CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A state lawmaker predicts the Justice administration’s decision to end the tele-work policy for state workers will backfire.

Del. Mike Pushkin, D-Kanawha, and West Virginia Democratic Party chairman, said he fears there will be a “mass exodus” from state government departments.

Mike Pushkin

“We already have massive shortfalls when it comes to staffing and it causes a lot of problems,” Pushkin said during an appearance on MetroNews “Talkline.”

The Justice administration recently issued a memo instructing cabinet secretary and state agencies to end remote work for their workers. Chief of Staff Brian Abraham told MetroNews earlier week that workers should have returned to their offices some time in 2021 but not all did.

“What we found out in more recent months is that some of the commissioners and some of the department heads were individually allowing their employees to be exempt from that return-to-work policy without our knowledge,” Abraham said.

Pushkin said the move is unfair. He said many workers were hired in recent years because the state jobs offer some remote work or a hybrid schedule.

“Many of them were lured away from the private sector because they were given this ability to work from home, that’s the problem,” Pushkin said. “It’s not fair to pull the rug out from under them. That’s the job they were hired into.”

Brian Abraham

He said there’s also the issue with office space. Pushkin maintains some agencies have turned to other uses of the space with some workers being on a hybrid schedule.

“We have vacancies all across the board in state government and many of these divisions don’t even have the office space any more for these people to come back to. I’ve very interested in seeing the actual affect it has for us to function in many of these divisions,” Pushkin said.

The administration hasn’t backed away from its expectation despite the protest.

“The taxpayers of this state have to get up every day and go to work and earn a living, we expect our state employees to do that as well,” Abraham said.

Pushkin criticized Gov. Justice for his daily work schedule. He called him this week “the poster child of remote work.”