Court fight continues over government-shutdown double back pay

  • The court fight continues over whether federal employees who work without pay during government shutdowns are entitled to legal damages. In a decision late last year, a three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit said no. Now, the plaintiffs are asking the full court to reconsider that decision. They lodged their appeal yesterday, and the AFL-CIO also filed a petition arguing the 2-to-1 majority on that panel got it wrong. The main legal question is whether the Fair Labor Standards Act requires federal agencies to give employees double back pay when a government shutdown delays their paychecks.
  • A provision in the 2023 omnibus spending bill gives more leeway to retirement savings for federal law enforcement officers. The legislation, called the “Protecting Public Safety Employees Timely Retirement Act,” lets the federal officers withdraw from their Thrift Savings Plans without a penalty. They will be able to withdraw penalty-free as soon as they hit 25 years of service, or when they turn 50 years old, whichever comes first. That means officers eligible to retire before they turn 50 are exempt from a 10% early withdrawal penalty.
  • The Department of Homeland Security is investing in what it hopes are groundbreaking technologies. DHS’s Science and Technology Directorate has awarded $1.1 million to seven federal labs under the Commercialization Accelerator Program. The goal is to identify innovative technologies that demonstrate great potential for commercialization. Research areas range from artificial intelligence to cybersecurity. The labs will spend the next two years developing, testing and evaluating the technologies, while also establishing tech transfer agreements with industry.
  • After an FAA system outage left travelers stranded last week, one lawmaker is urging an investigation into critical aviation vulnerabilities. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency is being urged to review cyber vulnerabilities in air traffic control and other critical aviation systems. The request from Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-N.Y.) comes after the FAA’s Notice to Air Mission system (NOTAM) failed last week, leading to widespread travel delays. Torres said CISA and the Transportation Department should conduct a joint review. Officials said there is no indication that NOTAM’s failure last week was the result of a cyber attack, but Torres said the breakdown raises concerns about cyber vulnerabilities in the older systems that underpin modern air travel.
  • The IRS contends it is fighting an uphill battle as it tries hire above its workforce attrition rate in the coming years. The IRS is looking to fill about 19,000 positions in fiscal 2023, but much of this hiring will only offset the number of employees expected to retire or leave the agency. IRS officials tell the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration that they expect a net increase of about 5,000 to 10,000 employees by the end of the fiscal year. The agency hired about 19,000 employees in 2022. That’s about 41% of the total number of applicants who received a tentative job offer. The IRS received more than 565,000 total job applications last year. (IRS sees ‘continued challenge’ hiring above workforce attrition rate in coming years – Federal News Network)
  • The Department of Veterans Affairs is giving vendors their first look at the follow-on to their main IT services contract. The VA is out with its draft solicitation for its Transformation 21 Total Technology Next Generation 2 multiple-award contract. The five-year vehicle has a total value of $60 billion. VA wants vendors to provide services and supported products across 13 functional areas ranging from program management to enterprise network to systems and software engineering. VA made the initial award for the first T21 contract in 2016 and has obligated almost $12 billion since then. Comments on the draft RFP are due by January 20 and VA will host an industry day on February 2.
  • The Department of Veterans Affairs has a new chief diversity officer. Victor LaGroon is the first person to hold the new federal leadership position. In the role, LaGroon will focus on implementing initiatives to help advance diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility at the agency, and will be tasked with ensuring the department’s data on DEIA is transparent. He’ll also be in charge of developing the VA’s DEIA strategic plan.
  • The State Department has agreed to pay more than $37 million to settle longstanding claims of disability discrimination. That is after the department denied or delayed hiring more than 230 people unable to obtain a Worldwide Available medical clearance. As part of the settlement, the department will extend conditional job offers to many of the individuals in the class-action lawsuit. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission will hold a hearing on March 15 to finalize the settlement agreement.
  • Agencies and vendors give the FedRAMP program management office high marks for customer service. The 2022 survey showed an increase of 2% in overall satisfaction with the cloud security program. FedRAMP said 84% of the respondents said they had pleasant interactions with the program office, while 85% agreed or strongly agreed that the initiative promotes the adoption of secure cloud services. The survey also helped the program office determine five areas to improve upon, including better defining roles and responsibilities throughout the authorization process and providing more consistent guidance to all stakeholders.

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