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Federal Employment and Labor Law Blog

Higher per diem rates won't put fed workers in any Trump hotels

Using per diem allowances to pad reimbursements for business travel happens. It's not supposed to, but it does. One way the federal government tries to manage the risk is by setting limits on what employees can recover for expenses incurred for work-related travel.

The latest standards in this regard were recently announced and are due to take effect as of Oct. 1. The good news for workers is that the General Services Administration has approved an increase in the per diem rate. The less good news is that it covers only housing expenses and the hike amounts to just $2 a day for hotel stays over current rates. The rate will go from $91 to $93. The per diem for meals and incidental expenses remains the same at $51.

Leaking, whistleblowing: Is there a difference?

President Trump expressed support for leaking when it suited his election campaign. Now that he's in office, his attitude is changed. Some might liken the flow of leaks from within the administration to having a screen door on a submarine. Boats with such a design flaw cannot stay afloat long, and so it is that the president has been goading his attorney general to take some action. It appears to have worked. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said recently, "We are taking a stand. This culture of leaking must stop."

Considering the potential for adverse actions, many in the government workforce who could blow the whistle on mismanagement often do not. Leaking might be seen as an alternative. In addition, if you are a manager caught in the midst of such a situation, you could find yourself needing legal representation to protect your interests, even as you try to navigate the complex federal labor and employment laws.

Is the military transgender ban legal?

There are a lot of issues in the political pot in Washington these days. Some are legitimate. Some have been created by presidential tweet. Some observers suggest that the Twitter energy expended by the current resident of the White House is little more than a "dead cat" strategy. The idea being that the more ingredients he can throw into the stew, real or not, the less focus there can be on things that might disrupt the administration's agenda.

One of the latest tweet subjects to trigger reaction is the president's announcement declaring that the U.S. will no longer "accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military." Service people are federal employees. Like other civil servants, there are laws that protect against discrimination on the job. Special due processes might apply because of the uniqueness of military service. But the laws are there.

What changes are in new fed antidiscrimination act?

The U.S. House recently passed a new bill aimed at responding to discrimination in the federal government workplace. The Federal Employee Antidiscrimination Act of 2017 cleared the lower chamber on a unanimous voice vote.

That unanimity is something of a rarity in Washington these days. The measure is now wending its way through the Senate its fate is thus, yet to be determined. In the meantime, workers in the field might be wondering what changes the bill would make in current handling of employee discrimination claims. Assuming it makes it through Congress and is signed into law, here's what could result.

Where do I pursue an appeal of a negative job action?

If you are a civil servant working for the federal government or employee of a company doing government contract work, you enjoy a high level of due process protection against arbitrary punitive action. However, there can be a potential downside in the safety net. The matrix of laws that cover various issues can create so many avenues of possible action that it can boggle the mind.

The area of whistleblower protection is one example. On one hand, the federal Whistleblower Protection Act encourages employees to report when they believe something is wrong in terms of program management or spending. On the other hand, retaliation from higher ups can follow. There are myriad forms that retaliation can take and myriad laws to leverage in response. The retaliation suffered influences whether and how to mount a challenge.

When a Work-Related Injury Leads To Discrimination

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Suffering an injury at work can be a difficult thing to go through.

Besides pain, there are many issues you may be forced to deal with: Going to multiple medical appointments; Getting time off from work to go to medical appointments; Trying to do your job despite physical pain or limitations; Making modifications to your work station; Seeking assistance with your workers' compensation claim.

Protecting rights through the RIF rhetoric

The language from the Office of Management and Budget about the future of the federal work force seems to be in keeping with that old song that goes, "Accentuate the positive. Eliminate the negative."

A read of the memo issued last week by OMB director Mick Mulvaney about the direction the White House wants to take regarding government operations frames the effort in terms that glow. It talks about how the proposed 2018 fiscal year budget fills critical gaps in defense, border security and public safety, spending money "only on worthwhile policies, and in the most efficient, effective manner." And for FY 2019, it says to expect more of the same.

Work injury accommodation best done with your input

Some federal jobs are more dangerous than others. All of them carry risks. When workplace injuries do occur, the first priority is getting necessary care and obtaining the benefits that are due under applicable workers’ compensation law. Clearing that hurdle isn’t something an injured worker should have to attempt alone. Support of an experienced attorney can help.

Presuming the benefits challenge is met, the next step, hopefully, is getting the employee back to work — even if it’s in some restricted capacity. Obviously, this requires management to make some determinations about what accommodations are feasible. But as one recent legal case shows, it’s not a decision the boss can make unilaterally. The injured worker deserves to have a say on what happens, as well.

New VA accountability law raises concerns over employee rights

If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Several weeks ago, we posted about how laws shielding federal workers from retaliation undergo seemingly constant tweaks to close apparent loopholes. This is a positive thing insofar as it contributes to protecting rights of government employees around the country when they face adverse job action.

Not all law changes prompt cheers, however. For example, last week the president signed into law the Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act. The measure offers additional security against retaliatory practices for whistleblowers in the VA on the one hand. On the other, it also reduces the window of opportunity for making job action appeals to the Merit System Protection Board.

What are key steps of an MSPB appeal?

The personnel rules that apply to federal government workers and workers for federal contractors amount to what many might consider a bureaucracy within a bureaucracy. As we noted in a post back in September, it can be confusing to know what constitutes an adverse job action. And even when you are sure you've suffered an unfair or illegal practice, it can be difficult to know your legal options without consulting an attorney.

As that previous post noted, workers facing demotion, suspension or being fired have rights. These include receiving notice if you are being investigated and about any possible action before it's finalized. You also have a right to make a case to challenge the action through an appeal to the Merit System Protection Board.

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