• SEC becomes first federal agency to ask employees to work from home
  • Major employers like Google and Amazon are embracing remote work
  • The Social Security Administration, conversely, has ended its remote work program

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has become the first federal agency to ask all of its employees in Washington, D.C. to work from home after one of its employees was potentially exposed to coronavirus, or COVID-19.

“Late this afternoon, the SEC was informed that a Washington, D.C. headquarters employee was treated for respiratory symptoms,” an SEC spokesperson said. That individual’s symptoms may indicate the coronavirus and will soon be tested, they added.

Out of an abundance of caution, the SEC is asking that those who work in Washington to telecommute from home going forward, though doing so won’t be mandatory, according to the Washington Post.

The decision comes after concerns about the coronavirus continue to roil Wall Street, with markets diving thousands of points in single-day trading. That came alongside a crash in the oil market this week, as Russia and Saudi Arabia face off in a price war.

It is unclear what message the SEC’s new precautionary measures will send to businesses and investors, though it does reinforce the seriousness with which the department is treating the deadly disease.

Although the first federal agency to do so, the SEC is following suit of several major American employers. So far, Amazon, Facebook, Google and Microsoft have asked their workers in the Seattle area to telecommute from home if possible. So far, Washington state has reported 22 coronavirus-related deaths.

California’s Silicon Valley has also been following this trend, where tech companies’ campuses have effectively become ghost towns as employees swiftly shift to working remotely from home. Those companies include Apple, LinkedIn, Intel and Lyft. A number of major tech gatherings, including the annual Game Developers Conference, have either been canceled or indefinitely postponed.

At the end of January, the Social Security Administration said that it would be ending a program which allowed roughly 12,000 employees to work from home at least once a week, reported the Baltimore Sun. Officials said this change would improve customer service.

On Monday, President Donald Trump announced that he would be pushing Congress to pursue a payroll tax cut as well as economic relief for American workers impacted by the coronavirus. This would come alongside plans to assist the travel and tourism industries, which have faced severe business losses as a result of the crisis.

US Securities and Exchange Commission
The seal of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission hangs on the wall at SEC headquarters in Washington, D.C., June 24, 2011. Reuters/Jonathan Ernst