January 21, 2019: Second Furlough Notice

My employer sent me an email directing me to a website where I could download my second furlough notice (since the first furlough was only for 30 days). I am attached an edited version of it. I don’t know if those from other Government Agencies received similar notices or if they varied by Department.

In the absence of a signed Budget or Continuing Resolution to provide funding to Federal government operations for Fiscal Year 2019, no further financial obligations may be incurred, except performance of activities excepted from furlough. Excepted activities include those for law enforcement, and that protect health and safety; those financed from available funds such as trust funds or carry-over funds; those that protect
life and property, or those that are necessary to begin shutdown of other activities. Employees performing one of the excepted activities defined by law constitute a competitive level for shutdown purposes. Each staff office, mission area and agency is responsible for maintaining a plan that specifies excepted activities and required procedures for the orderly shutdown of their organization, and only employees identified for the orderly suspension of activities will be retained.

On January 16, 2019, the President signed into law the “Government Employee Fair Treatment Act of 2019.” The Act provides that Federal employees who were furloughed or required to work during a lapse in appropriations beginning on or after December 22, 2018, will be compensated for the period of the lapse on the earliest date possible after the lapse ends, regardless of scheduled pay dates.

Because you are not engaged in one of the excepted functions, you will continue being in a furlough status effective January 21, 2019. This furlough, e.g., non-pay or nonwork status, is not expected to exceed 30 additional days. During the furlough, you are not permitted to perform your Government duties as an unpaid volunteer, and you must remain away from your workplace unless and until recalled to duty.

The furlough is a result of the continued sudden emergency requiring curtailment of your agency’s activities. Therefore, the customary 30-calendar day advance notice period and opportunity to answer under the provisions of Title 5, Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Part 752.404(d)(2); and for Senior Executive Service employees under 5 CFR 359.806(a) are suspended.

Use of Government Equipment

Employees in furlough status are prohibited from using any government-issued equipment including computers and telephones. The same prohibition applies to use of any government system, including remotely accessing government e-mail or other automated systems. An exception is provided for access to personal information or documents on the Be Prepared and Employee Personal Page. Please be advised that a non-excepted employee’s use of government-issued equipment during the furlough may subject the employee to penalties that could include disciplinary action, fines and/or incarceration.

Available Information Sources

Employees are expected to use available resources (i.e. personal e-mail accounts, television, phone, radio, newspaper) to stay informed on the status of (agency) funding and subsequent termination of the shutdown. The Office of Operations Be Prepared website at (website) provides employee resources during the shutdown. The web site is being updated regularly. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) website
(www.opm.gov) is also another resource. It is recommended that you check these resources often.

Outside Employment

During the furlough, employees may engage in certain outside employment. However, all employees must ensure that such outside employment does not pose a conflict of interest with their official (Federal Government job) duties, and are required to comply with the ethics regulations governing
engaging in outside employment or activities (5 CFR Parts.2635 and 8301). During the furlough, the requirement for employees to seek advance approval of any outside employment or activity is waived. However, it is important to note that the ethics rules still apply to all employees during a furlough period, so any outside activity or employment must not present a
conflict of interest with your position and duties. Please review the Ethics Q&A and other Ethics resources that have been posted on Be Prepared.

Employee Assistance Program

Please be reminded that it is (Agency)’s policy to offer the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) services to all employees who may be experiencing personal matters or that may be impacting their job performance, conduct, or attendance. In advising you of this counseling service it is not implied that you have such a problem. The EAP provides confidential counseling services for USDA employees at no charge to the employee. EAP services are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Information on contacting EAP services for your agency may be found at the Be Prepared web site.

No personal information regarding your contact with EAP can be obtained by anyone without your written consent, and your participation is not noted in your electronic Official Personnel Folder.

Unemployment Compensation

While on furlough, Federal employees may become eligible for unemployment benefits under the Unemployment Compensation for Federal Employees (UCFE) program. UCFE is paid by the states under the same terms and conditions as regular state UC. Please contact the state of
your last official duty station to file an UCFE claim. To qualify for benefits, you must have earned sufficient wages during the prior 12 – 18 months, as determined under the state UC law. The state will advise you of whether or not you are eligible for benefits. The Be Prepared web site includes additional resources regarding Unemployment Compensation.

Appeal Rights

Depending upon your type of appointment you may be eligible to appeal this action to the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB). Employees who have completed a probationary or trial period or one year of continuous employment in the competitive service, under other than a temporary appointment, may appeal this action to the MSPB. Employees in the excepted service who have veterans’ preference may appeal to MSPB if they have completed one year of current continuous service in the same or similar positions as the one they now hold. Employees in the excepted service who do not have veterans’ preference and who. are not serving a probationary or trial period under an initial appointment pending conversion to the competitive service may appeal to MSPB if they have completed two years of current continuous service in the same or
similar positions in an Executive agency under other than a temporary appointment limited to two years or less. If you have the right of appeal to MSPB and wish to appeal the furlough action, you must file the appeal within 30-calendar days after the effective date of your furlough. MSPB appeal forms, regulations and the address of the MSPB Regional Office having jurisdiction are attached and may also be found at http://www.mspb.gov. Career SES appointees (except reemployed annuitants) who believe requirements of 5 CFR 359, subpart H, or the agency’s procedures have not been correctly applied may also appeal to MSPB. MSPB appeal forms, regulations and the address of the MSPB Regional Office having jurisdiction are attached and may also be found at http://www.mspb.gov.

If you are a member of a bargaining unit and are covered by a Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) that provides for grieving an adverse action, you may be eligible to grieve this action under the negotiated grievance procedure or you may appeal to MSPB, but not both. To obtain information on filing a grievance under the negotiated grievance procedure, please contact your union representative or refer to the CBA.

Point of Contact for Questions

If you have questions not addressed in this notice, please contact your servicing Human Resources Office or e-mail (agencyemail).gov.

We sincerely regret any hardship this action has caused and recognize the impact any furlough has on employees. The Secretary is closely monitoring the budget discussions and is committed to responding to budgetary constraints in a manner that will provide minimal disruption to employees while striving to adequately serve the American people. We are hopeful that the legislation or the appropriations necessary to continue (Agency)’s activities will be enacted soon.

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