Resources for HHS Employees
HHS is implementing the FSIP decision but that doesn’t mean employees are at the complete mercy of management. Below are guides that outline the agency’s ongoing obligations and provide tips for employees to secure fair treatment. More guides will be posted soon on topics like telework and leave.
Coronavirus Updates and Resources
Questions and Concerns on HHS Return (5/22/20)
NTEU Letter to Secretary Azar requesting a briefing to address the necessary conditions for a safe return of employees to the workplace (5/1/20)
Updated Extension of Telework through June 1, 2020 (4/23/20)
Extension of Telework (3/26/20)
Update from the Commissioner (3/24/20)
Message from Commissioner Stephen M. Hahn (3/16/20)
CDER Message on Telework (3/13/20)
SAMHSA Operating Update (3/24/20)
NTEU Message: Coronavirus Crisis Demands a Clear, Consistent Telework Policy (3/19/20)
Office of Medicare Hearings and Appeals Telework Guidance (3/16/20)
Email to Employees from Deputy Secretary Eric D. Hargan (3/9/20)
NTEU Sends Second Letter to HHS Secretary (3/9/20)
Letter from Senators to FDA Commissioner on Travel to China (2/28/20) FDA Response to NTEU (2/19/20)
NTEU Letter to HHS Secretary (2/21/20)
NTEU Letter to FDA Commissioner (1/30/20)
NTEU to Raise Employee Concerns on Returning to Work
NTEU has requested a briefing on HHS’s Return to Normal Operations Implementation Guidance. To hep prepare for the briefing, chapters are currently compiling a list of employee questions and concerns on returning to the workplace that NTEU will raise with management.
The guidance outlines a phased, three-step return to normal operations with a health and safety checklist for buildings that includes policies on cleaning, communications, social distancing, use of masks and visitors. The guidance also provides for special considerations for extended telework for employees who commute to work on public transit or who have ongoing child care needs.
NTEU continues to press for maximum telework policies and health and safety conditions that must be met before federal employees are required to return to the workplace.
HHS Refusal to Agree on a Remedy Continues a Hostile Pattern
In the last days of 2019, an arbitrator issued a decision clearly stating that HHS had no legal right to impose a partial collective bargaining agreement. In sustaining NTEU's grievance, an arbitrator found that HHS illegally imposed a Federal Service Impasses Panel (FSIP) order while contract negotiations were ongoing.
The arbitrator ordered the parties to “meet, discuss and negotiate” over the harm the agency caused by prematurely implementing the articles. Those articles include alternative work schedules and hours of work, as well as the procedure employees use to challenge unfair actions by the agency. If NTEU and HHS could not reach an agreement, the arbitrator retained jurisdiction to hear additional evidence on a remedy and issue a decision.
NTEU and HHS recently convened that meeting, and management continued its hostile stance toward employees. HHS refused to agree to any remedy, instead asserting it will appeal the arbitrator’s remedial decision--which has yet to be made--and seek to have the Federal Labor Relations Authority overrule it and deny NTEU's grievance. In response, NTEU has asked the arbitrator to proceed to the next phase, a hearing over a remedy for the agency’s violations of law and contract.
As HHS continues to go out of its way to disregard your right to fairly bargain a contract, NTEU will keep standing our ground.
NTEU Fights Assaults on Your Rights
Along with NTEU’s work on COVID-19 issues, the union remains engaged in aggressive efforts to protect your workplace rights. Here are some updates:
NTEU’s fight for a fair contract continues after the union’s latest arbitration victory reinforcing our position that HHS had no legal right to impose contract terms before bargaining was complete over a successor agreement. NTEU is scheduling a hearing with HHS and an arbitrator to reach agreement on a remedy for employees harmed by HHS’ illegal actions
NTEU filed a grievance opposing HHS’ decision to unilaterally reorganize the Administration for Community Living and force about 20 bargaining unit employees from around the country to move to Washington, D.C. An arbitrator agreed that HHS violated the contract and ordered the parties to conduct a hearing to decide on a remedy. NTEU will advocate for giving affected employees the option to move back home, at the agency’s expense, and to telework full-time.
This is an important victory for all HHS employees. Each time management has moved to reorganize departments without bargaining with NTEU, the union has answered back with a grievance. NTEU’s persistence has helped stopped HHS from unilaterally implementing more reorganizations.
NTEU is challenging unilateral changes HHS made to the Annual Awards Program in the Administration for Children and Families (ACF). These changes violate the 2010/2014 consolidated contract, which remains in effect until NTEU and HHS complete negotiations over a new agreement. ACF is moving to change the fixed amount award despite the negotiated article specifying the percent of salary employees may receive as a performance-based award. NTEU will continue working to make sure deserving ACF employees get award money they are due.
NTEU continues to go to bat for individual employees. A manager denied a request from a Consumer Safety Officer and member of Chapter 254 (FDA Kansas City) for recurring five-day telework. For years, the CSO had five-day episodic telework and reported his inspectional work to another office in a different state. The supervisor made the CSO ask permission to telework every week, and every week he granted the request. The denial for recurring telework was not only unreasonable, but it was a contract violation. An arbitrator agreed with NTEU and ordered the agency to grant the CSO the recurring telework schedule he requested.
FLSA Settlement Covers 1,000+ Employees
Approximately 1,325 employees are covered under an NTEU-HHS settlement regarding improper classification under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which is the federal overtime statute. Initial notices are being emailed to current employees and mailed to former employees.
This settlement stems from a 2012 grievance alleging that 17 different positions within the agency were wrongly classified as exempt from, or not covered by, the FLSA’s overtime protections. Many of those positions were resolved under earlier settlements and arbitrations. This most recent settlement resolves the remaining positions in the 2012 grievance.
Under the settlement, eligible covered employees have been properly reclassified as nonexempt under the FLSA. That means that, going forward, employees will be eligible for time-and-a-half overtime pay. Covered employees must also be given a choice between compensatory time off and overtime pay whenever overtime work is required.
In addition, employees who were improperly compensated for overtime worked going back to March 2010 will be entitled to back pay and a matching amount of liquidated damages. Because the size of the covered class is so large, NTEU and HHS agreed to use an outside settlement administrator to help with the settlement implementation process. Visit the dedicated settlement page for more information, including a detailed FAQ sheet on which positions are covered by the settlement.
Using data provided by HHS, the settlement administrator is compiling individualized statements for affected employees with calculations of how much, if anything, is owed to each employee. Those statements are expected to be issued to employees within 60-90 days. Communications will be sent to work email addresses provided by HHS, and to personal email or home mailing addresses if a work email address is not available. Employees will have the option of filing a claim if they want to dispute the calculated amount provided in employees' issued statements.
Because of NTEU’s efforts, approximately 2,225 HHS employees have been properly reclassified as FLSA nonexempt, entitling them to the full protections of the overtime law.
Guide to Renewing Your Telework Schedule - Language imposed by the Federal Service Impasses Panel (FSIP) requires HHS employees to renew their telework agreement every six months. NTEU has put together some guidance for HHS employees on renewing, and what to do if your request is denied.
Guide to Performance Plans (One-Pager) - Despite HHS’ efforts to eliminate contract language in this area, management doesn't have carte blanche. This guide explains the agency's obligation to establish and communicate performance standards to employees before they may be held accountable for the standards.
Guide to Your Performance Appraisal (One-Pager) - Dissatisfied with your performance appraisal rating? This guide outlines basic rules the agency must follow and your right to challenge an unfair rating.
Guide to Managing Performance During the Appraisal Period (One-Pager) - This guide outlines employees’ entitlement to performance feedback and provides tips to help ensure fair ratings at the end of the rating period.