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April 16, 2014

Table of contents
Meeting Minutes

April 16, 2014

2:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.
1401 Constitution Avenue NW, Room 4830, Washington, DC 20230

Meeting called by: Labor-Management Forum
Program Manager: Mr. Frank Milman

On the Phone: Mary Saunders (MGMT – NIST), Cindy Luttrell (AFGE – Union Member), Shannon Fitzgerald (NOAA/IFPTE Local 8A – Union Member). See sign-in sheet for participants around the room.

Minutes from the February meeting of the Forum, a slide showing FY13 cost savings for the travel project developed by the Forum, and a draft of the letter from the co-chairs to OPM (drafted by John Cunningham and Laurel Schwede of Census) on how to improve the FEVS.

Type of meeting: Quarterly Meeting
Note Taker: Ms. Mary O’Connor


Agenda Item: Introductions/Approval of February Minutes
Presenter: Ms. Ellen Herbst

Introductions were done around the room and on the phone. A motion was made to adopt minutes taken on February 28, 2014 and minutes were approved without any amendments.

Agenda item: Department Telework Policy
Presenter: Mr. Frank Milman and Ms. Laurie Schwede

The discussion of the changing needs and uses of telework continued as a follow up to the February 28, 2014 Forum meeting. It was noted that at the time of the meeting that there were 2.5 weeks left to meet the deadline to develop a new version of telework policy based on comments provided, and to have distributed to the forum for review (an action item from the previous meeting). 

A small working group of members met prior to the meeting of the Forum to address previous concerns. There was a conversation on the definition of being “telework ready,” and how it means more than having an agreement in place, but also having a sufficient amount of work to do. The working group is attempting to reach a consensus on what kind of leave is taken when Government offices are closed. A member expressed concern that employees who have not teleworked in months should not be made to telework when Federal offices are closed. Mr. Milman, the Department’ stated that guidance from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) addresses that point by recommending such ad hoc teleworkers practice teleworking every quarter to maintain their skills and ability to telework. 

A member noted that until recently, telework has been viewed as having various benefits, such as work/life balance, and increased productivity when Government offices are closed. The member expressed concern that requiring telework-ready employees, especially those who telework infrequently, may be more likely to withdraw from the program all-together if made to telework when Government offices are closed. Maintaining a telework friendly environment and job satisfaction are important to the Department’s goal of being one of the “best places to work.” 

A member expressed concern with the recent requirement that all non-bargaining unit employees were to be on individual telework agreements consistent with the Department’s 2013 Telework policy. That policy requires all telework-ready employees to telework when Federal offices are closed. The member expressed concern that requiring managers to conform to such a policy would make them less likely to be sympathetic to employee requests for administrative leave. Another issue addressed by the forum was Continuity of Operations (COOP) and Continuity of Government (COG) plans and how they relate to telework. One member stated that being able to continue to work at home in case of an emergency could be viewed as a benefit. 

The requirement for non-bargaining unit employees to have an individual telework policy consistent with the 2013 Department policy was put on hold.

Action items Person responsible Deadline
Final draft of telework policy to be distributed to the Forum Mr. Frank Milman May 2, 2014

Agenda item: Status of letter to OPM from Forum Co-Chairs with suggestions on improving Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS)
Presenter: Mr. John Cunningham and Ms. Laurie Schwede

During the February meeting, two members from Census Bureau were tasked to compose a letter to OPM with recommendations to improve FEVS and provide it to the Forum for review prior to sending to OPM. The draft was shared with the Forum and a member offered an additional paragraph for inclusion in the draft. A member suggested calling the Director of OPM to let them know the letter is coming and that the Forum is not suggesting making changes to the current FEVS, but wants to start a conversation for the next year. The Forum agreed to include the additional language, send the letter to the Director, OPM, and a copy to the National Council on Federal Labor-Management Relations. 

Action items Person responsible Deadline
Prepare letter for signature of Co-chairs Mr. Frank Milman May 2, 2014
Distribute signed letter from Forum Co-Chairs to the Director of OPM and the Co-Chair of the National Council Ms. Ellen Herbst and Mr. Dan Sobien After letter is signed

Agenda item: Efforts to Reach Goal of Department being #1 Best Place to Work
Presenter: Mr. Howard Friedman

Following up from February’s meeting, USPTO has begun developing a presentation on what steps can be taken to reach the Department’s goal of being ranked #1 best place to work by the Partnership for Public Service. In 2013, the Department was ranked #2 best place to work for a large agency, and USPTO was ranked #1 best place to work for a small agency. The presentation will focus on lessons learned. USPTO wants to determine the right audience to maximize effectiveness of the presentation. There will be a focus on the Department’s strategic plan, specifically the summary on operational excellence. Some of the next steps are determining outcomes for performance metrics, and to establish support from the Secretary. USPTO would like to do whatever is needed to encourage attendance, and will also incorporate WebEx participation into the presentation. 

Members appreciated USPTO’s leadership on this and want to focus on employee empowerment. The presentation will be on the Department Management Council’s agenda to get an appropriate number of managers to participate for a significant commitment of time.

A member asked how the Partnership for Public Service determined their rankings. Ms. Herbst and Ms. Schwede provided the information.

Action items Person responsible Deadline
Encourage appropriate audience to attend Ellen Herbst Prior to presentation at USPTO

Agenda item: Gender Gap
Presenter: Ms. Valerie Smith

OPM issued a Government wide strategy on April 10, 2014, which was in response to a Presidential memorandum. Prior to this, OPM asked Federal agencies about their hiring practices, pay, starting salaries, recruitment incentives, etc. OPM is requesting every agency to name a POC (Kevin Mahoney is the Department POC) and they want transparency with pay tables, especially with agencies who have alternative pay setting authority. While this information is available on the Department’s website, it is not located on the same page where someone could easily find this information. OPM wants agencies to collect data on classification policies and wants to know if agencies are implementing policies correctly when classifying positions. 

It was suggested that this presented a good opportunity for the Forum to brainstorm, including members outside of the Washington, DC area, looking at locality and availability of childcare, and if there is a potential higher impact on women more than men. The Forum also inquired how the Department is doing in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. Management mentioned that there was an analysis in 2010 on the number of women and men in various GS and SES levels which will be shared with the Forum. There was a discussion on how gender pay gaps could exist in the Federal government, including looking at quality step increases. It was also suggested to look at the number of job sharing opportunities there are at various grade levels. 

It was mentioned that this topic is related to many areas important to the Forum. The Forum will review the top level data by bureaus, and bring ideas to the next meeting on how the Forum could be engaged. 

Action items Person responsible Deadline
Distribute President’s and OPM’s memorandums on Gender Gap and Pay Equality, and Department’s data from 2010 study. Ms. Valerie Smith and Ms. Denise Yaag May 2, 2014
Forum will review data and bring ideas to next meeting. Members of the Forum Prior to next Forum meeting

Agenda item: POPA working with NOAA and NWSEO
Presenter: Mr. Robert Budens, Ms. Renee Desrosiers, and Mr. Dan Sobien

At a meeting prior to the forum, NOAA/NWSEO learned from POPA that there are many steps that need to be taken in order form more trust and communication. POPA would like to hear more of the challenges that NOAA/NWSEO faces and offered to have USPTO leadership meet with NOAA leadership on process going forward and lessons learned. POPA shared that it took months of hard work to develop trust and work on real issues and solutions, and changing in fundamental thinking of how to do labor management relations had to occur. NOAA/NWSEO stated that any strong examples they could share along with best practices and lessons learned would be helpful. USPTO would like to hear more about intangible issues that NOAA faces, and encourages as many union people to attend the USPTO presentation as possible. USPTO requested that NOAA share a previous study on the matter in order to give a better understanding of what the “biggest fears” are.

Action items Person responsible Deadline
NOAA to share previous study with POPA Dan Sobien and Renee Desrosiers ASAP
NOAA and USPTO leadership to have a conversation Bruce Kisliuk and Renee Desrosiers ASAP
Strong NOAA presence encouraged at USPTO Presentation Renee Desrosiers Date of presentation

Agenda item: Department Workplace Violence Policy 
Presenter: Mr. Frank Milman

Workforce violence policy is going forward with comments incorporated and will be recirculated once in final version. Forum agreed that it would be beneficial to have a list of numbers that can be called in case something needs to be reported. The Office of Security is tasked with putting together this list, separate from the policy, and will updated it as numbers change so that employees know how to get a hold of somebody if they feel like they’re in danger. 

Action items Person responsible Deadline
Final version of policy to be recirculated Frank Milman ASAP
OSY to create list of emergency contact numbers for all Commerce employees Tom Predemore and John Tigmo TBD

Agenda item: OPM Data Call for FY13 Telework
Presenter: Mr. Frank Milman

The telework program manager updated the Forum that the telework coordinator in each bureau will input their answers directly for the data call, and provide him with answers in writing, which will be rolled up into the Department’s response. The data call is due to OPM in the middle of May, and comments are due to Mr. Milman by the end of April. There is an expectation that a number of questions cannot be answered based on information given by the system (WebTA), as it generates information based on the number of hours teleworked, not the number of people. It is believed that a report to Congress will be issued by the end of the year. Pay periods 18 and 19 are used for the data call in addition to projections for FY14. It was noted that mobile workers are not considered teleworkers and do not count as remote workers (OPM requests information on number remote/mobile workers), more than half of Census’ employees are mobile workers.

Action items Person responsible Deadline
Data call questions and FY12 report to be issued to the Forum Frank Milman ASAP

Agenda item: Other Business

Mr. Milman distributed the FY13 savings for the Department’s non-contract travel fares, part of OMB’s administrative savings reporting requirements. OMB no longer requires the Department to track savings at such a detailed level, now savings are being tracked at a higher level.