Inspector General Investigating Time & Attendance

NTEU learned today of a broad time and attendance investigation by the Inspector General's Office. We have confirmed that they are investigating employees in the Office of Transportation and Air Quality, but it appears from the scope of their employee questioning that they may be investigating beyond OTAQ.

Given this broad investigation, it's essential to keep in mind several important items....

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What to Do When You've Been Wronged at EPA

The agency and its employees, through its unions, agreed on procedures to challenge actions that we don't think are fair, appropriate, or accurate. We call that process a "grievance," and it's detailed in the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), Article 34.

EPA guarantees that a grievance filed by an employee "does not affect the employee's standing with the Agency." Employees are assured by EPA that they will be free from "restraint, interference, coercion, discrimination, intimidation or reprisal" for filing a grievance or participating in the grievance process. See CBA, Article 3, Section 3.

Prior to filing a grievance, we typically try to reach out to your manager to discuss the matter, with your permission, of course. We find that we can sometimes resolve the issue informally prior to resorting to the formal grievance process.  But where our informal contact bears no fruit, where you're uncomfortable with us reaching out informally to your manager, or where it is strategically disadvantageous to do so, we then move to a formal grievance.

Process
The grievance process is established to resolve issues at the lowest level possible. To accomplish this, the agency and NTEU agreed on a three-step process....

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Just Because You're Paranoid...

Bruce Schneier's  webpage .

Bruce Schneier's webpage.

....doesn't mean people aren't out to get you.

This week, noted security expert Bruce Schneier mentioned in his Crypto-Gram newsletter an interesting hack of a computer monitor. He notes:

A group of researchers has found a way to hack directly into the tiny computer that controls your monitor without getting into your actual computer, and both see the pixels displayed on the monitor -- effectively spying on you -- and also manipulate the pixels to display different images.

Mr. Schneier's note reminds us of an important point. When you're using your government computer, the agency can and does actively spy on its employees. They can view the websites you visit, passwords you type on your keyboard, and even activate the camera and microphone on your computer.

All this is a way of saying that you should avoid doing personal web surfing on your government equipment. While EPA has a limited personal use policy that allows some use of the government computer for non-government purposes, it always easier not having to explain to your boss why you are visiting 75 pages a day on the Washington Post website. Our recommendation is do your surfing on your personal phone.

Political Activities as a Fed: The Hatch Act

It's all politics all the time lately in the media. As a fed, we have some restrictions on what we can and cannot do at work and at home when it comes to political activity. We want to keep you out of hot water, particularly since the Hatch Act's only authorized penalty is removal from your job as a fed.

According to the Washington Post, "there have been 88 complaints of Hatch Act violations" since October 1, 2015. Five of those resulted in disciplinary actions and six more in informal settlements with penalties ranging from three to fourteen days suspension.

And while high-placed political appointees get a pass with no punishment for clear violations, the little guy gets hammered. And since we're all little guys (you too ladies), we need to watch out. Below is a quick question-and-answer list put out by the EPA Office of General Counsel on what you can and cannot do....

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New Smart Card Readers Make You Late?

Today the agency notified employees by email that new smart card readers (EPASS readers) will be installed soon, starting with the William Jefferson Clinton West building. The email notes that "some employees may experience a problem in gaining access to work space after the transition occurs."

Obviously, not being able to get into your secure office space can make you late, and that can upset your manager. If your manager comes down on you for being late when your badge fails to work, please immediately contact one of the union officers, below...

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