Federal Employee News October 2021 - What You Need to Know

Last month, we covered a potential government shutdown and how it could impact federal employees. Today, we want to focus on other updates for federal employees that may have gotten lost or talked over by all the focus on the government shutdown, so you know what to expect from the coming months if you're employed by the federal government.

To schedule a consultation with one of our employment law attorneys for your case, contact us online or via phone at (202) 350-3881.

Federal Employees Soon to Receive Vaccination Guidelines

Back in August, we covered how vaccine mandates will work for federal employees, which you can read here if you're curious. Although our firm isn't offering services for vaccine-related cases, we do want to cover what employees can expect from vaccine mandates.

To that end, the November 22nd, 2021 deadline for federal employees to be "fully vaccinated" is rapidly approaching. That means employees who cannot use an accepted medical or religious exemption must either get their second dose of a two-dose COVID-19 vaccination by November 8th, or receive one dose of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine by that date.

As soon as November 9th, some agencies may begin taking disciplinary action against employees who have not been granted an exemption and still failed to become fully vaccinated. This can include mandatory vaccine counseling, followed by escalating disciplinary measures, including a 14-day suspension and even termination of employment.

Federal employees wondering how agencies will handle the vaccine requirements should keep an eye on Veterans Affairs. The VA already issued a mandate for VHA employees, which has now passed, so they may begin enforcing vaccine requirements sooner than other agencies. Seeing how both the VA and VHA employees deal with the vaccine mandates could help federal employees of other agencies understand what to expect.

Notably, any side-effects experienced as a result of COVID-19 vaccinations will be covered under FECA, as long as the impacted employees submit claims for injury compensation benefits and can detail their side-effects.

The Retirement COLA for January Has Been Defined

Recently, it was announced that former federal employees who retired under CSRS or CSRS Offset will receive a COLA of 5.9%. Federal employees who retired under FERS will receive a COLA of 4.9%. This news, which comes as a potential January 2022 pay raise of 2.7% for active federal employees appears to move ahead without issue, has been lauded by many federal retirees.

On that note, however, many current federal employees have been critical of the fact that COLA adjustments are more than double the raise federal employees are set to receive, especially given the fact that COLA is calculated to offset increased costs of living. Whether congress attempts to address those concerns by announcing another raise in the near future remains to be seen.

Federal Loan Forgiveness Programs Could be Expanded

The Education Department recently announced that it would be changing the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program, expanding it to help federal employees utilize the program to help pay off student debts.

In the announcement, the Department stated that the PSLF had "largely unmet" its goals, and intends to simplify the application process, offer a waiver so employees can count payments across federal and repayment plans toward forgiveness, correct errors that may have led to unjustified denials, and make the program more transparent so more employees can utilize it.

Postal Workers Appear to Be Increasingly Unhappy

A recent inspector general report found that low ratings (one or two out of five stars) outnumbered high ratings (four or five stars) for U.S. Postal Service positions on two major job boards in 2018 and 2019. However, the same report also noted that high ratings outnumbered low ones in 2016, 2017, and 2021.

Ratings for the overall postal service hovered around the same figures in 2016 and 2021, but the report noted that other shipping and logistics companies were experiencing a slower rate of decline than the Postal Service. Additionally, non-career employees have continued to give the Postal Service lower ratings every year, and the report noted that surveys given to Postal Service workers were less likely to receive engagement when compared to other agencies.

The report concluded that around 40% of Postal Service employees could be classified as "unengaged" or "actively disengaged," implying that, at best, many employees are unattached to their work, and just as many may be actively resentful of their workplaces. It will be interesting to see how the Biden Administration tries to tackle this dissatisfaction among Postal Service employees.

Our attorneys can help you navigate your federal employment dispute. Contact us online or via phone at (202) 350-3881 to schedule a consultation with our team.