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February 28, 2014

Table of contents

Approval of January 15, 2014 minutes (5 minutes)

Updates (25 minutes)

  • Annual Submission of Report to the National Council on Federal Labor-Management Relations: Use of Metrics by Councils/Committees/Forum – Frank Milman
  • Status of letter to OPM with suggestions on improving FEVS – John Cunningham and Laurie Schwede

Carry over Issues (90 minutes)

  • Department Telework Policy – Frank Milman
  • Department Domestic Violence Policy – Kevin Mahoney
  • Department Workplace Violence Policy – Frank Milman
  • Efforts to Reach Goal of Department being #1 Best Place to Work – Kevin Mahoney and Howard Friedman
    • Development of Forum’s Metric for CY 2014 Report.
    • Establishment of Working Group to study the effectiveness of the Forum and to make recommendations as needed.

New Business (20 minutes)

  • Discussion on how bureaus and operating units can move forward to meet mandate in EO 13522 Section 3(a)(i) - Kevin Mahoney

Other Business (10 minutes)
CALL IN NUMBER 866-453-8771; PASS CODE 2785164

Meeting Minutes

February 28, 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
Attendees: On the Phone: Moses Sterngast (AFGE/Census) and Cynthia Luttrell (AFGE/Census). See sign-in sheet for participants around the room.

Documents: Meeting Agenda; Department Telework Policy; Department Domestic Violence Policy; Department Workplace Violence Policy

Type of meeting: Follow-up to Quarterly Meeting
Note Taker: Ms. Melissa Herrera


Agenda item: Introductions/Approval of January Minutes
Presenter: Ms. Ellen Herbst


Introductions were done around the room and on the phone. Additionally, a motion was made to adopt minutes taken on January 15, 2014 and minutes were approved without any amendments.

Agenda item: Annual Submission of Report to the National Council on Federal Labor-Management Relations: Use of Metrics by Councils/Committees/Forum
Presenter: Mr. Frank Milman

Discussion: The yearly requirement to submit the metrics has been met. After receiving an extension, the Department sent the final submission to OPM and OPM accepted. Manager will distribute the submission sent to OPM by email to Forum members.

Action items Person responsible Deadline
Distribute final metrics sent to OPM Mr. Frank Milman March 14, 2014

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


During the January meeting, there was discussion about sending recommendations to OPM to improve the FEVS. Two Census members took the lead in this action item. To date, they pulled together a meeting and invited senior Census leaders with experience in developing questionnaires to review FEVS questions. One of the FEVS questions that raised concerns is why OPM is asking about pay when managers and supervisors do not have control over it. Census also conducted focus groups of management and employees and found themes common to both groups. The Census Forum members are currently working on developing a 1and one-half page draft including themes and an offer on behalf of Census to meet with OPM representatives to discuss recommendations. The plan is to send the draft in Forum for review and discussion at the April meeting prior to sending to OPM. Recommendations for improving the FEVS would be conveyed to OPM at a meeting with them and not in the letter. Based on the Census’ members experience, it takes months to develop a new instrument and test it, so any recommendations provided now can hopefully be considered for the administration of the 2015 FEVS. OPM always asks for feedback on the survey, but it is not always implemented. Sending something from the Forum will be unique to do. The letter to OPM could also be sent to the National Council on Federal Sector Labor-Management Relations to get credit as one of the action items done by the Forum. Letter to OPM would come from Ms. Ellen Herbst and Mr. Dan Sobien, the Co-chairs of the Forum.

Action items Person responsible Deadline
Compose draft letter to OPM on recommendations for FEVS and send to Forum for review Mr. John Cunningham and Ms. Laurie Schwede Before April Meeting

Agenda item: Department Telework Policy
Presenter: Mr. Frank Milman


The Telework Program Manager received one set of comments from management and two sets from the unions. The plan was to have a draft within a week to send to POPA and NWSEO for National Consultation of 30 days with appropriate comments included. However, a suggestion was made to have an open discussion of telework at the meeting to voice any concerns. A labor member from Census sent approximately 30 comments on February 19, 2014. The concerns of this member include making distinction between voluntary and non-voluntary telework, work-life balance, and ensuring there is no difference between the treatment of telework-ready employees and non-telework-ready employees regarding having to telework when their offices are closed. The member pointed out that OPM provides procedure guidance to those within the capital beltway and not those outside. The DOC Telework Program Manager clarified that although OPM makes procedure decision for those inside of the Washington, DC, capital beltway (NIST makes their own decision); the telework guidance given is not restricted to those inside the beltway. OPM’s guidance is that if an employee has an individual telework agreement, then they are required to telework when Federal Government and/or Departmental offices are closed. 

A member noted that telework has evolved over time. It is known that telework is not a substitute for dependent care, but the policy has become more flexible to allow telework-ready employees to telework as long as their dependent is self-sufficient. Another member suggested that the Department telework policy could be written in such a way that it is family-friendly. Most likely if the Federal government is closed so will the schools and employees need to take care of their kids. Being charged annual leave is not family-friendly. Members asked USPTO for their telework expert advice. USPTO member reported that they really talked through what “telework-ready” was going to mean to different groups and how flexible USPTO was going to be with each group. A member noted that the Department telework policy should be looked at by the bureaus as guidance and not a roadblock. The Department is not interested in instructing bureaus how to handle it, since the bureau will know what works best for their workforce. The Department is open to receiving ideas to finalize the Department telework policy, including defining what is “telework-ready” and how to go about when the Federal Government or Departmental officers are closed. Members took on the task to develop a new version of the telework policy and share with Forum.

Action items Person responsible Deadline
Send out latest telework policy and address all comments Frank Milman As soon as approved for release by the Director, HRM
Develop new version of telework policy based on comments provided and distribute to Forum for review Laurie Schwede, Frank Milman, John Cunningham, Dave Solano, and Pam Schwartz 4 weeks from the time that Frank sends latest policy

Agenda item: Department Domestic Violence Policy
Presenter: Mr. Kevin Mahoney


Some concern is that none of us are really qualified to write policy on domestic violence, but the hope is to have the policy in place in case there are circumstances of domestic violence. Managers should be aware that there are steps that have been taken before any actions, if any, are taken. The Forum approved the Domestic Violence Policy. 

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


Mr. Milman reported that revisions are currently being made and the policy will be sent through the chain of command, up to Mr. Mahoney for approval. A member expressed concern with the definition of workplace violence. It is believed that the Office of Occupational Safety and Health provided the definition of “workplace violence”, but Mr. Milman will send the source of definition to the Forum. Representative from the Office of General Counsel noted that the policy is essential because there are some employees that may feel bullied at work from different actions in the workplace. However, there is very limited case law. The Forum agreed that the policy will not impact what has been the tradition in labor-management relationships. The Forum would also like to have the option to revisit the policies, if needed, even after they have been approved. The Forum asked for 2 more weeks to review and comment on the Workplace Violence Policy. The Department will move forward if they do not hear from Forum members within the next 2 weeks. 

Action items Person responsible Deadline
Send out definition of workplace violence Frank Milman March 10, 2014
Forum will follow-up with any comments on Workplace Violence Policy Forum March 14, 2014

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


Mr. Kevin Mahoney and Mr. Howard Friedman are working together on the efforts towards making Commerce the #1 best place to work and are asking for the participation and collaboration of others. Volunteers are being asked to help with developing a project plan, setting milestones, and helping implement them. Members volunteered to help out with the efforts (Rene Desrosiers Dan Sobien, and Johnny Zugar). The following efforts are being suggested to reach the goal:

  • High level of engagement from OS, managers, union officials, and employees
  • Place 2 goals under the DOC Strategic Plan’s Operational Excellence element
  • Improve labor-management relationship
  • Improve employee satisfaction

The efforts will not work if all the agencies are not working together to move up. Members will not be asked to say “yay” or “nay” today, but it is a big commitment that is being put on the table. A member expressed that without NOAA’s work, they will not be able to get to #1. There was an action item from last meeting that NOAA would meet with USPTO, but the meeting has not yet occurred. The management member from NOAA asked what she can do to try to boost the NOAA score. A member suggested having a separate meeting to look at NOAA’s EVS results line by line EVS. Another member expressed concern on how the calculations are done by OPM. For example, when looking at the intent to stay, the Department may be at a mathematical disability/disadvantage if they are doing it based on age and retirement eligibility. A suggestion was made to have the Partnership for Public Service attend a Forum meeting and talk about how they do the calculations. 

A member would like to know the Secretary’s position on accomplishing this goal and if it is possible to make bureau heads accountable for reaching their goal or to have them provide the reasons why they cannot. Ms. Herbst shared that the Secretary emphasizes the importance of employees and knows that strategic missions cannot be completed without them. This particular goal has not yet been brought up to the Secretary, but can be if the Forum agrees that that is how they want to proceed. A member suggested looking at the numbers the Department should improve on and looking into what can be done. The Forum should keep in mind that the Department may not reach # 1 next year but there will be drive and the programs can be improved each year. 

Labor and managers should also sit down and come up with solutions so that employees can see that managers and their union are in agreement and both sides are explaining items the same way. A Census member suggested having every bureau responsible for improving the specific questions for best place to work rankings by 5%. A NOAA member suggested mentorship and having a third party work with union and management. The third party can possibly be someone that has been successful, such as USPTO that can help “disarm”. The Forum decided to move forward with making the Department #1 and working on the efforts to reach that goal. To begin, a group from USPTO will put together a presentation to share. Ms. Herbst will work on inviting people to attend and Mr. Howard Friedman and Mr. Dan Sobien will get union people together. All others were asked to start working on a list invitees to bring to the presentation. The Secretary will have an all hands meeting soon, but it may be too early to mention this effort.

Action items Person responsible Deadline
Meeting with NOAA to look for items to improve on Rene Desrosiers & Dan Sobien TBD
Discuss the type of presentation USPTO will present  Kevin Mahoney & Howard Friedman TBD
Draft list of invitees to USPTO’s presentation Forum TBD
Determine space availability for presentation in late March or April Bruce Kisliuk TBD

Agenda item: Bureaus and Operating Units Moving Forward with Meeting Mandate in EO 13522 Section 3(a)(i)
Presenter: Mr. Kevin Mahoney

See discussion on “Efforts to Reach Goal of Department being #1 Best Place to Work.”

Agenda item: Closing Remarks
Presenter: Ms. Ellen Herbst

Next Forum meeting will be held on Wednesday, April 17, 2014 in room 4830. Members would also like to know how much the agency has saved since the airline policy was made.

Action items Person responsible Deadline
Send information on how much agency has saved since the airline policy was implemented Frank Milman TBD