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As we begin this year’s Labor Day celebration, I want to take a minute to thank each and every member of our Federal family for your hard work and for the excellent service you provide the American people. One way for us to honor your efforts is to make sure you have the flexibilities you need to help balance your life at work and at home.
From the moment he took office, President Obama has promoted and supported the kind of flexible benefits that will help us recruit, empower and retain a world class Federal workforce. During the historic White House summit on Working Families on June 23, the President signed a memorandum outlining his vision for such a workplace culture.
OPM recently issued guidance to Federal agencies to make sure that we deliver on the President’s vision.
Workplace flexibilities go beyond the traditional annual leave, sick leave and family and medical leave. Working with their supervisors, Federal employees have the right to request alternative work schedules, job-sharing, telework, part-time work and leave transfer programs.
Our memorandum reminds agencies that they “must not create arbitrary and unnecessary barriers” that would keep employees from asking to take advantage of workplace flexibilities. And I will be asking agencies to report to me about what best practices they are using to create a culture and workplace environment that supports the use of these programs. I also want agencies to report any barriers that may unnecessarily restrict the use of these flexibilities so we can work together to remove obstacles.
The bottom line is, I don’t want Federal employees to worry about retaliation when they seek work schedule flexibilities. And we want to make sure agencies have the procedures and policies in place to create a culture that allows employees to feel comfortable making requests.
We talk a lot here about employee morale and how to best create a workplace where employees feel engaged and appreciated. What better way for us to show our appreciation for the incredible work our 2 million-strong, talented workforce does than to be sensitive to the tug employees often feel between their desire to do their jobs and the need to take care of a family situation or emergency.
What’s more, these flexibilities are not just good for employees. I know that if you believe, when a family emergency comes up, that your manager will bend over backwards to accommodate you, you will go the extra mile when a critical situation arises at work.
We are one Federal family. We need to look out for each other, help each other and trust each other to do the best for the American people we serve.
Enjoy your well-deserved Labor Day holiday!
Last May, OPM launched the OPM Alert mobile app that allows users to find out in a moment’s notice if the status of the Federal government in the Washington, DC area changes. The app has been downloaded more than 240,000 times.
Now we are pleased to announce an update that will allow many more Federal employees and military personnel access to it. Those that have been unable to download it due to security restrictions on their work devices now have an appropriate download available through OPM’s website. Users must have a .gov, .mil, or si.edu email address to register and download the mobile app package.
OPM’s dismissal and closure guidance covers any natural disaster or event that disrupts commuting in the Washington, D.C. area. This includes not only snow and ice storms, but earthquakes, tornados, hurricanes or other special events that may occur during the year. Whenever these emergencies unfold, OPM is committed to promoting the continuity of operations and ensuring the safety of its workforce.
The OPM Alert mobile app is a fantastic resource and tool for employees in the DC area to keep up-to-date on status changes. It is customizable based on the alerts you want to receive and features an archive of past announcements. You can download the app through the Apple, Google Play, Windows, and Blackberry App World stores.
One request I get each time I talk with students, teachers, Federal employees and community leaders is: Please make USAJOBS easier to use.
I’ve heard you. OPM wants to make USAJOBS the best possible tool for people searching for a job in the Federal government. And to do that we need your help.
I’m happy to announce that our USAJOBS team is beginning a program to ask people who use USAJOBS to help us identify the issues they encounter when they access the site. Our team is looking for volunteers, and we need your feedback.
We would need about two hours of your time. Here are some of the things we may ask you to do as part of our research:
Getting help from those who use USAJOBS is crucial to our effort to improve it. We want USAJOBS to be easy to navigate. We want it to be the best it can be for you, the job seeker.
Interested in helping? Email email@example.com with your name, state of residence, and preferred email address.
As we head toward Labor Day and the end of summer, I hope all Federal employees will take a few minutes to bring in one last donation for Feds Feed Families, our annual food drive. August 31 is the final day of this important campaign.
I have been overwhelmed by the generosity of our family here at the Office of Personnel Management. But I’m not surprised. Each and every day I see all the hard work OPM employees do to serve the American people. And their willingness to help those among us with the least continues to inspire me.
At OPM we have walked, bowled, held bake sales and set up donation boxes at our headquarters in Washington, D.C., at our offices at Boyers, Pennsylvania, and at field locations throughout the country.
Every morning, I walk by what I like to call our wall of inspiration. On it are pasted copies of big red boxing gloves with the names of OPM employees who have donated 10 or more food items to help the hungry in our community. It makes me happy to see how Team OPM has opened its heart to those in need.
During June and July, OPM employees donated more than 15,000 pounds of food. That’s twice as much as had been given by this time last year, and August is usually our biggest month for contributions. So I think we can beat the 38,778 pounds OPM donated last year.
Employees across government are definitely doing their part. Last year, Federal employees nationwide donated nearly 9 million pounds of food. In June and July, our Federal workforce gave nearly 5 million.
We are all well on our way to besting last year’s totals.
But now is not the time to slack off. Donations to food banks and food pantries historically drop off significantly during the summer. And one in six Americans do not have access to enough food.
So before you go off to your well-deserved Labor Day holiday, please consider bringing in one last donation of food. Spread the word: Let’s do all we can to Knock Out Hunger!
I’m happy to report that OPM today issued its final Phased Retirement regulations. I know that many agencies and Federal employees are eager to take advantage of this new, innovative alternative to traditional retirement.
I think that this new policy, once it is in effect, will meets the needs of employees while allowing managers to continue to tap into the experience, the wisdom and the judgment of our talented Federal workforce. Like any policy, it will come with many questions, so let me try to address some of them today.
Number One: What is it?
Under Phased Retirement, a full-time employee will be able to work part-time and start collecting retirement benefits. Phased retirees must also spend 20 percent of their time mentoring their fellow employees as a way for them to pass on their knowledge and skills to their colleagues. OPM will begin accepting Phased Retirement applications on November 6.
Number Two: Who can participate?
This is not a one-size-fits-all program. Whether you are eligible will depend on which retirement system you belong to and how many years of service you have.
Number Three: What do I do if I want to participate?
If you are interested, the first thing to do is to talk to your manager and /or your Human Resources office to see if this is an option for you. Assuming you are eligible, you can fill out an application. Once your agency approves it, OPM will process it.
Number Four: How are my benefits handled during Phased Retirement?
Phased retirees will still get health benefits under the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) and will still be enrolled in the Federal Employees’ Group Life Insurance (FEGLI) program. You and your agency will continue to pay the same shares of the premiums. But in the case of benefits such as pay and leave, a phased retiree will be treated like a part-time employee.
Number Five: If I am participating in Phased Retirement, what are my options to end Phased Retirement?
You and your agency will decide together how long you want to continue as a phased retiree, the timing of your full retirement and whether you want to ask to return to work full time.
Remember, if you think Phased Retirement is for you, talk to your manager. Many more details about the plan can be found on OPM.gov.
To me, this program is a win-win. Employees can design a smooth transition into the next phase of their lives, and agencies across government can get a head start on succession planning.
So I hope all Federal employees will review the details of this new program. Think about it. Talk with loved ones. And as always, thank you to all of our Federal employees for the work you do for the American people each and every day.
I love delivering good news. Last week, I had the honor of recapping the Administration’s civil rights accomplishments to the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce’s annual meeting in Las Vegas.
The chamber’s annual meeting was sold out. I stopped in to talk to them about what a great week we had just had. It had started with President Obama signing the Executive Order that makes clear that Federal employees and Federal contractors can come to work each and every day without fear of discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
The week ended with the release of OPM’s update of the Title V discrimination regulations. These new rules make it crystal clear that discrimination on the basis of gender identity is a form of sex discrimination and is against the law.
I think about how far we’ve come. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” has been repealed. We ended the legal defense of the Defense of Marriage Act. The Supreme Court ruled in United States vs. Windsor that the Federal government must recognize the legal marriages of same-sex couples. The President signed historic hate crimes legislation into law. The Affordable Care Act has expanded access to health coverage, and in the process we addressed LGBT health care disparities.
But this conversation is about more than policy fixes and court decisions and legislation. What we are witnessing is a sea change in the way the United States of America treats lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans.
This is personal. This year we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1965. What we have done under this President is a defining civil rights accomplishment of this generation.
As director of OPM, I am so proud of the work that our employees do every day to make sure that our LGBT brothers and sisters are not denied access to health, retirement or life insurance benefits or the Family and Medical Leave Act simply because of who they are and who they love.
I know we have more work to do. As the President said in his proclamation declaring June LGBT Pride Month: “We celebrate victories that have affirmed freedom and fairness, and we recommit ourselves to completing the work that remains.”
But we sure have made a great start!
We all think we’re old hands when it comes to sitting in downtown D.C. traffic while a visiting dignitary or presidential motorcade needs to pass.
Take it from me. You haven’t seen anything yet.
Dozens of motorcades will be going through the Federal city on Tuesday and Wednesday as the President hosts the United States-Africa Leaders Summit. This gathering is expected to be the largest event any U.S. President has ever held with the heads of state and government leaders from Africa.
Despite the closed streets, difficulty parking and traffic, the Federal government will remain open for business. I urge you to work with your supervisors and managers to come up with a plan that lets you get the job done with the least amount of hassle.
The good news is that we are prepared. Just like when a harsh winter storm, summer derecho or any other natural disaster hits, OPM has thought through how best to keep the government operating while keeping our Federal workforce family safe.
And one of our strongest tools is telework. Federal employees are teleworking at an all-time high. In the D.C. area, 70 percent of employees are telework eligible.
So I urge you to think about how best to handle this upcoming traffic situation. Whether you drive to work or take public transportation, you should allow extra time if you are coming into the District. You should also consider taking advantage of such flexibilities as Alternative Work Schedule, taking leave or, as I said, teleworking.
One thing I am sure of: Our world class Federal workforce will – as you always do – find a way to make sure we continue to provide excellent service to the American people.
For a full listing of street closures, click here.
For a handy map of impacted areas, click here.
I want to share some good news. OPM has been recognized by the Small Business Administration with a rating of “A+” on its Small Business Scorecard for its success in contracting with small businesses. This is the first year OPM has received an “A+” score.
OPM’s success is due in no small part to the hard work and dedication of the team in our Office of Small & Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU).
Nurturing small business growth has been a major priority for President Obama, and I share the President’s view that small business is “the lifeblood of our economy.” In his time in office, the President has signed 18 tax breaks to bolster business growth and 166,000 small businesses have gotten much-needed loans through community banks, state-run loan programs and the SBA.
OSDBU was created in March 2011 as part of the Small Business Act to ensure that small and disadvantaged businesses have the maximum opportunity to participate in the agency's contracting process. The primary responsibility of OSDBU is to make sure that small businesses are treated fairly and have an opportunity to compete for agency contracts and subcontracts.
In the past, that was not always the case. Up until 2012, OPM had made progress, but fell short of its small-business contracting goals. In 2013, OPM implemented a new, comprehensive small business reform strategy with one critical goal in mind: to increase small business competition and expand the use of small businesses on direct contract awards.
The strategy worked. The key was better accountability. We established clear lines of accountability from senior leadership to the contracting specialists. We defined a strategic and comprehensive strategy. That included taking an aggressive approach to redefining contract requirements to ensure small business could fairly participate. We established “smart contracts,” directed towards small businesses. We also provided OPM’s contracting staff with extensive training in small business and data quality.
OSDBU focused its outreach on organizing conferences, fairs and meetings to help small businesses understand purchasing requirements. It counseled small businesses on what OPM needed from its contractors. OSDBU also met with interested small business owners to discuss various ways to market their services, and how to respond to a “request for proposal and request for information.”
OSDBU has repeatedly stressed the importance of tying performance measures for contracting officers to their success in creating opportunities for small business owners. Most importantly, people were held accountable for meeting OPM’s goals for doing business with small and disadvantaged businesses.
I am very proud of OPM’s A+ on the Small Business Scorecard. But I’m even more proud of all of the hard work OPM employees did to make it happen!
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