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The U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) has received numerous questions regarding whether the Hatch Act restricts federal employees from expressing their views about the current conflict between Israel and Hamas and other related topics. OSC is therefore issuing this advisory opinion to inform federal employees of when and how the Hatch Act might apply to such speech. As detailed below, the relevant provision of the Hatch Act prohibits employees from engaging in political activity while on duty or in the federal workplace.
By Erich Wagner, Government Executive -
The Office of Personnel Management last week unveiled the latest step in its effort to overhaul the federal hiring process: "advertising” qualified applicants to federal agencies via USAJOBS.Over the last several years, HR leaders across Republican and Democratic administrations have set out to reform the federal hiring process, long considered too long and ultimately fruitless in finding qualified job candidates.The initiative has included a shift toward so-called “skills-based hiring”—evaluating job applicants based on competency tests and interviews with subject matter experts rather than focusing on educational attainment—as well as the rollout of an update to the skills needed for various federal jobs and the development of "shared certifications," a means by which multiple agencies may hire candidates from the same hiring announcement.
By Erich Wagner, Government Executive
AHouse panel on Wednesday hosted another spirited hearing over the role of telework and remote work at federal agencies, with Democrats and agency officials extolling the practices’ impact in improving productivity to skeptical GOP lawmakers.The House Oversight and Accountability Committee’s subcommittee on government operations and the federal workforce held its long-awaited second hearing on federal agencies’ “post-pandemic” telework policies. In September, the subcommittee heard testimony from HR leaders at agencies that made a “good faith effort” to comply with the panel’s information requests on telework, and Republican committee leaders suggested Wednesday’s hearing was designed to hear from agencies whose submissions were found wanting.
ASenate panel on Tuesday voted 17-10 on Tuesday to advance the nomination of former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley to be commissioner of the Social Security Administration, bringing the embattled agency one step closer to having its first permanent leader in more than two years.In recent years, the Social Security Administration has struggled to meet an array of challenges, from long wait times both on its customer service phone line and at field offices to a sizeable backlog of pending disability determinations. At the heart of many of the agency’s struggles is the fact that its workforce is close to a 25-year staffing low, despite an ever-increasing number of beneficiaries, and the employees who remain suffer from astronomic workloads and low morale.
Carten Cordell, Government Executive -
The Biden administration issued an executive order Monday updating the committee tasked with establishing security policies for installations across the federal government, now including best practices for a mobile workforce.
The Office of Personnel Management last week finalized a series of revisions to the map of locality pay areas, meaning that come January, around 33,300 federal employees will begin to see larger annual pay increases.Last December, the President’s Pay Agent, which is made up of OPM Director Kiran Ahuja, Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young and Acting Labor Secretary Julie Su, approved the creation of four new locality pay areas, as well as a comprehensive update to incorporate recent OMB changes to the map of metropolitan and combined statistical areas. After years of debate, the pay agent opted to take an approach whereby locations added to OMB’s map were likewise added to existing locality pay areas, while areas that were removed from OMB’s map were held harmless, remaining in their current locality pay area.
Erich Wagner, Government Executive -
Under proposed regulations, the federal government’s HR agency would no longer need to approve waivers of traditional incentive payment caps in advance, potentially speeding up the hiring and relocation processes.
Eric Katz, Government Executive -
The Senate late Wednesday approved in an 87-11 vote a two-tiered stopgap spending measure, sending to President Biden’s desk a bill that will keep some agencies funded into January and others into February.
New data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that the gap in wages between federal employees and their private sector counterparts is on the rise again.In 2023, federal workers made 27.54% less on average than their peers outside of government, marking the second straight year that the federal pay gap widened. Last year, the pay gap was 24.09%, itself an increase from the 22.47% disparity between federal employees and private sector workers in similar jobs in 2021. The new data was publicized Tuesday at a meeting of the Federal Salary Council, an advisory body that issues annual recommendations to the White House on locality pay and other compensation issues.
By Kevin Freking and Stephen Groves, The Associated Press
House Speaker Mike Johnson unveiled his proposal on Saturday to avoid a partial government shutdown by extending government funding for some agencies and programs until Jan. 19 and continuing funding for others until Feb. 2.The approach is unusual for a stopgap spending bill. Usually, lawmakers extend funding until a certain date for all programs. Johnson decided to go with the combination approach, addressing concerns from GOP lawmakers seeking to avoid being presented with a massive spending bill just before the holidays.
Rather than end the threat of shutdowns, Congress is barreling toward a possible one three weeks away.
A majority of senators this week voted to end shutdowns forever, but the bill failed to gain the requisite support and the chamber has moved on toward passing its bipartisan annual funding bills.
Laura Cooper, deputy assistant secretary of Defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia has been named the Federal Employee of the Year in the annual Service to America Medals award, considered the top annual honor for career federal employees.
Natalie Alms, Government Executive -
FMA National President Craig Carter represents federal managers at the Service to America Medals Gala.
The recipients join the over 750 awardees of the Partnership for Public Services’ recognition program since it began in 2002.
The Telework Reform Act also would authorize noncompetitive hiring of military and law enforcement spouses into remote work positions.
Erich Wagner, Government Executive -
The counties of Clallam and Jefferson in Washington state could be included in the Seattle-Tacoma locality pay area as early as 2025.
The Biden administration on Monday has begun the queue of new regions to add to the federal government’s map where federal workers are entitled to higher pay for 2025, approving a recommendation to add Clallam and Jefferson counties in Washington state to the existing Seattle-Tacoma, Washington, locality pay area.
OPM’s latest update on its agency priority goals under the President’s Management Agenda, covering the third quarter of fiscal 2023, cites under the goal of improving recruitment and retention its issuance of proposed rules to streamline the Pathways Program, the government’s main internship and early career hiring and development program.
Following are questions and answers related to pay from OPM guidance on the impact on federal workers of a partial government shutdown caused by a funding lapse.
In what amounts to a preemptive strike against a potential future Republican administration, the Biden administration has proposed rules that effectively would block — at least for a time — the return of a future excepted service category for policy-related jobs that currently are in the competitive service.
Erich Wagner, Government Executive -
Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, has requested investigations at every major federal department and agency into how telework and remote work have impacted service delivery, and whether federal workers are improperly receiving locality pay.
A bill from Virginia Democrats would automatically trigger a continuing resolution when there is a lapse in appropriations and restrict the Senate’s ability to consider non-spending legislation until funding is figured out.
Of the types of internal support the government provides for supervisory employees, dissatisfaction is highest for recruiting and hiring support, while other areas with “the most room for improvement” include pre-award contracting support, budget formulation and IT modernization, data newly posted on performance.gov show.
Erich Wagner, Government Executive -
New rules requiring high-income 401(k) participants to make catch-up contributions only to Roth accounts will not take effect until 2026.
GSA has announced the per diem rates for federal employees traveling on official business in fiscal year 2024, starting October 1, including an increase from $98 to $107 per day in the standard lodging rate for destinations without specific rates.
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., has reintroduced a bill (HR-5171) to provide relief from the pay cap that currently applies to employees in the upper reaches of the GS system that prevents them from receiving full annual pay increases. That cap, set at Level IV of the Executive Schedule, this year is $183,500.
My Federal Retirement -
In 2023, cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) for retirement programs — such as Social Security, the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) and the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) — received the highest COLA in more than 40 years.
Molly Weisner, Federal Times -
The IRS has a big order to fill: tens of thousands of new employees are needed in the next two years to fight a high attrition rate that is eroding ranks at a time when the agency says it needs to expand.
The White House is continuing its push for federal agencies to reduce their use of telework and remote work in favor of more in-person time at the office this fall.
Jennifer Shutt, Government Executive -
Members of Congress jetted off for the August recess without a plan in place to avoid a partial government shutdown when the new fiscal year begins Oct. 1 — and the lawmakers who write spending bills acknowledge that it’s a real possibility, given deep divisions.
A Social Security reform bill (HR-4583) newly introduced with nearly all House Democrats as cosponsors would eliminate the windfall elimination provision and government pension offset provisions affecting benefits under that program for federal retirements under the CSRS system.
The legislation also would allow federal job applicants who were previously denied positions or security clearances over marijuana usage dating back to 2008 to have those decisions reviewed under the newly proposed policy.
In recessing until after Labor Day Congress has left behind much unfinished business for federal employees. On its return, one first issue demanding attention will be the need to prevent a funding lapse with the end of the current fiscal year September 30.
The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) released three videos last week to help federal employees and retirees better navigate their online retirement services accounts.“OPM remains committed to helping federal employees transition from serving the American public to enjoying their hard-earned retirement,” said?Kiran Ahuja, OPM Director.
Jennifer Shutt, Idaho Capital Sun (Government Executive) -
A handful of ultra-conservative House Republicans rebuked their leadership on Tuesday over the annual government funding process, but appeared at odds on whether they should force a government shutdown later this year.
The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) finalized regulations to give nearly 200,000 federal employees access to the Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance program (FEDVIP).
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