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Frequently Asked Questions Work Life

Health & Wellness

  • Each department or agency has discretion to excuse employees from their duties without loss of pay or charge to leave.  OPM advises that the granting of excused absence satisfies one or more of the following criteria: (1) the absence is directly related to the department or agency’s mission; (2) the absence is officially sponsored or sanctioned by the head of the department or agency; (3) the absence will clearly enhance the professional development or skills of the employee in his or her current position; or (4) the absence is brief and is determined to be in the interest of the agency. Ultimately, it is the responsibility of each department or agency head to balance support for employees health/wellness activities with the need to ensure that employees work requirements are fulfilled and that agency operations are conducted efficiently and effectively. That being said excused absence for fitness activities can vary agency to agency; therefore, you should discuss this matter with your local HR or Work/Life office for a definitive answer.  To find your agency’s work/life contacts, use the searchable database at: http://apps.opm.gov/CCLContact/index.aspx
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  • Section 7(r) of the FLSA (29 U.S.C. 207(r)) and OPM guidance does not require agencies to compensate employees who are granted reasonable break time for expressing milk. However, many agencies already provide employees with compensated breaks (for example, 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the afternoon) that may be used for any purpose. If an agency already provides such compensated breaks, an employee who uses that break time to express milk must be compensated in the same way that other employees are compensated for break time.
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  • Most Federal agencies have wellness programs and plans in action.  We recommend you contact your agency’s work/life headquarters office, as they may have resources and programs available for you.  To find your agency’s work/life contacts, use the searchable database at: http://apps.opm.gov/CCLContact/index.aspx. For further information about wellness program development, please review our guide at:  http://www.opm.gov/Employment_and_Benefits/WorkLife/OfficialDocuments/HandbooksGuides/EmployeeHandbook/index.asp.
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  • Executive Order 13058, "Protecting Federal Employees and the Public from Exposure to Tobacco Smoke in the Federal Workplace," bans smoking in all Executive Branch facilities, all interior space owned, rented, or leased space by the Executive Branch of the Federal government.  There are certain excepted spaces, which include:
    1. designated smoking areas. However, effective June 19, 2009, designated smoking areas in GSA-controlled buildings will be eliminated.
    2. residential accommodations in buildings owned, leased, rented by the Federal government;
    3. portions of Federally-owned buildings leased, rented, or otherwise provided (in their entirety) to non-federal parties; and
    4. places of employment in the private sector or in other non-federal governmental units that serve as the permanent or intermittent duty station of one or more Federal employees.
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  • In order to be functional, the space must be clean and include a shelf and seat.  However, agencies may provide nursing mothers with a wide array of other amenities, such as an electrical outlet, close proximity to running water, a refrigerator, a hospital-grade breast pump, attachment kits, and other helpful tools.
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  • Beginning in plan year 2011, all FEHB plans must cover four tobacco cessation counseling sessions of at least 30 minutes for at least two quit attempts per year.  This includes proactive telephone counseling, group counseling and individual counseling, and all 7 Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved tobacco cessation medications with a doctor's prescription. These benefits must be provided with no copayments or coinsurance and not subject to deductibles, annual or life time dollar limits. Also, your agency may offer an internal tobacco cessation program for its employees.  You agency’s work/life coordinator(s) will be able to provide you with information on any programs offered.  To find your agency’s work/life contacts, use the searchable database at: http://apps.opm.gov/CCLContact/index.aspx
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  • No. A space temporarily created or converted into a space for expressing milk or made available when needed by the nursing mother is sufficient, provided that the space is shielded from view and free from any intrusion from co-workers and the public. The location provided must be functional as a space for expressing breast milk. If the space is not dedicated to the nursing mother's use, it must be available when needed in order to meet the requirement in the law and OPM guidance. Of course, agencies may choose to create permanent, dedicated space if they determine that is the best way to meet this requirement.
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  • Executive Order 13058, "Protecting Federal Employees and the Public from Exposure to Tobacco Smoke in the Federal Workplace," bans smoking in front of air intake ducts. In the case of locations such as doorways and in courtyards, agency heads shall evaluate the need to restrict smoking in order to protect workers and visitors from environmental tobacco smoke, and may restrict smoking in these areas. In furtherance of EO13058, smoking is banned in courtyards and within 25 feet of doorways on GSA-controlled properties.
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  • Consistent with the requirements of section 7(r) of the FLSA, Federal agencies should provide a reasonable amount of break time and a space to express milk as frequently as needed by the nursing mother, for up to 1 year following the birth of the employee's child. The frequency of breaks needed to express breast milk as well as the duration of each break will likely vary. The space provided by the agency cannot be a bathroom, and it must be shielded from view and free from intrusion by coworkers or the public.
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