AFGE renews legal effort to secure hazard pay for frontline feds

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  • The American Federation of Government Employees is making a renewed push in court to score hazard pay for federal employees working on the frontlines of the pandemic. AFGE and a private law firm filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of five federal workers back in March. Plaintiffs say they were exposed to coronavirus while at work and are legally entitled to a 25% hazard pay differential. Attorneys added new plaintiffs from at least 10 more agencies to the lawsuit. They include the Labor Department, Social Security Administration and multiple components in the Defense Department and Department of Homeland Security. The class action lawsuit is pending in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic made it complicated, but both houses of Congress have now passed this year’s Defense authorization bill. The Senate approved its version of the NDAA with 86 votes in favor. The House bill passed earlier this week with a similar veto-proof majority. That’s relevant because the White House has threatened to veto the legislation over provisions in each bill that would rename military bases currently named for Confederate generals. But before the bill reaches the president’s desk, both houses will need to reconcile hundreds of differences in a conference committee. In past years, that process has taken several months. (Federal News Network)
  • The Senate’s version of the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act green lights $741 billion in defense spending. It gives service members a 3% raise and implements recommendations put forward by the Cyberspace Solarium Commission. It also gets rid of the Defense Department’s chief management officer position. The House already passed its version of the bill earlier this week.
  • Maryland Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) said the Trump administration is trying to add language in the next coronavirus spending package that would keep the FBI headquarters in D.C. The Obama administration considered moving the FBI headquarters to a suburban campus in Maryland or Virginia, but the Trump administration walked back the plan and proposed building a new headquarters on the site of the J. Edgar Hoover building. Van Hollen is calling on lawmakers from keeping the administration’s language out of the final spending bill.
  • The intelligence community is following the Defense Department in rolling out its own set of ethics policies for the use of artificial intelligence. The Principles of AI Ethics and AI Ethics Framework draw on a set of AI ethics principles Defense Secretary Mark Esper approved in February. The documents outline the need to protect AI algorithms from intrusions. They also emphasize the need for AI-powered analysis transparent enough for officials to understand how an algorithm reaches certain conclusions. (Federal News Network)
  • Jack Wilmer, the Defense Department’s deputy chief information officer for cybersecurity, is stepping down from his position. Wilmer adds his name to the growing list of defense officials leaving their posts. Wilmer also serves as DoD’s chief information security officer. Before working in the DoD CIO office, Wilmer was the principal assistant director for national security and international affairs at the Office of Science and Technology Policy.
  • The Postal Service is rolling out more operational changes to get mail carriers out on their routes as soon as possible. Starting Saturday, letter carriers at nearly 400 sites won’t sort any mail during their morning hours. They’ll retrieve mail sorted from the previous day, and limit mornings in the office to vehicle inspections and stand-up safety talks. The National Association of Letters Carriers said USPS launched the initiative unilaterally without the union’s participation. (Federal News Network)
  • The Energy Department acknowledged a quick return to normal at the office isn’t possible just yet. The Energy Department is revising its phase three reopening plans for headquarters employees in the National Capital Region. The department said it will rescind telework agreements it made at the start of the pandemic. It will write up new ones with any employee who needs special accommodations to continue caring for their children and other dependents, and those who are high risk for coronavirus. Employees who don’t need special accommodations are expected to return to Energy offices eventually. (Federal News Network)
  • The Justice Department’s inspector general has opened an investigation into the federal law enforcement agencies’ response to protests in Portland, Oregon. The Justice Department’s OIG said the initial inquiry will focus mainly on how DOJ components, like the U.S. Marshall’s Service, have behaved. But officials say the investigation is being coordinated with the Homeland Security IG. That department has provided most of the personnel involved in the federal response in Portland.
  • The Office of Personnel Management’s inspector general said the agency isn’t cooperating with an ongoing review of recent hiring practices. A House Oversight and Reform subcommittee had asked the OPM IG to investigate the agency’s use of direct hire authority. But the IG said OPM hasn’t turned over relevant documents, and isn’t complying with an alternative production schedule when the agency asked for more time. Subcommittee Chairman Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) has made several demands to OPM to turn over documents. OPM said it turned in some direct-hire documents to the IG last week.

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