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July 20, 2016

Table of contents

Approval of April 20, 2016 minutes (5 minutes) – Ellen Herbst

Ongoing Matters (50 minutes) 

  • Status of Action Items from April 20, 2016 Forum meeting – Frank Milman [5 minutes]
  • Shared Services
    • Ken Kukovich [10 minutes] 
    • Ellen Herbst [5 minutes]

Status of the implementation of shared services for IT, financial management, and acquisitions.

  • Phased Retirement – How can the Forum promote the success of the Department’s Phased Retirement policy to the press – Laurie Schwede and Kevin Mahoney [5 minutes]
  • Metric for Forum for FY16 – Howard Friedman/Kevin Mahoney [5 minutes]
  • Gender Pay Gap/Pay Parity – Labor [5 minutes]
  • FEVS – working with OPM to improve the FEVS – Laurie Schwede [5 minutes] 
  • Communication of Forum Achievements – Howard Friedman [10 minutes]

New Business [15minutes]

  • Discussion of the Department’s Travel Policy Handbook – Dan Sobien [15 minutes]

Other Business (5 minutes)

CALL IN NUMBER 866-453-8771; PASS CODE 2785164

Meeting Minutes

July 20, 2016, 1-3PM
1401 Constitution Avenue, NW., Room 1414, Washington, DC

Meeting called by: Labor-Management Forum
Type of meeting: Quarterly Meeting of the Forum
Attendees: Vonda Bell and Stacey Chalmers (Census0, Mary Saunders (NIST), Mitch Macdonald (NWSEO), and Alejandro Rodriguez (O/S) participated by phone. See sign-in sheet for participants in attendance.
Program Manager: Mr. Frank Milman
Note Taker: Ms. Mary O’Connor
Documents: Minutes and Action Items from the April Meeting of the Forum


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

A motion was made to adopt minutes taken on April 20, 2016, and the minutes were approved. 

Agenda item: Status of Action Items from April 2016 Forum Meeting
Presenter: Mr. Frank Milman

The following action items were addressed: 

  • Establishing an email address for travel concerns, readiness to implement phased retirement, implementation of phased retirement, and the broadcast announcing phased retirement are all considered completed.
    • NOAA is completing bargaining with two unions and USPTO is in partnership with its three unions on the implementation of phased retirement. 
    • Phased retirement was suggested as a regular agenda item. The Forum wants to know how many people are applying by bureau/operating unit, the number of approved applications, and those asking for specific benefits statements for phased retirement. 
      • It was shared that BIS has one application, and NOAA has three applications, under review. 
      • It was also expressed in a NOIAA office that people are waiting for it, and opting to retire. Renee Desrosiers will follow up on this matter. 
  • It was also noted that a blog post is ready for review and circulation, which notifies that the Department has implemented the Phased Retirement Policy through Pre-Decisional Involvement (PDI). 
    • It was suggested that it was best for Labor and Management to go to the Washington press jointly by writing and signing a cover letter to send along with the blog post. This letter would be presented to Beth Cobert, Acting Director of OPM, and Tim Curry, Deputy Associate Director, Employee Services, Partnership and Labor Relations. It was recommended that this be presented at the National Council on Federal Labor-Management Relations as well. 
    • Erica in the Office of Public Affairs will assist with these efforts, and help promote through various channels. Kevin Mahoney will work on a broadcast message. 

Agenda item: Shared Services
Presenter: Mr. Ken Kukovich, Ms. Ellen Herbst

A business plan for the shared services initiative in development, once it is ready with the Department Management Council (DMC), will be shared with the Forum. A November OMB memo establishing coordinated guidance for shared services was discussed, and will be circulated by Ellen Herbst. 

There was some confusion as to the future of acquisition positions; however, it was clarified that there is no effort to eliminate acquisition positions. Additionally it was noted that there are not enough people in HR to provide transactional assistance, and that a small group of people would help manage the shift to shared services in the new location. Since HR is so understaffed, it was stated that everyone would still have a job after the transition to shared services. 

Additionally, the establishment of a new shared services offices needs approval from the Hill, which is still pending. In turn, the shared services initiative is currently behind the original schedule.

Agenda item: Phased Retirement – How can the Forum promote the success if the Department’s Phased Retirement policy to the press
Presenter: Ms. Laurie Schwede and Mr. Kevin Mahoney

The efforts discussed under the Status of Action Items on the agenda address this topic. Additionally, Laurie Schwede mentioned that the phased retirement video shot at Census should be done around August 1, 2016.

Agenda item: Metric for Forum for FY16
Presenter: Mr. Howard Friedman and Mr. Kevin Mahoney


Last year the Forum reported on how many councils the Department has; this year it was suggested the Forum report on what the councils do. It was recommended that metrics related to PDI (what it has produced, and what agreements have resulted) be used as the Forum metric for FY16. The Labor Co-chair stated that there was a story to tell on these topics (including phased retirement), and that the Forum could achieve more on this before December. Laurie Schwede, Frank Milman, Renee Desrosiers, and an additional team member recommended by Howard Freedman will work on this, and circulate an email to the rest of the group as a charging document. Some suggestions were to reach out to various councils, create a survey template to fill out/provide narrative. One management member suggested that all questions be consistent and clear. Additionally, it was asked that a question cover how things can be done better. 

These metrics are to track what has been done by September 30, 2016, and are to be reported by December 30, 2016. Other agencies previous metrics may be on the website.

Agenda item: Gender Pay Gap/Pay Parity
Presenter: Labor

The working group is still gathering information, including a report from the EEOC. In this report, six outstanding obstacles were cited, some of which include: inflexible workplace policies, less likely to be groomed for management positions, and unconscious gender bias. A labor member wants to narrow down scope and pick one topic to focus on. 

Another working group member went to management at the NOAA Fisheries Alaska Fisheries Science Center and requested that a staff member in the economics program do a scoping study. The person assigned the study provided comments on what such a study would look like and discovered that a study had been done recently at the NOAA Fisheries NE Fisheries Science Center (Woods Hole, MA). The latter study found median female scientist makes $14,000 less annually, and that gender across pay grades is not proportional. It also found that men more likely to be supervisors than women; however, it does not appear to be result of pay increases or review scoring. The member suggested he could pass around the document more widely. It was asked what would it take to do a study, and what has been done before. The member found other works such as 2014 OPM report, 2009 GAO report, and NMFS had done analysis in 1995. The member would like to go back to managers to go ahead and do a study, and see what work is required to do analysis. The member expressed a concern studying the entire Department, and thought it may be best to do smaller studies initially

Ellen Herbst stated that the Office of Civil Rights has done some high level work, and has numbers on this topic as well. She stated that it was interesting that findings are observations, not root causes, and would love to see what the recommendations would be. 

The team will work together and ask the Science Center to do the study, and share reports to larger group, in addition to studying obstacles in EEOC report to find recommendations. Fred Steckler shared that PTO was working on written reports on this and similar topics, and can share when finished. 

Agenda item: FEVS – Working with OPM to improve the FEVS
Presenter: Ms. Laurie Schwede

One meeting occurred with OPM with an additional meeting scheduled for July 21, 2016. The first meeting was on confidentiality and non-response, the issue of people being afraid of being revealed, and may not take or skew results. People have reason to think the FEVS is not confidential as the email comes directly to the employee, and it is not always clear to people that their data will be confidential

The second meeting will be with Kim Wells, who oversees the FEVS. She invited 10 of her staff to meeting to talk about ideas and come up with research questions, scope, scheduling, and sharing of costs. Census leadership said it could fund sharing of work for several months, if at smaller cost; however if a lengthier assignment, will expect OPM to pay the cost.

Agenda item: New Business – Discussion of the Department’s Travel Handbook
Presenter: Mr. Dan Sobien

A member stated that the Travel Handbook conflicted with what was briefed in April on E2 Travel system. The member noticed at least one section in conflict with statues, and others that would cost agency more money than it needed to. The member stated that this was an opportunity to sit down and put together policy for hotels discounts and gainsharing. 

Gay Shrum stated that subject matter experts were pulled together from the bureaus to update the policy handbook beginning in January 2015. After which, the policy was then vetted through HR, IG, and OGC. Once these steps were completed, it was provided to NWSEO and POPA in accordance with their National Consultation Rights, and to membership of the Forum for comment. It was emphasized that the travel policy handbook was a collaborative effort. It was also stated that the new E2 Travel system complies with Federal Travel Regulations and the office who worked on this worked alongside the policy in order to avoid any conflicts. If it appears to be inconsistent with policy, the offices working on E2 Travel and the travel policy want to know. A member stated that if what was agreed to were changed, it would need to be reviewed again. 

It was suggested that the Forum needed more time to review. Renee Desrosiers and Frank Milman are o set up a time for members to review and discuss the document together. Members are to email Frank Milman if they want to be involved.

Agenda item: New Business
The forum discussed the transition to the next Administration. Ellen Herbst shared that Pravina Raghavan is chairing the transition, with Lisa Casias serving as Co-Chair. They have team of people in every bureau, and Ellen would be happy to have the transition team come in and have a dialogue. 

One item the transition team needs is memos on selected topics. It was suggested that the Forum be one of these topics. 

It was also suggested that a meeting room for Forum meetings be booked well into 2017. Because of the timing of the Inauguration, the January meeting will be held on January 25, 2017.

Action Items

Item Responsible Party Status Deadline
Phased retirement. To be a regular agenda item: how many people are applying by bureau/operating unit, the number of approved applications, and those asking for specific benefits statements for phased retirement. Valerie Smith Ongoing Ongoing
Develop cover letter to press conveying blog highlighting PDI on phased retirement policy to be issued jointly by Ellen and Howard. Ellen will reach out to Beth Cobert and Howard will reach out to his National Office. Ellen Herbst
Howard Friedman
Draft broadcast message on PDI on phased retirement policy. Kevin Mahoney TBD TBD
Circulate November OMB Memo on Shared Services. Ellen Herbst TBD TBD
Work on FY16 Metric Laurie Schwede, Frank Milman, Renee Desrosiers, and an additional team member Ongoing TBD
Share scoping study on gender pay gap/pay parity Shannon Fitzgerald TBD TBD
Set up meeting for Travel Policy review Frank Milman, Renee Desrosiers Done 8/11/16
Ask transition team to attend October meeting Ellen Herbst TBD TBD
Reserve meeting room for 2017 Forum meetings Frank Milman Done 7/26/16