U.S. Census Bureau Daily Feature for September 1

U.S. Census Bureau Daily Feature for September 1

WASHINGTON, Sept. 1, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Following is the daily “Profile America” feature from the U.S. Census Bureau:

LABOR DAY

Profile America — Monday, September 1st.  This is Labor Day — a time to honor the nation’s working men and women, and traditionally, the end of the summer season.  The observance has added meaning this year because of the persistently cloudy employment picture.  The first Labor Day was celebrated in September 1882 in New York City.  By 1894, more than half the states were observing the occasion, and noting the first Monday in September as a national holiday became federal law in 1894.  In the U.S., nearly 156 million men and women over the age of 16 are in the labor force, with retail sales being the largest occupational component.  Around 16 million Americans belong to a union, while more than 6 million–or 4.4 percent work–from their homes.  You can find more facts about America’s people, places and economy, from the American Community Survey, at www.census.gov.

Sources:  http://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/facts_for_features_special_editions/cb14-ff18.html

Posted in Labor Day | Leave a comment

The Federal Agencies Most Often Accused of Discrimination

The Federal Agencies Most Often Accused of Discrimination

corgarashu/Shutterstock.com

More than 15,000 federal employees filed discrimination complaints against their agencies in fiscal 2012, a 6.7 percent decrease from the previous year.

Those complaints led to more than 10,000 investigations, according to a recent report from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which were completed in an average of 187 days. The EEOC itself held more than 8,000 hearings in fiscal 2012, a slight decrease from fiscal 2011, though the average hearing processing time jumped to more than one year.

For the second consecutive year, the Government Printing Office held the ignominious title of agency with the highest percentage of its workforce to file discrimination complaints (among agencies with more than 1,000 employees). The EEOC itself was third highest on the list, climbing four spots from its fiscal 2011 rankings. Here are the five agencies with more than 1,000 employees with the highest complaint rates in fiscal 2012:

  1. Government Printing Office: 1.22 percent
  2. Defense Commissary: 0.97 percent
  3. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: 0.96 percent
  4. Labor Department: 0.77 percent
  5. Defense National Capital Region Medical: 0.75 percent

The Labor Department, the highest ranked Cabinet-level agency on the list, was recently labeled one of the worst places to work in federal government.

On the opposite end of the spectrum was the Federal Trade Commission — recently identified as one of the best places to work in government — which received zero discrimination complaints in fiscal 2012. Here are the rankings of the agencies with more than 1,000 employees that received the fewest discrimination complaints as a percentage of their workforces in fiscal 2012:

  1. Federal Trade Commission: 0 percent
  2. John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts: 0.04 percent
  3. Defense National Guard Bureau: 0.04 percent
  4. Defense Media Activity: 0.05 percent
  5. National Archives and Records Administration: 0.09 percent

The governmentwide average complaint rate was 0.5 percent. Agencies were able to resolve slightly more than half of all discrimination concerns before reaching the formal complaint process.

Reprisal or retaliation was the leading basis for employee discrimination complaints, as it has been every year since fiscal 2008. Slightly less than half of complaints fell in that category, while about one in four were charges of racial discrimination against African-Americans. Overall charges of racial discrimination made up 38 percent of total complaints, equal to the percent in fiscal 2011. Non-sexual harassment, promotions and the terms and conditions of employment ranked as the top means by which employees felt discriminated against. This chart shows the total complaints in fiscal 2012 broken down by the top three bases for the complaint:

Between agency-employee settlements and EEOC findings of discrimination, agencies doled out a total of $51.4 million in monetary benefits in fiscal 2012, based on formal discrimination complaints. The sum marks an 18 percent increase from the previous year, and an average payout of $12,000. About 27 percent of complainants received monetary benefits as a result of their complaints.

Agencies were forced to pay out an additional $10.9 million to employees upon appeals in fiscal 2012, a 19 percent increase from the previous year. They also paid out $3.4 million in settlements before an employee even reached the complaint phase. The average pre-complaint settlement was $4,652 in fiscal 2012, which has consistently decreased since fiscal 2008.

(Image via corgarashu/Shutterstock.com)

Posted in Discrimination | Leave a comment

Obama Issues Plan to Give Feds a 1 Percent Pay Raise

Obama Issues Plan to Give Feds a 1 Percent Pay Raise

 
Abel Tumik/Shutterstock.com

President Obama issued an alternative pay plan late Friday, setting an across-the-board increase for civilian federal employees of 1 percent in 2015.

The figure matches the amount the president requested in his fiscal 2015 budget proposal. Obama issued a separate plan providing a 1 percent boost in monthly basic pay rates for military service members. 

Obama alluded to a desire to give feds a larger raise, but said he was not at liberty to do so due to budgetary concerns.

“Civilian Federal employees have already made significant sacrifices as a result of a three-year pay freeze that ended in January 2014 with the implementation of a 1.0 percent pay increase — an amount lower than the private sector pay increases and statutory formula for adjustments to the base General Schedule. However, as the country’s economic recovery continues, we must maintain efforts to keep our Nation on a sustainable fiscal course. This is an effort that continues to require tough choices and each of us to do our fair share.”

Under Obama’s plan, locality pay levels would remain at their 2014 levels. Locality pay has been frozen since 2010.

Obama declared that his pay proposal “will not materially affect the federal government’s ability to attract and retain a well-qualified federal workforce.”

Federal labor unions had supported measures in both the House and Senate that would have given feds a 3.3 percent raise, though those measure have not yet received a vote in either house.

If the president had not informed Congress of his alternative pay plan for feds by the end of August, then the increase mandated by the 1990 Federal Employees Pay Comparability Act would have kicked in. Under FEPCA, the raise would be determined by the change in the Employment Cost Index minus 0.5 percent. 

Presidents largely have ignored the FEPCA formula in their federal pay raise proposals, preferring to offer their own figure. Congress created FEPCA, which provides an annual across-the-board salary boost and a locality pay adjustment for General Schedule employees, to close the public and private sector pay gap. The Federal Salary Council has said that federal employees are underpaid relative to private sector workers by approximately 34.6 percent.

The reality, however, is that Congress will end up determining whether federal employees receive a pay raise next year.

So far, lawmakers have remained mum on the issue of a federal employee pay raise. The House has passed a bill that would allow a 1 percent raise to go into effect. Unless Congress proactively alters the proposal, Obama’s 1 percent recommendation will become law. 

(Image via Abel Tumik/Shutterstock.com)

Posted in Pay Raise | Leave a comment

Phased Retirement: Case Studies

Retirement Planning
Advice on how to prepare for life after government.
 

Phased Retirement: Case Studies

Juriah Mosin/Shutterstock.com

With all the news lately about the upcoming phased retirement option for federal employees, many people are considering whether it makes sense for them. To help clarify the issues at stake, let’s look at a couple of case studies, one for an employee under the Federal Employees Retirement System and another for someone covered by the Civil Service Retirement System.

FERS

Let’s say Jim is 66 and still loving his federal job. He has 30 years of service and a high-three average salary of $100,000. His retirement would be computed as 1.1 percent of $100,000, or $33,000 per year (before any reductions for survivor benefits). He would love an extra day or two a week to play golf. Under phased retirement, he can collect half of his salary ($50,000) and half of his FERS retirement ($16,500).

Here are some factors Jim should consider as he weighs phased retirement:

Social Security: Because Jim is over the full retirement age for Social Security and is no longer subject to the earnings limit, he could begin to draw benefits (let’s say $20,000 a year). That brings his total phased retirement income to $86,500. But he also could choose to delay his application for Social Security until he turns 70, when it would increase by 32 percent, to $26,400 (or more, since he would be adding additional income to his lifetime average earnings).

Medicare: Jim may choose to delay Medicare Part B enrollment without a penalty, because he’s still working and health insurance payments are still being deducted from his salary. The Medicare Part B premium is $104.90 per month (or more depending on total income), so Jim would be saving at least $1,258.80 a year by not enrolling in Part B. If Jim’s wife also is 65 and covered under Jim’s federal health insurance, she can also delay Part B enrollment without a penalty until Jim fully retirees. (By the way, Jim could have enrolled in Medicare Part A — hospital insurance — at 65 since there is no premium for it.)

Survivor Benefits: This option is delayed during phased retirement. Eventually, to provide a survivor’s annuity for his wife, Jim would need to take a 10 percent reduction to his FERS annuity. This would provide 50 percent of his unreduced FERS benefit to his wife in the event he dies before her. But the $3,300 (10 percent of $33,000) reduction to his retirement will be delayed until he enters full retirement. If Jim should die during phased retirement, his wife would be entitled to the basic FERS death benefit — in this case, a lump sum payment of about $32,000, plus half his final salary. She also would be entitled to receive the full survivor annuity of 50 percent of his FERS retirement, which would be computed on Jim’s full retirement, crediting the phased retirement period as part-time service. The survivor annuity is paid if the employee had a minimum of 10 years of federal service at the time of death.

Thrift Savings Plan: Jim is able to continue to contribute $23,000 per year to his TSP account if he wants to, and will continue to receive matching agency contributions of $2,500 based on his salary. Of course, if he continued to work full-time, his matching would be $5,000. The other thing he could do is take advantage of the age-based in-service withdrawal option, transferring a portion of his TSP to an IRA and then taking withdrawals from the IRA.

Income During Phased Retirement: If Jim applies for his Social Security retirement benefit he would receive more money during phased retirement than he would if he fully retired. His income during phased retirement would be $86,500. But if he fully retired, his income would be $53,000 ($33,000 in a FERS benefit plus $20,000 in Social Security). And if Jim provides survivor benefits for his wife, his retirement benefit would be reduced to $29,700.

Final Payment: If Jim works in phased retirement for four years, he will earn another 4.4 percent of his high-three average salary ($100,000 x 4.4 percent = $4,400 / 2 = $2,200 per year). In addition, if his salary increased during this time, he would benefit from a new high-three average for the phased retirement portion of his retirement benefit. He also would have received annual cost of living adjustments on his phased retirement annuity. His total retirement income would be his FERS retirement benefit computed at approximately $35,200, plus any COLAs received during phased retirement and pay raises that might have affected his high-three, plus Social Security retirement (for Jim and his spouse), plus TSP monthly payments (if necessary for additional monthly income or to meet IRS rules for required minimum distributions).

CSRS

Let’s say Sarah is 56, still loves her federal job, and has 35 years of service with a high-three average salary of $65,000. Her retirement would be computed as 66.25 percent of $65,000, or $43,062 per year (before any reductions for survivor benefits). She would love an extra day or two a week to spend with her new granddaughter and begin to pursue interests that she can develop for her years of full retirement.

Under phased retirement, Sarah can collect half of her salary ($32,500) and half of her CSRS retirement benefit ($21,531). So her total income would be $54,031.

Here are some factors Sarah should consider:

Survivor Benefits: This option is delayed during phased retirement. Eventually, Sarah can take a little less than a 10 percent reduction to her CSRS annuity to provide 55 percent of her unreduced CSRS benefit to her husband in the event she dies before him. But this $4,036 reduction to her retirement for survivor benefits is delayed until she enters full retirement. If Sarah should die during phased retirement, her husband would be entitled to receive the full survivor annuity of 55 percent of her CSRS retirement, which would be computed on Sarah’s full retirement (with the retirement period credited as part-time service).

Thrift Savings Plan: Sarah is able to continue to contribute up to $23,000 a year (the $17,500 normal elective deferral limit, plus $5,500 in catch-up contributions for participants who are 50 or older) to her TSP account.

Other Reductions: If Sarah owes a deposit for pre-Oct. 1, 1982 “nondeduction” service (temporary federal service that was not covered by CSRS), her retirement would be reduced by 10 percent of the unpaid deposit at the time she enters phased retirement. She would have the option of paying the amount due before entering phased retirement to avoid this reduction. If Sarah owes a redeposit of a refund of retirement contributions for service that ended before March 1, 1991, her retirement would be reduced when she entered phased retirement. The amount of the actuarial reduction for an unpaid redeposit will be updated when she enters full retirement. If Sarah wants to repay some or all of her redeposit, she would have to decide this before entering phased retirement.

Final Payment: If Sarah works in phased retirement for four years, she will earn another 8 percent of her high-three average salary ($65,000 x 8 percent = $5,200 / 2 = $2,600 a year). In addition, if her salary increased during this time, she would benefit from a new high-three average for the phased retirement portion of her retirement benefit. She also would have received annual cost of living adjustments on her phased retirement annuity.

(Image via Juriah Mosin /Shutterstock.com)

Tammy Flanagan is the senior benefits director for the National Institute of Transition Planning Inc., which conducts federal retirement planning workshops and seminars. She has spent 25 years helping federal employees take charge of their retirement by understanding their benefits.

For more retirement planning help, tune in to “For Your Benefit,” presented by the National Institute of Transition Planning Inc. live on Federal News Radio on Mondays at 10 a.m. ET on WFED AM 1500 in the Washington-metro area. Archived shows are available on NITPInc.com.

Posted in Retirement | Leave a comment

GOP douses shutdown threats

GOP douses shutdown threats

 
Getty Images

Another government shutdown isn’t going to happen next month — at least if you ask Republican leaders.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who’s facing a tough reelection challenge this fall, said turning the lights out in Washington is a “failed policy.” 

“Remember me? I am the guy that gets us out of shutdowns,” he quipped to CNN.

And Speaker John Boehner and his leadership team are ruling out a repeat of last October when Texas Sen. Ted Cruz led a conservative rebellion and forced the government to close for two weeks in a bid to defund Obamacare.

That proved to be a political disaster for congressional Republicans, who this fall want to avoid a massive midterm distraction as they try to take back control of the Senate and expand their majority in the House.

“We’re not going to shoot ourselves in the foot and jeopardize our chances of winning the Senate and gaining more seats in the House,” a senior GOP aide said Thursday. The shutdown chatter from some conservatives “clearly isn’t helpful, but I’m not anticipating there will be a groundswell of similar sentiment from a large chunk of our conference.”

Funding to keep the government open runs out on Sept. 30. And conservative Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) warned this week that “all bets are off” on passing a stopgap funding bill if Obama unilaterally takes action to make it easier for millions of undocumented immigrants to remain in the U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), a prospective 2016 presidential hopeful who stood with Cruz, said he also expects Republicans will try to attach a rider to the temporary spending bill to combat Obama’s executive action.

The White House has indicated that Obama will make an announcement by the end of the summer. Immigration reform advocates have pushed Obama to turn to executive action in the absence of a comprehensive overhaul.

“In our view, the president really doesn’t have a choice but to act and to do what he can within his legal authority,” said Janet Murguia, president of the National Council of La Raza.

Even some staunch conservatives say that attaching an immigration-related rider to a stopgap spending bill and potentially threatening a government shutdown would backfire.

“I would love to attach a rider to our funding bill that reverses Barack Obama’s lawless actions on any number of fronts, but only if the Senate and the White House agreed to it. And they won’t, so it’s a futile strategy,” said Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.), a vocal opponent of comprehensive immigration reform.

Brooks said it was more important for Republicans to make sure they perform well in the November elections.

“I very much appreciate Steve King’s desire to make Barack Obama obey the law. But ultimately, the only way to hold a lawless president accountable is for voters to change the Senate and ultimately change the White House,” the Alabama Republican said in an interview. “I’m going to do everything in my power to prevent a government shutdown, regardless of whether Barack Obama violates yet another law.”

Matt Salmon, another conservative Republican who hails from the border state of Arizona, said most of the shutdown and impeachment talk is coming from Obama himself “because his numbers are in the toilet.”

“I don’t believe either of those things are in the cards,” Salmon told The Hill on Thursday. “He hopes and prays one of those things happen because they are the only thing that will revive his numbers and his party’s numbers.”

Still, King and Cruz have demonstrated they can get what they want on the immigration issue. Last month, King helped engineer a revamped bill providing funds to address the surge of child migrants crossing the border that won enough support from the House GOP conference. The revised plan allotted extra funds for the National Guard and allowed a separate vote to limit the 2012 Deferred Action for Child Arrivals (DACA) program. 

Before King and allies like Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) became involved, House Republicans were unable to pass a border funding bill on their own.

Bachmann, who cheered last year’s shutdown, conceded that there’s no consensus among Republicans on how to respond to Obama’s expected executive action on immigration. But she warned “nothing’s off the table at this point.”

“There will be a sharp pushback. … It is an absolute falsehood by the president to try to pretend he was forced to do this,” Bachmann said in a phone interview on Thursday.

“I would call on the president to refrain from doing this,” she added. “We don’t want to see a disruption in service to anyone. We don’t want to see a disruption in service for veterans, for seniors.”

Democrats are almost gleeful at the possibility of another shutdown showdown, talking on cable TV and blasting out press releases about how Republicans once again want to shutter the government. 

“Shutdowns that cost our economy billions of dollars benefit no one,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) wrote in a fundraising email to supporters on Thursday. “These extreme Tea Party members would rather shut down the government than work with Democrats to get things done.”

But the renewed shutdown chatter is creating big headaches for GOP leaders, particularly McConnell, who is locked in a tight race with Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, Kentucky’s secretary of state.

If he becomes majority leader, McConnell recently said he would push to attach riders on spending bills to curb Obama’s policies on health care, environment and other matters, which Democrats seized on as evidence a GOP Senate would create another standoff. But pressed whether he supported shutting down the government either this year or in the new Congress, McConnell replied: “Of course not.”

“I’m the guy that’s gotten us out of shutdowns that some of our members have pushed us into in the past. That’s a failed policy,” hetold CNN’s Dana Bash. “It does not mean you should send the president a total blank check with no restrictions at all on how the money is spent.”

 

Posted in Shutdown | Leave a comment