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Questions and Answers - teleworking

March 24, 2020 - News from our council meeting with Headquarters Labor Relations From: Harris, Peter J. Date: Tue, Mar 24, 2020 at 5:41 PM Subject: Questions and Answers--teleworking

Government Executive - Social Security Institutes Fulltime Telework for Most Employees

March 20, 2020 - Government Executive Social Security Institutes Fulltime Telework for Most Employees Some workers will temporarily be provided weather and safety leave until the agency can increase its supply of equipment, while others could be recalled for short periods to handle non-portable work.

NPR: Federal Employees Demand More Telework Capacity, As Personnel Management Head Quits

March 18, 2020 - NPR Federal Employees Demand More Telework Capacity, As Personnel Management Head Quits AFGE Council 220 Ralph de Juliis talking about Social Security Administration's ongoing failure to fully roll out telework to all employees despite the call for social distancing and flattening the COVID-19 curve. (Speaker / headphones required) https://www.npr.

The CDC Recommends Americans Stay at Home — Unless They Work for the CDC

March 17, 2020 - Propublica The CDC Recommends Americans Stay at Home — Unless They Work for the CDC https://www.propublica.

Effective March 17, 2020, Social Security Offices Will Only Offer Phone Service

March 16, 2020 - SSA is listening   News ReleaseSOCIAL SECURITY Effective March 17, 2020, Social Security Offices Will Only Offer Phone Service ** Online Services Remain Available ** All local Social Security offices will be closed to the public for in-person service starting Tuesday, March 17, 2020.
Download: Press Release _ Press Office _ Office closures Social Security Administration 20200316.pdf

From: Ralph C de Juliis
Date: Fri, Mar 27, 2020 at 7:28 PM
Subject: What SSA should be doing everywhere: not just Falls Church HQ: Fwd: COVID-19 - Falls Church
To: James Julian
From: |||OHO OBFS <

Sent: Friday, March 27, 2020 3:39 PM
Subject: COVID-19 - Falls Church

All OHO Headquarters employees,

We are kindly sharing information received from DCARO/OAO regarding Falls Church.

Office of Budget, Facilities and Security

From: ^DCARO OAO <>
Sent: Friday, March 27, 2020 4:15 PM
To: #DCARO OAO All Email Users <>
Cc: Landis, Dean <>; Lytle, Joseph <>
Subject: COVID-19 - Falls Church - follow up

In the afternoon of March 26, OAO management was first notified of the positive COVID-19 test for an OAO employee who works on the 11th floor of Skyline Tower.  OAO management promptly consulted with OPE’s Medical Office who noted the expiring 14 day quarantine period advised by the CDC.  Nonetheless, in an abundance of caution, we issued a notification to all OAO employees regarding the situation.

The agency is conducting an enhanced cleaning of the 11th floor and the building’s common areas in compliance with CDC guidelines.

We must preserve the privacy of the affected employee, but we are able to share the following facts associated with this circumstance:

  • The employee’s last day in the office was Saturday, March 14, and they have not returned to the office since that date.
  • When the employee left the office, they were asymptomatic.
  • The employee was tested on Wednesday, March 18 and received the positive test result a week later.
  • The CDC recommends that individuals who potentially may have been in contact with an infected person, self-quarantine for 14 days, which in this circumstance would approximately conclude on March 28.

If you have questions about your risk of exposure or any other health risk, your doctor is the best person to ask.  If you have other questions or if would like to discuss your personal situation, please reach out to your supervisor.

We will continue to update you in the event that we learn of additional information related to COVID-19.  For more information regarding COVID-19, please refer to the SSA Medical Office COVID-19 FAQs and the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) COVID-19 webpages.

From: Harris, Peter J. 
Date: Tue, Mar 24, 2020 at 5:41 PM
Subject: Questions and Answers--teleworking


Ralph and I had a discussion with Jim Julian earlier today, we discussed the following issues:

  1. Emergency Paid Sick Leave.  As part of the COVID-19 stimulus bill, the Senate approved 80 hours of paid sick leave for employees, subject to certain restrictions, read more about it here.

We wanted to know when this would available for the employees.  Jim said they had still not received guidance from OPM but should be receiving it anytime.  As soon as they get guidance they will let the Union know.

  1. Monitors:  The Union has received reports that some managers have not allowed employees to take their monitors home.  The Agency informed us that they are not opposed to employees taking their monitors home.  That the only reason some managers did not allow for it, is because they were just not informed, or not informed correctly.  The issue now is the logistics of providing the monitors to employees who want them.  The Agency is discussing the logistics of this now and will provide further information to AFGE in the next few days.  (I bought my own monitor—a refurbished 17inch—from Amazon for 10.00, I wanted my own monitors).

  1. Cell Phones/Internet/lack of Softphones:  Employees who do not want to use their cell phone until the Softphones arrive (this should be very soon-within 2 weeks) should ask their manager for calling cards.  Likewise, those employees without internet should ask for a hotspot.   Local management has been instructed to provide them on a case by case basis. 

  1. Logs:  Its been reported that at least 2 managers in the country are asking for employees to complete a log of what they do.  This is allowed under Article 41, Section 8 of the contract.   The impression we got from talking to Jim was that some managers have never worked in a telework environment and are undergoing growing pains and dealing with the seeming  loss of control.   The impression was that this practice would fade away when local management realizes that employees are still in fact doing work.   As always, I would handle this using your best judgement, it would probably be best to have a conversation with local management doing this, if you can, to try to talk them down.  If the list is overwhelming complex and beyond pale, a local section 9 grievance should be filed.

  1. Reasonable Accommodation:  Please remember that if a person has a reasonable accommodation, (chair, reader, etc. this transfers to their alternate duty station).

  1. Lunch and Break Schedules:   This is covered by the Contract, Article 10, Appendix A, Section 5: 

G. Lunch and Breaks 

  • To the extent feasible, management will continue existing lunch and break arrangements.  Employees will not normally be required to sign-in/sign-out for breaks.”

If management is forcing employees to somehow sign in and sign out for breaks and lunches, a section 9 grievance should be filed.

Obviously,  going from an Agency that had zero telework to an Agency that is 100% telework is going to present some growing pains.  We will continue to discuss and try to work out issues where we can, and we will pursue litigation where we must.  WE ARE pursuing litigation as a Council and as the General Committee with several others issues on which grievance presentations have are pending or have been made and arbitration pending.

We will continue to have weekly calls with SSA to make sure all our issues are addressed. 

We should all be very proud we were able to make telework for all a reality!  Not only is this what the overwhelming majority of employees have wanted for a very long time, this has also saved lives as employees are no longer in harm’s way.


Pete Harris

Field Offices To Open To Public On Saturdays?

From the Social Security News Blog

I'm hearing that Social Security Commissioner Saul is considering opening his agency's field offices to the public on Saturdays. Nothing is definite yet. This comes on the heels of a recent decision to keep the field offices open Wednesday afternoons.
     I represent claimants before the Social Security Administration. I am extremely concerned about the level of service the agency delivers. If I thought this would help, I'd applaud it. However, I know it's going to have the opposite effect. Field office staff was already stretched almost to the breaking point before the decision to keep the offices open Wednesday afternoons. There is now no time for field office staff to deal with complicated time-consuming tasks because they're on a treadmill dealing with customers who want to be seen. You make the problem worse if you open the field offices on Saturdays. Opening the offices on Saturdays would be great for service if the agency had plenty of staff. With severe staff shortages, it can only hurt service.
     It concerns me that many field office employees are eligible to retire. How will they react to being forced to come in on Saturdays to deal with claimants? My guess is that a significant number will decide to retire. Those experienced employees are the very ones who are most productive. A wave of retirements even if immediately replaced with new employees will mean worse service because the new employees won't be as productive and will make many mistakes.
     It bothers me that the Commissioner seems to know little about what goes on in the field offices and isn't listening to those who do. Please go out of your office, Mr. Saul, and talk with field office personnel. Let them show you what they do all day.


AFGE-SSA in the News

March 20, 2020 - Government Executive

Social Security Institutes Fulltime Telework for Most Employees

March 18, 2020 - NPR

Federal Employees Demand More Telework Capacity, As Personnel Management Head Quits

March 17, 2020 - Propublica

The CDC Recommends Americans Stay at Home — Unless They Work for the CDC

January 30, 2020 - Federal News Network

Liver, licorice and Joe Buck, chihuahuas, cilantro and Gwenyth Paltrow — or teleworking: Name your poison

January 28, 2020 - Baltimore Sun

Social Security Administration announces further changes to telework program

January 27, 2020 - Federal News Network

SSA announces more agencywide telework changes

January 27, 2020 - Government Executive

Social Security Announces More Telework Cuts

January 12, 2020 - Washington Post

As remote work rises at U.S. companies, Trump is calling federal employees back to the office

January 13, 2020 - Baltimore Sun

Trump administration’s approach to telework old school and irrational | COMMENTARY

January 6, 2020 - Baltimore Sun

Op-Ed: Morale low at Social Security Administration amid Trump administration changes

December 18, 2019 - Baltimore Sun

Maryland senators urging Social Security to reinstate telework program

December 9, 2019 - Government Executive

Democratic Senators Urge Social Security to Restore Telework

November 25, 2019 - The Chief

Social Security Ends Its Telecommuting Program

November 22, 2019 - WBALTV11

Employees, union react to Social Security Administration ending telework program

November 22, 2019 - Federal News Network

Bargaining roundup: Trends emerge as unions, agencies grapple with workforce EOs

November 7, 2019 - Government Executive

Social Security’s Justification for Ending Telework Pilot Doesn’t Add Up

October 29, 2019 - Federal News Network

SSA ends telework program for operations employees, citing need to focus on customer service

National Council of Social Security Administration Field Operations
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