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I love getting out of Washington. I’m in Albuquerque, New Mexico this week, where I joined the Society of American Indian Government Employees at its annual training program.
Going to Albuquerque was a bit of a homecoming for me and gave me a chance to talk with Native American Federal employees about my mission to build a 21st Century workforce that looks like America.
For eight years, I had the honor of being a member of the Board of Trustees of the Institute of American Indian Arts. I also was the executive director of the National Hispanic Cultural Center Foundation in Albuquerque. Being an IAIA trustee gave me a deep understanding of the richness of both the history and the culture of the Native American community. It also opened my eyes to the influences Native people have, not just the culture, but the economy of New Mexico and the region.
I told the SAIGE conference that I understand that I cannot successfully recruit from the Native American community without taking into account issues of family and tradition. As a Latina, I share that appreciation of the importance of family and history. So I asked for their help in sharing their experiences as Federal employees with their friends, neighbors and members of your community.
After the conference, I also met with Governor Paul Torres Sr. of the Isleta Pueblo and went to the Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute. I talked with the students there about opportunities in Federal service and about our need for young people with the very skills in science, math, engineering and technology that SIPI focuses on.
Visits like these help give me ideas about recruiting strategies, about where best to target my efforts. As the Administration official responsible for bringing new talent to the Federal government, I am committed to developing a workforce that looks like the people it serves.
Currently, Native Americans comprise 1.7 percent of the Federal workforce and 1.1 percent of the Senior Executive Service. Most Native American Federal employees work for the Department of Interior or the Department of Health and Human Services. We must broaden that participation. We need the talents, the passions, and the contributions of the Native American community at every government agency, at every level of leadership, at every decision table.
Government may not be able to compete with private industry when it comes to money or perks. But where we can compete, and compete nobly, is in making a difference in people’s lives.
Federal employees do that every day. For me, it was attempting to comfort the families of plane crash victims when I was at the Department of Transportation and hearing from low wage workers about how a regulation helped them get a better deal at the workplace while I was at the Department of Labor. And now at OPM, I can help bring more people into the Federal service.
We need people from every community that makes up America, including Native Americans. I know that if we have a workforce that draws from as many cultural backgrounds as possible, we will be able to best serve the American people.
Calling all Federal employees: Have you taken the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey?
The FEVS, which OPM administers, is a powerful management tool that helps your senior leaders and managers drive change at your agency. The data we get from your responses tells us what is working and what we can do better. While taking this survey is voluntary, your responses are crucial to helping us make your workplace the best it can be.
There are a few myths associated with the FEVS. The video above addresses the most common of them. Most importantly, I want to assure you that your responses are kept entirely confidential. Your supervisor will never know how you answered.
Most employees will receive a link inviting them to participate in the survey. But especially in larger agencies, not everyone will. The FEVS is administered to full-time and part-time permanent, non-seasonal employees of departments and large agencies, as well as the small/independent agencies that choose to participate. This year, more than 800,000 employees have been asked to fill out the surveys. So check your inbox. See if there is a link waiting for you.
If you’re not sure if you received an invitation, look for an email from opm.gov. Be sure to only click on your own link, not one forwarded to you by a colleague. They are personalized specifically to you.
I know how hard you work. Despite the challenges we face, we have persevered and continue to get the job done for the American people. That’s why your input is so important. This survey gives you the opportunity to share your opinions, your concerns, and your praise. Tell us what’s working and what’s not. Help your leadership help you. When it comes to understanding what it’s like to work in your agency, you are the expert.
The survey closes this Friday, June 13. Don’t wait. Your response will make the difference.
June is LGBT Pride Month. One of the best ways to celebrate this community is by making sure that its members have the same rights and benefits as the rest of our Federal family.
LGBT Pride Month was created as a way to honor the 1969 Stonewall riots in Manhattan, which were a tipping point in the Gay Liberation Movement in the United States. What began as “Gay Pride Day,” has grown to a month-long series of events around the country. These commemorations also include memorials for members of the community who have been lost to hate crimes and HIV/AIDS.
President Obama has appointed more than 300 openly LGBT professionals to serve in his administration -- more openly LGBT presidential appointees than all previous administrations combined. They include: John Berry, Ambassador to Australia and formerly Director of OPM; Rufus Gifford, Ambassador to Denmark; Fred P. Hochberg, Chairman and President of the Import-Export Bank of the United States; and Kathy Martinez, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Disability Employment Policy at DOL.
The President has also appointed more than a dozen openly gay Federal judges. They include Elaine Kaplan, a judge of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims and a former Acting Director and General Counsel of OPM.
One of my highest priorities as Director of OPM is ensuring the diversity of our Federal workforce and a workplace where every employee feels respected, safe and valued.
OPM has been at the forefront of ensuring benefits the Federal Government offers are as inclusive as possible. In the past several years, we have adjusted policies so that same-sex domestic partners now qualify for many benefits, from using the Family and Medical Leave Act to take care of a partner’s ill son or daughter to getting help from an agency’s Employee Assistance Programs.
We have also amended the regulations that set the definitions related to family member and immediate relative in order to clarify that they cover same-sex and opposite-sex domestic partners. So when an employee with a same-sex partner needs to use sick leave, funeral leave, leave transfer, or the leave bank, he or she has the same benefits as employees with opposite-sex partners.
And following the Supreme Court’s ruling last June that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was unconstitutional, OPM began immediately adjusting policies and regulations to reflect that change. This included extending health care and retirement benefits to employees in same-sex marriages, and clarifying that employees could take FMLA leave to care for same-sex spouses.
OPM will be holding an LGBT Information Webcast on these and many other benefits from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. on June 18. Federal employees and benefits managers will get an overview of benefits since the repeal of Section 3 of DOMA and be able to ask questions of our benefit officers.
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.”
Among the many great honors I have had as Director of the Office of Personnel Management is being able to welcome our country’s newest citizens. I had that pleasure again this past weekend when I spoke to 1,206 new Americans in Oakland, CA.
Looking out at a sea of American flags waving at the historic Paramount Theater, I was filled with awe at these new citizens’ accomplishments and with gratitude that they chose the United States of America as their new home.
These immigrants who came to our shores from 112 different countries are what America is all about: hard work, determination and community. They have followed in the tradition of millions and millions of people who for generations have come here from every corner of the globe to find a better life. In the past decade alone, more than 7 million people have pledged their allegiance to the United States and taken the oath of citizenship.
With July 4th just a little more than a month away, I know that the day on which we all celebrate our nation’s independence will have special meaning for the new citizens I welcomed in Oakland and for the thousands who will take that same oath in similar ceremonies across this great country.
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