Some employees at the Philadelphia Sheriff’s Office are questioning a decision to require them to report to work this week despite previously being deemed nonessential workers.

Sheriff Rochelle Bilal said some employees who were not required to work when the coronavirus pandemic shut down much of city government two weeks ago were being called in to the office at 100 S. Broad St.

“When you have nonessential personnel when there is no work, they become essential when work comes in for them to do,” Bilal said. “And so, they’re being called in to do their jobs.”

One employee, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the workers do not have permission to speak to reporters, said none of the work being done in the office this week needed to be done immediately.

“It’s all nonessential.... Some employees are literally doing nothing,” the employee said. “There are people crying in HR. They were very upset, and now that SEPTA is shutting down Regional Rail, it’s tough to get here."

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Office management has been aloof about concerns about contracting the coronavirus at work, the employee said.

“They were just all walking around today like everything was fine," the employee said Wednesday.

Bilal said many employees were happy to get the call to come back to work.

“Most of them are happy to get out of the house instead of sitting home doing nothing.” Bilal said. “You just have those few that feel as though they can get paid for doing nothing. And that’s what they want to continue to do.”

The office has provided gloves and hand sanitizer, but no masks, the employee said.

Eric Hill, business agent for AFSCME Local 159, which represents more than 30 workers in the office’s real estate division, said he had heard complaints from members and was seeking a meeting with Bilal.

“There is a very high safety concern among employees in that division,” said Hill. “They too have families that they go home to, and there’s uncertainty about who you’re coming into contact with once you leave your home. There may be individuals who are asymptomatic and may be infectious to another human being.”

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Bilal, an elected official sworn into office three months ago, oversees an office with limited duties that is a relic of the consolidation of the City and County of Philadelphia in 1854. Unlike other city departments, such as Streets or Public Health, the Sheriff’s Office does not report to Mayor Jim Kenney.

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The office’s functions have been further limited by the pandemic. Fewer deputies are needed for courthouse security and inmate transfers because the court system is almost entirely shut down, and sheriff’s sales of tax-delinquent properties seized by the city have been postponed through May.

Bilal’s office has about 430 employees. More than 300 are deputies, and as law enforcement officers were already deemed essential employees, she said.

The rest — including people who process paperwork sent to the real estate division by attorneys, and handle human resources issues, payroll, and other tasks — had been home. Some are working remotely. But others are being called in to work staggered shifts about two days per week, Bilal said.

On April 1, Undersheriff Sommer Miller sent the staff a memo noting that the city government on March 30 “determined that all city employees can be reassigned to necessary posts and required to work on-site if their position does not allow them to work from home.”

The memo also said employees who refuse on-site assignments “are subject to be disciplined.” Employees are allowed to use sick or vacation time if they do not want to report to their posts.