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Federal Employment and Labor Law Blog

Paid parental leave: A retention issue for the federal workforce?

The Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act of 2018 was introduced in the House of Representatives on June 28. The proposal would provide most federal employees with up to 12 weeks of paid leave upon the birth or adoption of a child. Workers would not be required to use up their sick time or annual leave in order to take parental leave.

In addition, when special perks need to be offered for competitive recruitment and retention, the bill would authorize the Office of Management and Budget to allow up to 16 weeks of paid leave to be offered.

OIG Report: Women are underrepresented, promoted less at DOJ

A report by the Department of Justice's Office of the Inspector general highlights a gender inequity problem in all four of the department's law enforcement components: The FBI, the DEA, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the U.S. Marshalls Service. The review found women to be underrepresented in operational positions generally and even more so in leadership. Unfortunately, male staff seemed unaware of the problem.

"While overall staff generally believed that their components were gender equitable," the inspector general said in a video, "our review found that women, especially female criminal investigators, overwhelmingly did not hold this view."

Agencies reassure workers Trump reorganization in early stages

The Trump administration has just released a report offering the first details of a major government reorganization. Most of the proposed changes are to the Office of Personnel Management, although there could be significant shifts of programs between a variety of agencies.

In its report, the Office of Management and Budget detailed 34 reorganization ideas which follow up on an executive order President Trump signed last spring. Most of the plans would require congressional approval, however, so federal employees should be aware that the plans are far from final.

Coalition of unions challenges Trump's recent executive orders

In late May, President Trump signed three executive orders that purport to make changes to federal workers' rights. One order limited the length of performance improvement plans (PIPs) to 30 days. The second directed agencies to renegotiate all union contracts and changed the way agencies can operate when negotiations stall, among other proposed changes to federal collective bargaining. The third restricts the use of official time for union activities.

As we discussed at the time, the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) criticized all three orders and filed suit to challenge the president's authority to issue the third executive order. The proper use of official time for union activities is protected by the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 (CSRA) and the amount of time allowed is negotiated in union contracts. Therefore, the union argues, an executive order would be ineffective to change how much official time is allowed.

Firing federal employees just got easier

In May, President Trump signed a series of executive orders that make it easier for federal agency management officials to fire employees. The orders affect approximately two million federal employees.

To some, it may seem like a business-friendly move. The intent is to improve federal efficiency by eliminating “poor performers”.

Judiciary working group: Misconduct not simply isolated incidents

Last year's State of the Judiciary speech by Chief Justice John Roberts came shortly after 15 women accused veteran jurist Alex Kozinski of the 9th Circuit of ongoing sexual harassment and misconduct. Kozinski has since retired.

Roberts acknowledged that the #MeToo movement had "illuminated the depth of the problem of sexual harassment in the workplace," including at the judiciary. He promised a full evaluation of how the courts were handling the problem, saying that they must provide an "exemplary workplace," which requires ensuring that victims have "clear and immediate recourse to effective remedies."

AFGE sues over executive order limiting use of official time

On May 25, President Trump signed three executive orders affecting the federal workforce. One limits how much time workers can spend on probation when under investigation for misconduct, thus encouraging firings. Another called for the OMB to renegotiate all union contracts involving the federal workforce and to post those contracts online. A third order attempts to restrict the use of official time spent on union activities by requiring federal workers to spend at least 75 percent of their time on government work and introducing a cap on each bargaining unit's use of official time overall.

The American Federation of Government Employees harshly criticized all three measures.

EEOC is serious about enforcing Pregnancy Discrimination Act

Sexual harassment in the workplace has become a hot-button issue in many fields, including the federal sector.  While workplace sexual harassment is currently the most widely discussed form of gender-based discrimination, two recent lawsuits have brought attention to one that is not as widely known: Pregnancy discrimination.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently filed lawsuits against two employers that it claims violated the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA). The lawsuits are an example of the EEOC’s increased determination to enforce the PDA by pursuing civil action against employers that may have discriminated against pregnant employees.

GSA reauthorizes federal workers' job location reimbursement

Early last month, we discussed how the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act made what we hoped was an inadvertent change to a certain benefit for federal employees. Under previous law, workers who relocated for their jobs were allowed to deduct reimbursements for certain moving and travel expenses using the Withholding Tax Allowance and Relocation Income Tax Allowance computation. The TCJA removed those reimbursements from the computation while leaving the employee's home sales' excludable tax status unchanged.

At the time, Federal News Radio estimated that some relocating federal employees were facing tax bills of $3,500 to $6,000 on the reimbursement money they received, which is now considered taxable income. As a result, many workers were declining reassignments or simply leaving federal service.

Happy Public Service Recognition Week. Now let's overhaul.

The first full week of May is Public Service Recognition Week, which honors federal, state, county and local government workers nationwide. Thank you for your hard work throughout the year. Many public sector employees find their work satisfying and rewarding, and we hope our readers do, too.

At a recent town hall on civil service, however, the director of the Office of Personnel Management outlined some changes to federal employment the Trump administration has proposed. First, the administration has proposed a salary freeze beginning next year. Second, it is considering cutting $143.5 billion in federal retirement benefits. Finally, a broader overhaul of the civil service laws is being considered.

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