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5/21/2019
2019 Executive Forum

Fed Facts: Did You Know?
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From OPM & GSA

Work Hours
The Federal workforce is composed of an estimated 2 million civilian workers, including full-time, permanent, seasonal, and part-time employees. Full-time equivalent (FTE) employment is defined as the total number of regular straight-time hours (not including overtime or holiday hours) worked by employees divided by the number of compensable hours applicable to each fiscal year. Work years, or FTEs, are not employee “head counts.” One work year, or one FTE, is equivalent to 2,080 hours of work. The Federal Employees Part-Time Career Employment Act of 1978 encouraged a greater Federal commitment to utilizing employees who wish to work less than the traditional 40-hour workweek. When employers must staff a position on a full-time basis, job sharing is an option. Job sharing is a form of part-time employment in which one position is filled with two or more part-time employees. At an agency’s discretion and within available resources, each job sharer can work up to 32 hours per week.

Meals
Federal employees are not legally entitled to a meal period. Rather, it is up to each agency to establish its own lunch break rules. Meal policies cover most Federal employees, including white- and blue-collar workers. While the norm is to allow employees one hour for a lunch break, it isn’t set in stone. Agencies can require shorter lunches if they choose and may allow unpaid meals during overtime hours. Lunch is “an approved period of time in a nonpay and nonwork status that interrupts a basic workday or a period of overtime work for the purposes of permitting employees to eat or engage in permitted personal activities,” according to OPM.

Telework
The Telework Enhancement Act of 2010 requires agencies to create a telework plan and fulfill certain requirements to encourage its use. OPM doesn’t actually have that much power over telework. It provides policy guidance and consultation to agencies. It also assists them in establishing goals, both quantitative and qualitative. But OPM can’t actually dictate telework policy to any agency. The agencies have more authority, in that they can decide the range of telework possibilities for employees. Agencies decide which positions are eligible for telework and possible telework schedules. Whether an employee can telework, and how often, resides with the employee’s supervisor. Teleworkers have to be held to the same performance standards as their nonteleworking colleagues. While OPM’s guidance and the provisions laid out in the Telework Enhancement Act apply uniformly to all agencies, at the employee level, telework is considered a privilege, not a right, and is handled on a case-by-case basis. 

Sick Leave 
An agency may grant sick leave only when supported by administratively acceptable evidence. For absences in excess of three days, or for a lesser period when determined necessary by the agency, an agency may require a medical certificate or other administratively acceptable evidence. An agency may consider an employee’s self-certification as to the reason for his or her absence as administratively acceptable evidence, regardless of the duration of the absence. Employees should consult their agency-specific human resources guidance and review applicable policies set forth in collective bargaining agreements for information specific to their agency.

An employee must provide administratively acceptable evidence or medical certification within 15 days of the agency’s request. If the employee is unable to provide evidence, despite diligent, good faith efforts, he or she must provide it within a reasonable period of time, but no later than 30 calendar days after the agency makes the request. If the employee fails to provide the required evidence within the specified time period, he or she is not entitled to sick leave. An employee must request sick leave within such time limits as the agency may require. An agency may require employees to request advanced approval for sick leave for their own medical, dental, or optical examination or treatment. An employee must request sick leave within such time limits as the agency may require. 

Reasonable Accommodation
Many Federal employees are unaware that they can request different types of leave as a reasonable accommodation. Disability retirement can be a great option for some who truly can no longer work in their position. However, once an employee has sought disability retirement, he or she may not return to his or her position of record upon recovery. An option for an employee who expects to recover from a disability is to request leave. When this happens, the question becomes how much leave a Federal agency must provide an employee before the absence reaches the point of disciplinary action, possibly including removal. The key is how the employee requests leave. If the employee meets the definition of a disabled employee under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973/the Americans with Disabilities Act, that employee can protect his or her Federal job by requesting to use existing leave as a reasonable accommodation. If the employee can show that the use of annual or sick leave is an “effective” accommodation, then the agency must provide this leave unless it can show that the use of that leave would reach the level of an “undue hardship” or that there is a similarly effective reasonable accommodation. Another option for the Federal employee is to request this leave as accommodation under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) under the theory that he or she is suffering from a “serious health condition,” which is defined under 29 USC 2611 as an illness, injury or impairment, or physical or mental condition that involves inpatient care or continuing treatment by a health care provider. When requesting this leave and accommodation under the FMLA, the employee has protected himself or herself from being removed from his or her position for up to 12 weeks (to include unpaid leave) in any 12-month period.

Emergencies (Snow)
Given recent actions to improve cybersecurity practices, agencies have taken steps to ensure that telework-ready employees are prepared to effectively telework and access agency IT systems and networks, as may be necessary, should an emergency or weather condition so warrant. Agencies incorporate telework arrangements into their agency emergency planning so that employees will be able to telework during emergency situations, thereby allowing the Federal Government to maintain productivity and ensure continuity of operations. OPM’s operating status announcements, coupled with agency procedures, allow employees to know what is expected of them when OPM changes the operating status. Employees must understand which operating flexibilities are available to them under their agency’s procedures when unscheduled telework or unscheduled leave are options, or when provisions in agency telework agreements require employees to telework even when the Federal Government is closed.

For more information about these topics and more, go to https://www.opm.gov/ and https://www.gsa.gov/

 

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