A weekly roundup of pay and benefits news.
The nation’s largest federal employee union announced this week that it has received increased clarity regarding which federal workers will and will not be covered by recently enacted legislation authorizing up to 12 weeks of paid parental leave.
The American Federation of Government Employees said Monday that although employees hired under Title 38, which includes health care workers at the Veterans Affairs Department, were not explicitly included in the paid parental leave provision of the fiscal 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, department leadership provided union officials assurances that all VA employees will receive the new benefit.
Although federal employee advocates lauded the landmark inclusion of 12 weeks of paid leave per year following the birth, adoption or foster placement of a child after it was signed by President Trump, officials quickly realized the language of the bill did not cover all federal employees. Among those excluded from the new benefit were Federal Aviation Administration employees and non-screener Transportation Security Administration workers, as well as Washington, D.C., courts employees and public defenders.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has introduced legislation to expand the paid leave law to include those left out, although thus far, it has received pushback from Republicans.
“AFGE is urging Congress to pass a bill that would ensure that all federal employees have access to 12 weeks of paid parental leave before the benefit takes effect Oct. 1,” the union said in a statement.
The Office of Personnel Management last month indicated it would move quickly to adopt new regulations implementing the benefit, and clarified that to be eligible for paid leave, the birth, adoption or foster placement of a child must occur on or after Oct. 1.
Meanwhile on Capitol Hill, House Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., has reintroduced a bill, for the fourth time, to restore due process protections for some federal workers in jobs that require security clearances.
Norton’s bill (H.R. 5560) would overturn the 2013 Kaplan v. Conyers and Merit Systems Protections Board federal court decision, which concluded that federal employees whose jobs are designated as “noncritical sensitive” do not have the right to appeal an agency decision to remove them from their posts over claims that they are ineligible, even if those jobs don’t require access to classified information. Currently, around 200,000 Defense Department employees are in positions that are considered “noncritical sensitive.”
“The decision prevents federal workers who are designated as ‘noncritical sensitive’ from appealing to the MSPB if they are removed from their jobs,” Norton said in a statement. “[Even] more seriously, most federal employees could potentially lose the same right to an independent review of an agency’s decision because of a rule by the Office of Personnel Management and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which went into effect in July 2015, that permits agency heads to designate most jobs in the federal government as noncritical sensitive.”
Norton said the court decision, combined with the OPM and ODNI rule, could undercut employees’ rights under Title 5, as well as whistleblower protection laws.