Largest Federal Employee Union Urges Quick Adoption of Workplace Flexibilities
White House memo calls on federal agencies to expand employee access to telework, flexible work schedules
WASHINGTON, June 24, 2014
WASHINGTON, June 24, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The American Federation of Government Employees, the nation's largest federal employee union, today urged federal agencies to quickly expand employee access to telework and other flexible work schedules as laid out in a new White House directive.
President Obama issued the memorandum on Monday in conjunction with a White House Summit on Working Families. The memo clarifies an employee's right to request flexible work schedules without fear of retaliation or adverse actions and requires supervisors to respond to such requests within 20 days.
The memo also instructs agencies to offer flexible work schedules to the maximum extent practicable, including telework, alternate work schedules, part-time employment and job sharing, sick leave, and leave pursuant to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
"Giving employees the opportunity to arrange flexible work schedules so they can be more productive and engaged at work while meeting their obligations at home is the right thing to do," said Augusta Thomas, AFGE's National Vice President for Women's and Fair Practices (WFP). "Whether it's taking time off to care for a new child or working an alternate schedule that allows for days off to run errands and maintain a household, flexible schedules allow employees to balance their work and home lives and improve recruitment and retention for employers."
Thomas attended Monday's White House summit along WFP staff and AFGE Council 216 President Gabrielle Martin, who represents employees at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
EEOC was ranked last among midsized agencies for "work-life balance" in the 2013 Best Places to Work in the Federal Government report, which is based on a survey of federal employees.
Martin said EEOC's poor record is particularly disheartening given the agency's mission of ensuring a discrimination-free workplace and the fact that women compose 63% of EEOC's workforce, Martin said.
"It was so energizing to hear public- and private-sector leaders, including the president, talk about 21st century workplace issues that really make a difference to working families. However, it remains disheartening that EEOC, the federal government's 'model employer,' resists improving work-life balance for its own employees," Martin said.
EEOC has resisted attempts by the union to expand the agency's telework program, even though the agency previously approved adding an extra day of telework every two weeks for bargaining unit employees when negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement.
"EEOC needs to comply and stop its nonsensical battle against adding one day of telework every two weeks. This will be the first expansion in 15 years. Like President Obama said at the summit, 'Twenty-first century families deserve a 21st century workplace.'"
During the summit, First Lady Michelle Obama said the federal government would start leading by example. Martin said EEOC talks a good game about workplace flexibilities but hasn't applied that to its own workforce.
"Telework is good for hiring and retaining talented employees, for the environment, for productivity, for space savings, and for hiring and retaining disabled workers. Enhancing telework helps EEOC meet all of these goals. It is stunning that EEOC wants to limit telework," she said.
The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) is the largest federal employee union, representing 670,000 workers in the federal government and the government of the District of Columbia.