Workers at the Internal Revenue Service offices in Fresno were told that all buildings will close at noon Friday and stay closed until further notice during the coronavirus outbreak.

In an email to IRS employees, Craig Stevens, the senior commissioner’s representative for Fresno, said that employees are expected to work from home or another location if they have the proper technology or when the technology is in place.

Until then, Stevens wrote, “the employee may be granted an equivalent amount of weather and safety leave (i.e., the weather or other safety-related condition could not be reasonably anticipated by the employee, and he/she is unable to perform productive work at the telework site.)”

Tax Return Deadline Pushed Back to July 15

The regional IRS center, which processes tax returns, employs about 5,000 people.

Stevens said that employees should direct questions to their managers.

The shutdown came after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced that the federal income tax filing date had been pushed back from April 15, to July 15.

Workers Cited Unhealthy Conditions

Before the Fresno closure, employees there expressed concerns about working conditions amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Many of my team members are experiencing heightened anxiety due to the COVID-19 pandemic being declared a national emergency, with the number of cases rising daily,” an employee who requested anonymity out of fear of reprisals for speaking told GV Wire Thursday.

“Many of our friends and family are now quarantined in their homes as society has taken on the practice of social distancing yet we are still required to show up to work. There is zero possibility of social distancing at work. We share desks and equipment, and there is no cleaning or sanitizing of work stations between shifts. Unless an employee brings his or her own sanitizing wipes, the IRS does not provide that.”

The same employee said the building is infested with rats.

“Numerous signs throughout the work areas warn employees not to eat in the work areas due to an active rat problem,” she said. “Just a week ago I heard a lady in another pod screech multiple times, to which my team lead responded, ‘sounds like we have a friend visiting.’ None of us new hires understood what he meant, until he explained that the ‘friend’ was a rat. Needless to say, we were a bit freaked out.”

IRS Employees Elsewhere Sought Closures

On Monday, the website govexec.com reported that the National Treasury Employees Union had “called on the federal government to close all federal buildings across the country that house at least 50 employees, citing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendations to end all large gatherings.”

And, on Wednesday, The Texas Tribune reported that IRS employees “sandwiched in cubicles” in the Austin office, said they were worried about unsafe working conditions in the face of the pandemic.

Noting that many of Austin’s IRS workers were elderly with underlying health issues, one employee said, it was like being “in a nursing home on a cruise ship — the IRS Princess.”

Two Princess Cruises ships experienced COVID-19 outbreaks, prompting Carnival Corporation to suspend operations of the Princess Cruises line of ships on March 12.

3 Responses

  1. Lina

    As an IRS employee falling in one of the 3 Higher risks categories, it was a tough decision to take leave using the “Weather & Safety Act” . But there was confusion everywhere from the Union not being able to give clear cut definitions of what employees could or could not do. Upper management were keeping Mum on what employees options were. The safety of the employees were not thought of. Serving the public was first. I know we are the IRS & serve the public but we are human beings w/families as well… It was hard not feeling the anxiety & severity of this Pandemic as well as being ill prepared.

    Reply
  2. Anderson

    Yes.. I witnessed no safety practices being implemented in the work environment.. and the last several months… coughing… sneezing.. and close contact still continued

    Reply
  3. Ltanya boling

    I’m still waiting on my income. Tax I need to pay my Bill’s buy food my taxes was held because irs didn’t have any inform about my insurance it was fax and mailed to irs in Fresno before the virus and I have not heard from irs please help me so I can pay bills.thank you .

    Reply

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