Public Sector Roundup

Federal Employee News  

  • Despite cries of foul after the U.S. Postal Service asked Congress for a way out of a contract negotiated with the American Postal Workers Union just months before, USPS appears to be getting along fine with its other employee unions, agreeing Nov. 20 to extend contract talks with the National Association of Letter Carriers and the National Postal Mail Handlers Union until Dec. 7. The two unions' contracts expired at midnight Nov. 20. Meanwhile, NALC President Fredric Rolando announced Nov. 21 that his union is proposing health care fixes that could save USPS $20 billion--and which include Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe's proposal to remove postal workers from the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program.
  • The failure of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction to reach agreement on cutting the deficit by its Thanksgiving deadline means that federal employees for the time being are relieved from proposals from Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) and from Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) offered to the committee that would have kept them in a longer pay freeze and increased their pension contributions.
  • A federal district court in Washington, D.C., rejected "novel" claims by a Housing and Urban Development Department administrative law judge who claimed that his supervisor was compromising his and other ALJs' judicial independence in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act. The court said he lacked standing because the right to judicial independence belongs to the litigants, not the judges.
  • The Merit Systems Protection Board, in one of few precedential opinions released since the board announced that it would start releasing both precedential and nonprecedential opinions, overturned a federal employee's removal for poor performance, finding that the agency needed to better explain how to achieve a "marginal" performance rating--which is high enough to avoid discharge--as opposed to a "fully successful" rating.

The Week Ahead: The Office of Personnel Management Dec. 1 will hold its annual briefing on weather-related procedures for federal employees in the Washington, D.C., area. Last year, OPM expanded its closure and early release procedures by incorporating the option for federal employees to telework during inclement weather.

State and Local Employee News  

  • Some retired Michigan state employees--as well as private sector retirees in the state--no longer will have tax-free pension income under a new state law that the Michigan Supreme Court ruled constitutional Nov. 18. The law no longer allows personal exemptions and deductions for certain levels of retirement income and for certain individuals born after 1946.
  • Montgomery County, Md., residents will vote in November 2012 on whether county police officers will continue to have the right to bargain over the effects of management decisions. A county law passed in July removed that right but is on hold pending the outcome of the referendum. Fraternal Order of Police Montgomery County Lodge #35 President Marc Zifcak believes that there is no real administrative burden to effects bargaining, and that it is just another attack on collective bargaining rights.
  • Supposed "cronyism and nepotism" within the Boston Fire Department apparently was just that, and not political bias in violation of the First Amendment, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit determined Nov. 22. Personal associations are not the equivalent of political associations, it said, rejecting claims from seven civilian administrative employees.
  • Orange County, Calif., may not be able to make changes to retirees' health benefits after the California Supreme Court ruled that counties in the state may enter implied contracts creating vested rights in such benefits. Having answered the question certified by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, it is now up to the federal appeals court to decide if an implied contract in fact existed.