since the pandemic began in early 2020.

The next stage will be determined after examining the “operational success and safety” of the initial stage of returning employees, the state said in a memo distributed to workers.

The directive also encouraged state workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

A new law passed by Republicans in the Legislature and signed by Gov. Greg Gianforte prevents employers from requiring employees to be vaccinated.

A memo from Department of Administration Director Misty Ann Giles said the state also will be “rethinking the need for square footage” and location and design of office space for state workers, and is recruiting a firm to analyze the state’s use of office space.

“The project will develop a plan for how to best define workspace environments and space needs,” she said.

Other elements of the back-to-work plan for state workers include:

  • Face-masks will not be required, except possibly in facilities such as state prisons and correctional facilities and the State Hospital for the mentally ill.
  • Employees with pre-pandemic telework agreements can continue with those schedules, if management agrees, but no new telework agreements will be approved.
  • State workers can continue to use paid COVID-19 leave for COVID-19-related absences if they have unused leave, but no additional COVID-19 leave will be granted.
  • Meetings will be held in person, but virtual options should be made available for those with health concerns or working remotely.