Fedweek

The language would require that agency EEO offices operate independently of agencies' HR and general counsel offices.

The version of the annual DoD authorization bill (HR-6395) that has emerged from the House committee level contains several provisions affecting federal employees government-wide in addition to the most significant provision previously disclosed, expanding eligibility for the upcoming paid parental leave benefit.

The bill, which is now ready for a vote on the House floor, would most notably extend the paid leave entitlement to federal employees outside the Title 5 body of federal personnel law. The largest numbers of them are VA medical personnel, FAA employees and TSA employees (although TSA screeners, the largest segment of that workforce, already are included).

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The benefit will change from unpaid to paid the entitlement under the Family and Medical Leave Act for 12 weeks of leave to be used within 12 months on the birth, adoption or foster placement of a child, effective with such events October 1 and later.

According to the report on the bill as it emerged from committee work last week, the measure also contains language designed to strengthen federal employees’ protections against discrimination and retaliation for whistleblowing—incorporating a bill (HR-135) that last year passed the House and the committee level in the Senate.

The language would require that agency EEO offices operate independently of agencies’ human resources and general counsel offices and that the head of each agency EEO program report directly to the head of the agency; require agencies to more fully track and publicly report on EEO complaints, including the details of any finding of discrimination or retaliation and the discipline against those found to have taken such an action; and prohibit use of nondisclosure agreements that seek to prevent an employee from disclosing waste, fraud, or abuse to Congress, the Office of Special Counsel or to an inspector general.

It also would require DoD to produce a report by year’s end “with recommendations to improve the informal and formal EEO processes, including ways to improve the timeliness of investigations and other EEO process, maintain a high standard of quality for investigations, ensure that sufficient disciplinary action is taken when complaints are founded, and inform complainants of all available options to resolve EEO complaints.”

The bill also would: order a GAO report on the GS locality pay system, including how boundary lines are drawn for localities; require that all wage grade employees within a GS locality receive the same general annual pay increase as GS employees there; require a DoD report on the reasons for denials of security clearance applications; and extend several long-running special pay provisions for federal employees working in certain designated areas overseas.

The Senate counterpart committee has passed its own version (S-4049) without similar provisions except for continuing the special allowances. That bill further would allow higher pay and more use of “direct hire” authority for certain occupations.

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