Monthly Archives: February 2017

Back Pay Awarded for Federal Workers

shutdown

The government must compensate 25,000 federal employees for damages they incurred during the 2013 shutdown. U.S. Court of Federal Claims Judge Patricia Campbell-Smith ordered compensation to those who signed onto the collective action lawsuit against the government, alleging a violation of the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act.

There were two laws in question, in this case, the FLSA and the Anti-Deficiency Act (ADA). The ADA blocks the government from spending money when “specific appropriations aren’t in place”. The FLSA established minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping, and youth employment standards affecting full and part-time workers in the private sector and in federal, state, and local governments.

The shutdown meant a furlough of all but essential employees who are required to work to “protect the safety of human life or property”. More than 200,000 employees who were forced to work during the shutdown because their salaries were paid from non-annually appropriated accounts, or because their jobs protected life or property, were eligible to join the case.

Their pay was guaranteed; however, they didn’t receive it until the shutdown concluded 16 days later.

The exact damages for each of the 25,000 plus employees will vary. Plaintiffs will receive $7.25-the federal minimum wage-times the number of hours worked between October 1-5, 2013. This amounts to $290 for employees who worked 8 hour days plus any overtime they are due. The amount due to each employee must be calculated by March 17, 2017, and final numbers must be sent by April 7th.

Court documents stated, “the conflict, in this case, arises from the intersection of these ADA provisions with the FLSA. Plaintiffs worked during the first week of the 2013 shutdown, specifically between October 1-5, 2013, but weren’t paid for this work on their regularly scheduled paydays because the government understood the ADA to prohibit payment until funds were appropriated for that purpose.”

The judge also looked at whether the government acted in good faith when it came to balancing payment and shutdown requirements.

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Agency Spotlight–Common Injuries for IRS Workers

common

It’s easy to understand how a Federal Air Marshal or a federal worker at the Department of Justice can get injured while on the job, but an IRS worker? Can they really get injured or become ill on the job? The answer is simple; yes!

While they may not be out of the front lines protecting our nation from threats, they certainly are vulnerable to unavoidable, and avoidable, accidents in the workplace. In fact, IRS workers file more than 800 new injury claims a year. Falls, slips, and trips are more likely to occur in an office setting. Wet floors, standing on a chair to reach something, and carrying a stack of books or files that precludes your sight are just some of the hazards IRS workers face. Below are some of the most common causes of injuries or illnesses for IRS workers.

commonFalls, Slips, and Trips

Cords and wires that are too long, or that are just hanging, is a major tripping hazard for employees in an office setting. Not keeping the walkways clear of clutter can lead to falls also. Carrying a stack of work or books, especially one that impedes your vision, can be harmful to you and those around you. In addition, uneven pavement in the parking lot can cause falls, and ice or water can cause devastating slips and falls.

A report from July 2016 by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) found that most IRS employee injuries can be attributed to accidents like falls, slips, and trips. TIGTA is an office of the U.S. Federal government and it provides independent oversight of the Department of Treasury matters involving IRS activities, IRS Oversight Board, and IRS Office of Chief Counsel. They promote the fair administration of federal tax law in their audits, investigations, and inspections.

Stresscommon

Any job has its own stresses. The IRS is no different. This is especially true during tax season, until mid-April. This can lead to an array of injuries and even illnesses. The added stress may cause sleep deprivation, which could lead to an injury due to inattention, or an illness. Mental and psychological disorders can arise from lack of sleep. Depression can occur, especially if you’re working in a challenging environment.

commonViolence

IRS workers work in a potentially dangerous environment. Irate taxpayers can make threats that can put a workers’ life in danger. There’s a section in the IRS employee manual that includes information about the “Potentially Dangerous Taxpayer”.

Repetitive Motioncommon

The most common injuries that occur in an office setting are Carpel Tunnel Syndrome and tendon strain. That July 2016 TIGTA report found that finger and wrist injuries were the most common. Data input and filing caused these. The report found that employees suffering from these injuries were given ergonomic equipment such as wrist pads and adjustable workstations.

Vision or Hearing Losscommon

Poor lighting, whether too much or too little, can lead to eye strain. Looking at small numbers and words all day can lead to eye strain as well as a neck strain. Noises from telephones and copiers can lead to an inability to concentrate and cause headaches and even lead to hearing loss.

Firescommon

This may not seem like an obvious cause of the injury; however, office buildings are prone to fires. The use of space heaters indoors can be a fire hazard but also the overload of surge protectors.

As of March 2016, the IRS had 27 safety officers nationwide who conduct accident and injury investigations. They perform safety inspections of IRS offices, identify ad control hazards, and promote a positive safe culture.

Click below for more information on IRS clients we’ve had, what they’ve said about us, and how we can help you!

Common Causes of Injuries and Illnesses to IRS Workers

If you are an IRS worker, and can no longer perform the essential duties of your job due to illness or injury, please give us a call to find out if you may qualify for federal disability retirement. Our number is 877-226-2723 or you can fill out this INQUIRY form. Our consultation is always free!

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Important Info for Filing for Federal Disability Retirement

filingIf you are a federal or postal worker and have found that you can no longer perform the essential duties of your job because of an injury or illness, you may find yourself in the world of filing for federal disability retirement. Applying for federal disability retirement can be daunting and confusing if you don’t know what to expect. Below are some of the major steps involved with applying and putting together your claim. These requirements must be met to show that you are eligible to receive this benefit.

Confirm Eligibility

To be eligible, FERS employee must have completed at least 18 months of service in a position covered by FERS.

Evidence of Disability

You must be medically disabled. Meaning, you are considered disabled if a medical condition has caused a “service deficiency in performance, conduct, or attendance” or the inability to perform “useful and efficient service”. This also means you are unable to perform the essential job duties of your current position, not that you can’t perform any job. This is the most difficult part to prove. The following types of evidence will be considered and are good to include in your application:

  • Objective clinical findings, diagnoses, and medical opinions
  • Subjective evidence of pain and disability (only when supported by competent evidence)
  • Any other evidence relating to the effect of your condition or ability to perform in the grade or class of your position

Establish Continuity of Disability

You are required to show that your disabling medical condition is expected to continue for at least one year from the date of the disability retirement application is filed.

Prove You Can’t be Accommodated or Reassigned

You must show that you have not declined a reasonable offer of reassignment to a vacant position and that the employing federal agency isn’t able to accommodate your disabling medical condition in the position that you have been assigned to.

File for Social Security Disability

If you are under 62, FERS requires you to apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. However, you do not have to be approved.

File Your Application with Supporting Documentation

You need Form SF 3107 (Application for Immediate Retirement) and Form SF 3112 (Documentation in Support of Disability Retirement). Further, you must submit documentation that you have applied for SSD. Again, an approval is not important in regards to federal disability retirement.

If you are unable to perform your job duties because of a disabling medical condition and don’t know where to start in filing for federal disability retirement, please don’t hesitate to call us. We have over a decade of experience in helping federal and postal workers file for federal disability retirement benefits. Our number is 877-226-2723 or you can fill out this INQUIRY form.

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Service Credit: CSRS vs. FERS

credit

Often, service credit and creditable service are used interchangeably. While they do have similarities, they are classified as two different types of credit. A previous post looked at what creditable service is. This post will look at the differences between CSRS and FERS service credit.

Civilian Service

creditCSRS

If you performed CSRS service where no retirement deductions were withheld from your pay, or you received a refund of your retirement deductions, you can pay money back into the retirement system to receive credit. The payment generally affects your retirement amount.

If no retirement deductions were withheld during your service period, then a deposit can be made for the service. This deposit is the payment of retirement deductions plus interest that would have been withheld from your pay if you were covered by CSRS during this period of employment. This type of payment is not required.

Deposit for Service Ending Before October 1, 1982, and Covered by CSRS

You may make a deposit for creditable CSRS service performed October 1982 where retirement deductions weren’t withheld. You may also receive retirement credit for all this service whether you pay the deposit. Unless you pay the deposit in full, your annual retirement benefit will reduce by 10 percent of the deposit amount. Any annuity due a surviving spouse is reduced proportionately.

Deposit for Service Ending on/after October 1, 1982, and Covered by CSRS

You may make a deposit for CSRS service performed on or after this date during which retirement deductions weren’t withheld. Unless that deposit is paid in full, however, you won’t receive credit for service in your annuity computation.

If retirement deductions were withheld from your pay and later refunded, you may pay a redeposit for the service. This redeposit is the repayment of retirement deductions that were previously withheld and refunded to you, plus interest.

Redeposit Service Ending Before March 1, 1991, and Covered by CSRS

You may repay the refund you received for periods of civilian service ending before this date during which retirement deductions were withheld from your pay and later refunded to you. You will receive credit for all this service whether you make the payment or not unless you retire under the disability provision. Your annuity is subject to a permanent reduction based on the amount of the redeposit and interest due to you and your age at retirement. This reduction will not be applied to a spouse. You can avoid this reduction by repaying the refund.

Redeposit Service Ending on/after March 1, 1991, and Covered by CSRS

You may repay the refund received (see above). However, unless the redeposit is paid in full, you won’t receive credit for this service in your annuity computation. Consequently, your annuity and any annuity due to a surviving spouse will be reduced.

creditFERS

You may make a payment for the following types of service and credit it toward retirement,

  • Any period of creditable civilian service performed before 1989 in which no retirement deductions were withheld from your pay.
  • A period of civilian service when retirement deductions were withheld and then refunded to you.
  • Any period of Peace Corps or VISTA Volunteer service (excluding training time) regardless of when the service was performed.

However, a payment can’t be made for any service which is not creditable under FERS, periods of leave without pay, and time covered by a lump sum leave payment.

If retirement deductions weren’t withheld during a period of service, you may pay a deposit for the service if it was performed before 1989. FERS deposits are generally 1.3 percent of your basic pay for the service plus interest. This excludes Peace Corps and VISTA Volunteer service. The 1.3 percent rate applies regardless of whether deductions would have been taken out at that rate when the service was performed.

Deposit for Service Ending Before January 1, 1989, and Covered by FERS

You may make a deposit for creditable FERS service you performed before 1989 during which retirement deductions were not withheld from your pay. If you do not pay for a period of this type of service, you will not receive credit in determining your eligibility to retire or in computing your retirement benefit.

Deposit for Service Ending on/after January 1, 1989, and Covered by FERS

With certain exceptions, a FERS employee can’t make a deposit for service performed on/after this date.

If You Transferred to FERS from CSRS, the Following Applies to the CSRS Portion of Your Annuity

Deposit for Service Ending Before October 1, 1982, and Covered by CSRS

You may make a deposit for creditable CSRS service performed before this date during which retirement deductions weren’t withheld from your pay. You will receive retirement credit for all this service whether you pay the deposit or not. Unless you pay the deposit in full, your annual retirement benefit will reduce by 10 percent of the deposit amount. Any annuity due to a surviving spouse will also be reduced proportionally.

Deposit for Service Ending on/after October 1, 1982, and Covered by CSRS

You may make a deposit following the rules above. Unless you pay the deposit in full, you won’t receive credit for the service in the computation of your annuity.

If Retirement Deductions were Withheld from Your Pay and Later Refunded to You

Redeposit Service for any Period Covered by FERS

You may pay the refund you received for periods of civilian service covered under FERS in which retirement deductions were withheld from your pay and later refunded to you. If however, you don’t pay for a period of this type of service, you will receive credit in determining your eligibility to retire, but not in computing your benefit. Your annuity and any survivor annuity will be reduced.

Redeposit Service Ending Before March 1, 1991, and Covered by CSRS

You may repay this deposit as noted above. You will receive credit for all this service whether you make the payment or not unless you retire under the disability provision. Your annuity will be subject to a permanent reduction based on the amount of the redeposit and interest due and your age at retirement. The reduction will not be applied to any annuity due to a spouse. And you can also avoid the reduction by repaying the refund.

Redeposit Service Ending on/after March 1, 1991, and Covered by CSRS

You may repay this deposit as noted above, however, unless you pay the redeposit in full, you will not receive credit for this service in the computation of your annuity. Any annuity, as well as an annuity due to a spouse, will be reduced.

Click below to see how service credit differs between CSRS and FERS with regards to military service.

The Difference Between CSRS and FERS Service Credit

As you can see, service credit is quite involved. Understanding this and how much you have can greatly affect your annuity in retirement and even your surviving spouses’ annuity. This is especially important to know if you happen to find yourself unable to work due to a disability. Service credit can increase your amount of creditable service, which may increase your annuity. The team at Harris Federal Law Firm has been helping federal employees for years with their disability retirement cases. If you think you may qualify for this benefit, give us a call at 877-226-2723 and schedule a FREE consultation. You can also fill out this INQUIRY form.

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More Hiring Freeze Q&A

freeze

A few weeks ago, President Donald Trump issued a hiring freeze in the federal government. Since then, there have been exemptions to that freeze announced. Now, even more questions are being answered. Below are a few more clarifications about the hiring freeze.

What Agencies CAN Still Do

Agencies can still participate in recruitment fairs, post jobs, conduct interviews, and review applications for positions under the hiring freeze. However, they can’t make any job offers. The Office of Personnel Management said, “Agencies should consider the timing of posting new job openings for positions that are subject to the hiring freeze to help manage applicant expectations.” Also, they can continue recruitment efforts at their discretion but OPM encourages hiring managers to give regular updates to their applicants and candidates.

Senior Executive Service (SES)

Agencies can continue to submit qualification packages for SES candidates. OPM will continue to process Qualifications Review Board (QRB) certification packages or QRB moratorium exemption requests only if the agency tells OPM that it made an SES offer before noon on January 22, 2017.

Personnel Actions

Competitive promotions cannot be made unless the position in question is on the exemption list. Further, agencies can’t use merit promotion procedures to fill vacancies with candidates from inside or outside the agency’s workforce. However, agencies can reappoint, reassign, or promote an employee if the organization must act to comply with a decision from the Merit System Protection Board, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or third-party adjudicative agency. Also, agencies can’t hire re-employed annuitants during the freeze.

Term/Temporary/Interns

Employees with a term, temporary, or time-limited appointment may get an extension, only if the agency decides it needs those individuals to “meet the highest priority needs of the agency, ensure that essential services are not interrupted or maintain national security.”

Exemptions apply to most interns under the Pathways Program but don’t apply to interns appointed to an agency’s rolls. The exception is, “Interns secured via a contractual agreement with a third-party internship provider (e.g. interns from the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities) are not appointed, and accordingly aren’t subject to the hiring freeze.”

Veterans

While veterans are not currently exempted from the hiring freeze, a group of 22 lawmakers is wanting the freeze to exempt any veteran applying for a federal job. One lawmaker noted nearly 31 percent of federal employees are veterans, meaning 1 in 3 new hires in FY 2015 were veterans.

Representative Stephen Lynch (D-Mass) said, “President Trump’s federal hiring freeze not only hurts everyday Americans seeking a prompt response from a federal agency but also makes it difficult for veterans looking for employment in the federal government across the country. Veterans have earned their hiring preference and I am deeply concerned that the federal hiring freeze will disproportionately hurt America’s veterans.”

This bill would allow agencies to both fill vacancies with veterans and create new positions for them. The American Legion and Disabled American Veterans have endorsed this bill.

This hiring freeze may last roughly 90 days, or until the Office of Management and Budget develops a long-term plan to reduce the size of the federal workforce through attrition.

More guidance from OPM can be found here.

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Three Federal Agencies on the Chopping Block

departmentIt has been no secret that President Donald Trump wants to abolish some federal agencies or departments. Now, the Department of Education, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Election Assistance Commission have bills in Congress with the goal of a shutdown. The bill to eliminate the Department of Education has six co-sponsors, while the bill for the EPA has three.

departmentDepartment of Education

Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) introduced the bill to close the Department of Education by December 31, 2018. “Unelected bureaucrats in Washington, DC should not oversee our children’s’ intellectual and moral development. States and local communities are best positioned to shape curricula that meet the needs of their students. Schools should be accountable. Parents have the right to choose the most appropriate educational opportunity for their children, including homeschool, public school, or private school.”

The Education Department began in 1980 as a cabinet-level agency. They employ about 4,200 employees and have a discretionary budget of $68.1 billion and a mandatory budget of $140 billion. They have the third highest grant portfolio among the 26 federal grant-making organizations, handing out more than $1.1 trillion—mainly from student loans.

departmentEnvironmental Protection Agency

The EPA would also end by December 31, 2018, with this new legislation.

Congressman matt Gaetz introduced the bill and said, “The American people are drowning in rules and regulations promulgated by unelected bureaucrats, and the Environmental Protection Agency has become an extraordinary offender. Our small businesses cannot afford to cover the costs associated with compliance, too often leading to closed doors and unemployed Americans. I would take the resources that we use to fund the bureaucracy at the EPA, and I would downstream those resources to states and local communities so that we can have people closest to environmental assets ascertain the importance of those assets, and then protect them appropriately and responsibly.”

The EPA protects human health by conducting research and creating cleaner air and water. The department began 46 years ago with a budget of $1 billion and 4,000 employees. Their goal was to make the air clean again. Now, not only do they oversee that, but also everything from mercury spills in high school labs to nuclear waste. In 2016 they employed over 15,000 people and had a budget over $8 trillion.

departmentElection Assistance Commission

The EAC is a bi-partisan organization established by the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA). Lawmakers approved two bills on February 7, 2017, that would eliminate the EAC and the Presidential Election Campaign Fund. Some of the PECF duties would move to the Federal Election Commission. The EAC has the task of supporting state and local election officials to ensure accessible, accurate and secure elections.

“The existence of the EAC is not necessary to conduct federal elections and is a waste of taxpayer funds. It was only meant to run temporarily following the 2000 election. Instead, this organization has taken federal resources for a decade and a half. To date, most of its functions have ended, and those remaining functions are easily transferrable to the Federal Elections Commission. What taxpayers are left with is an agency that has outlived its resources, and cost taxpayers millions.” Chairman of the Administration Committee, Gregg Harper (R-MS) said.

EAC Chairman, Thomas Hicks, had this to say about his organization, “At a time when the Department of Homeland Security has designated elections systems as part of the country’s critical infrastructure, election officials face cyber security threats. Our nation’s voting machinery is aging and there are accusations of election irregularities, the EAC is the only federal agency bridging the gap between federal guidance and the needs of state and local election officials. We test and certify election systems and provide access to best practices to ensure accessible, accurate, and secure elections. It also provides vital information to millions of Americans seeking voter registration information and wondering where to cast their ballot.”

The EAC has a budget of about $8.1 million and employs around 30 people.

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The IRS in the News-Agency Spotlight

irsBelow are some of the headlines and stories out of the IRS that have been in the news recently.

Refunds Delayed as the IRS Continues to Fight Against Fraud

The IRS is barred from issuing refunds before February 15 on any returns claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit or the Additional Child Tax Credit. Congress mandated this delay to give the IRS more time to review the returns. Their hope is to catch any fraudulent ones before the refund is paid out. These refunds may not be issued until the week of February 27th because of weekends and President’s Day. The IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said, “For this tax season, it’s more important than ever for taxpayers to plan ahead.”

Along with this delay in refunds, below are a few changes the IRS has made in regards to filing taxes.

Personal Exemption

The personal exemption has been increased to $4,050. This is phased out for taxpayers at higher income levels. The Alternative Minimum Tax is still around, however, the exemption has increased to $53,900 for single taxpayers, $83,000 for married taxpayers filing jointly, and $41,900 for married filing separately.

Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers

Those with Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITIN’s) instead of SSN’s may have to renew it before filing 2016 tax returns. Current ITIN’s are no longer valid if they weren’t used at least once in the last three years. Numbers issued before 2013 also won’t be valid.

Health Insurance

For those that didn’t have health insurance in 2016, the penalty for each adult is $695 and $347.50 for children under 18, with a maximum penalty of $2,085. Some exemptions that may help avoid this penalty are a financial hardship, living overseas, or having a membership in a federally recognized tribe or religious group with objections to insurance.

Protection Against Identity Theft and Fraud

The IRS has said, “Taxpayers who are changing tax software products this filing season will need their AGI from their 2015 tax return to file electronically. The electronic filing PIN is no longer an option.”

Another step to this is the IRS is pushing up the deadline for employers to submit wage data. This will enable the IRS to build a database sooner to crosscheck returns on those W-2 forms. Previously, wage forms were sent to taxpayers by January 31st and to the Social Security Administration later. “That meant the filing season was over by the time the IRS got the most fundamental data.”

The IRS says that by working with states and the tax industry, identity thefts were cut in half last year.

Earned Income Tax Credit

The IRS describes this credit as a “benefit for working people with low to moderate income.”

Eligibility is based on marital status, income, and the number of qualifying children in the household. The maximum credit for the 2016 tax year ranges from $6,269 for those with three or more children to $506 for those with no children.

The IRS estimates that as many as 26 percent of EITC claims may be paid in error. “Some of the errors are unintentional, caused by the complexity of the law, but some are an intentional disregard of the law. Anytime you have refundable money, it brings out the creeps, the criminals, the bad folks.”

Like the Additional Child Tax Credit, the EITC is refundable, meaning you can receive a refund even if you have no tax liability.

IRS Employees Sent Encrypted Emails

A report from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) found that IRS employees sent unencrypted emails containing 8,031 different taxpayers personally identifiable information, totally 326 emails. Of those 326 emails, 275 were sent internally within the IRS while 51 were sent outside of the agency to non-IRS email accounts. Of the emails sent externally, 20 were sent to 6 IRS employees personal email accounts.

Unencrypted emails sent within the agency were at a lower security risk because they remained behind the agency’s security system. Per IRS policy, no office or employee may use a personal email account to conduct official business.

TIGTA had this to say about their findings:

“Based on our sample results, we estimate that 11,416 SB/SE Division employees sent 95,369 unencrypted emails with taxpayer PII/tax return information for 2.4 million taxpayers during the four-week period of our sample. If this four-week period is typical, we estimate that more than 1.1 million unencrypted emails with taxpayer PII/tax return information of 28.2 million taxpayers could be sent annually.”

They recommend the IRS consider implementing a systemic solution to ensure that PII/tax return information remains encrypted. They also recommend that appropriate disciplinary action is taken against employees when email violations occur.

House Wants to Impeach IRS Commissioner

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen was accused of obstructing congressional investigations into the IRS mistreatment of tea party groups. Some conservatives charged him with obstructing justice by allowing subpoenaed documents to be destroyed. Then, waiting 4 months to correct his testimony to Congress that all relevant documents were being preserved.

House Freedom Caucus Chairman Jim Jordan said, “The right to pursue impeachment is an indispensable power that Congress has for holding government officials accountable to the American people. Under his watch, with subpoenas and preservation orders in place, John Koskinen not only allowed 422 backup tapes containing as many as 24,000 Lois Lerner emails to be destroyed—he also then failed to tell Congress about it in a timely manner.”

By a vote of 342-72, lawmakers referred the impeachment resolution to the House Judiciary Committee Judiciary Panel Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA). He declined to endorse the impeachment effort saying the actions of Koskinen did not merit removal. If the impeachment had succeeded, he would’ve been the first executive branch official to meet that fate in 140 years.

Koskinen’s term is up November 2017 and he said he would step down if asked to by President Trump. “He’d be wise to tender his resignation no, he doesn’t fit in with an open, transparent Trump administration. Clearly, we need a fresh start at the IRS. Koskinen has no credibility left as commissioner because of his actions, behavior, and conduct so far. I certainly don’t have confidence in him.”  Said House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX).

The Constitution lists “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors” as impeachable offenses. However, the definition of these is often debated.

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Proposed Changes for Federal Employee Unions

unions

Federal employee unions have become more active in national politics over the last 20 years. Republicans are introducing proposals that would restrict their influence. The Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker implemented a policy in Wisconsin that reduced the power of public sector unions there. He recently spoke with Vice President Mike Pence about how the administration can utilize his strategy for dealing with unions.

Proposed Changes to Federal HR/Labor Relations

In the private sector, most unions can’t bargain over salaries and most benefits. However, some can do so. In agencies where unions do negotiate wages, salaries are often higher. It is likely that there will be a push in Congress to make it easier to hire and fire federal employees and to base salary levels on performance rather than how long they’ve worked for the government.

Since the changes were implemented in Wisconsin, union membership in the state dropped 40 percent in 2016. Only 8 percent of Wisconsin public/private sector workers were in a union.

Below is some of what Walker has previously proposed:

  • Making it illegal for federal workers to form unions would require changing the federal labor relations statute. This law became effective in 1978 and gives federal unions the right to represent workers and negotiate conditions of employment.
  • Requiring federal employment unions to disclose and certify the portion of dues used for political activity and prohibit withholding that amount. Noted in his policy: “Using the federal payroll system to withhold dues used for a union’s political spending runs counter to the law that establishes a separation between federal government resources and union political activity. On day one of our administration, I will require federal employee unions to disclose and certify the portion of dues used for political activity and prohibit withholding for that amount. The federal government should not be in the business of serving as dues collector for big-government special interests.”

Official Time and Federal Employee Unions

The largest government contribution to federal employee unions is probably paying salary and benefits of federal employees on “official time”. This term refers to the governments’ practice of continuing to pay salary and benefits while an employee works for a union. This is costly for federal agencies and taxpayers and difficult to track.

Proposed Changes to Federal HR

These proposals would likely make it easier to fire a federal employee. Other changes include:

  • Eliminate automatic awarding of within-grade increases.
  • Combine vacation and sick leave into one plan. This would result in 16 days for workers with fewer than three years of service and up to 27 days for workers who have worked longer.
  • Alternatively, maintain separate vacation and sick leave accounts but restrict the total leave available.
  • Reduce the current vacation allowance from 13 days, 20 days, or 26 days (depending on years of service) to 10, 15, or 20 days respectively.

At the time, it is not known which will move forward under President Trump.

These are just a few of the changes proposed. Read about more by clicking below!

Federal Employee Unions Have a Bullseye on Them

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16 Exemptions to the Hiring Frreze

exemptions

The Defense Department announced a set of exemptions to the hiring freeze, which will allow hiring to resume across a broad category of federal jobs. A provision in President Trump’s executive order allows agencies to exempt positions they deem critical to national security and public safety.

 

In addition to the specific positions exempted, DOD organizations will be allowed to grant additional exceptions if they can make the case that they have critical national security hiring needs that haven’t been addressed. If they choose to use that authority, they’ll have to submit reports justifying each position they fill.

The following is the full list of exemptions:

  1. Positions directly supporting the execution of contingency missions and operations, scheduled military operations and deployments, and security cooperation exercises or training.
  2. Positions required for cybersecurity and cyberspace operations or planning.
  3. Jobs required for space operations or planning.
  4. Positions required for execution of the cyber and intelligence lifecycle operations, planning, or support thereof.
  5. To the extent necessary to maintain the capability to ensure a medically ready force, positions directly providing inpatient care in DOD Medical Treatment Facilities and providing acute and emergency outpatient care in DOD medical and dental facilities. Additionally, positions involving communicable disease prevention and similar public activities.
  6. First responder firefighter and law enforcement positions.
  7. Positions necessary to carry out or enforce treaties and other international obligations.
  8. Positions providing operational support to the President of the United States, Secretary of Defense or Chairman, or Joint Chiefs of Staff.
  9. Jobs providing child care to the children of military personnel.
  10. Positions at the installment level providing direct support to the prevention of child abuse, sexual assault, domestic violence, and suicide, and providing direct support to those affected.
  11. Positions required for nuclear reactor and nuclear weapon safety and security and nuclear command, control, and communications. Additionally, positions required for biological select agent safety and security.
  12. Positions performing mortuary activities and other directly related services necessary to properly care for the fallen and their families.
  13. Positions required to be filled by a foreign national employee.
  14. Jobs in shipyards and depots in which incumbents perform direct management of inventory and direct maintenance of equipment.
  15. Positions funded by foreign military sales.
  16. Civilian mariners in Military Sealift command.

In general, the freeze applies to all hiring regardless of their funding source. Overall, the Pentagon hopes to use the hiring freeze to prioritize positions for national security importance. They also hope to develop a strategy for reducing the size of the federal workforce beyond merely freezing hiring.

Leadership may approve the exemptions on an individual or group basis. Temporary and term employees may have their appointment extended to the maximum allowable time limit.

To read more about these specific exemptions, click below.

16 Different Exemptions to the Federal Hiring Freeze

 

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Easier Removal of Federal Employees?

billThe Merit Act of 2017, a bill in the House of Representatives, has 8 co-sponsors. The purpose of the bill is to make it easier to fire a federal employee for misconduct and performance. The bill has been referred to the House Committee for Oversight and Government Reform.

The existing process is time-consuming and inefficient, therefore, very few employees are removed. A report noted that 0.5 percent of federal employees are fired in a year, including for reasons of poor performance and misconduct. That is one-sixth the private sector firing rate.

Details of the Bill

This bill would provide the following to enable faster removal of a federal employee:

  • The head of an agency may remove an employee if it’s determined the performance or misconduct warrants a removal.
  • There would be a quicker process for these types of removals.

To take an action based on misconduct or performance, an agency would provide notice of at least 7 days and no more than 21 days before acting with:

  • A notice in writing of the proposed personnel action, including the reasons for action and the proposed final date of employment.
  • Also, an opportunity to respond to the personnel action within the remaining employment period beginning on the date the written notice is received.

The employee would have the right to appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB). An appeal can only be made if it is made no later than 7 days after the removal date.

The current process, outlined in 5 U.S.C. 7513(b), would not apply to removal under this procedure. This new bill would eliminate the current requirements for:

  • 30 days’ advance written notice.
  • A reasonable time, but not less than 7 days, to answer orally and in writing, and to also furnish affidavits and other evidence.
  • Representation by an attorney or other representation.
  • A written decision detailing specific reasons for the action at the earliest practicable date.

MSPB

This bill would also provide for an expedited appeal to the MSPB. The MSPB would be required to issue a decision within 30 days after an appeal is filed. It would be required to uphold the decision to remove an employee if the decision is supported by substantial evidence. In addition, if the MSPB judge can’t issue a decision within the 30-day requirement, the employee’s removal would be final.

Starting on the date on which an appeal is filed and ending on the date the MSPB issues a final decision, the employee wouldn’t receive and pay, benefits, bonuses, awards, allowances, incentives, differentials, student loan repayments, or special payments.

Because the current process is time-consuming, some agencies would rather keep an incompetent employee than taking the extended time and effort of removing them.

Some obvious issues with this bill are:

  • The time limits in the bill are short.
  • Cutting off pay and benefits of an employee who files an appeal would be effective in cutting down the number of appeals. This would be difficult to gain traction in Congress.
  • More administrative judges might be required regarding the time limits for the MSPB to issue an initial decision.

Some, or all, of these problems, may prevent passage or require modification in order to pass Congress.

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