Legal Update on Phase Out of Benefits for Same-Sex Domestic Partners, New Beginnings, Other IssuesThe Association is aware that management sent out a number of announcements to the field concerning proposed changes in a number of areas. The Association is working through the bargaining process on these issues. Please allow a few moments to review and explain each of the issues that have been raising concerns among bargaining unit members, and to outline the next steps. The following is in no particular order.
The DoD memorandum on the Phase-Out of Benefits for Civilian Employees Same-Sex Domestic Partners & their Dependents
In regards to the DoD memorandum on the Phase-Out of Benefits for Civilian Employees Same-Sex Domestic Partners & their Dependents, the Association has received a number of concerned messages. In order to understand what the memorandum proposes to change, some background information is required.
In his first term, President Obama sought to provide same-sex couples with the benefits provided to heterosexual married couples. However, when the Department of Defense (DoD) initially began providing benefits to same-sex couples, the U.S. Supreme Court had not yet issued its 2015 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, which held that every state must recognize same-sex marriage. Thus, it was necessary for DoD to create same-sex domestic partnerships to provide benefits to its employees, because it needed a mechanism to provide benefits to same-sex couples who lived in states where the state law prohibited same-sex marriage or did not recognize same-sex marriage performed in another state.
In light of the Obergefell decision, same-sex couples now have the same rights as a heterosexual couple to be married in every state. As a result, DoD made the decision that it is no longer necessary to maintain same-sex domestic partnerships as the reason for its creation no longer exists. Please note that DoD requires heterosexual couples to be married in order to receive these benefits, so DoD's position is that it must treat both same-sex and heterosexual couples equally.
Please note carefully that if you are a DoD employee who is in a same-sex marriage recognized under laws and regulations, you will NOT lose your benefits. The DoD memo outlines the benefits that have been provided under same-sex domestic partnerships and sets forth "phase-out" timelines for when these benefits for same-sex partners will expire UNLESS they get married before the end of that timeline.
The Association has submitted proposals to management, but has not completed bargaining on this issue. We will also be submitting proposals to maximize the protection for our same-sex couples in the unlikely event that the U.S. Supreme Court overturns the Obergefell decision.
The DoD has taken the position that it is required to implement the new Defense Performance Management and Appraisal Program (DPMAP) DoD-wide and that it can implement these changes irrespective of whether there is a negotiated performance appraisal system in place.
The Association does not agree with DoD's position and believes that the existing performance appraisal system in DoDDS (EPAS) should remain in place until bargaining takes place on a new negotiated agreement, which would be the proper time to negotiate a new performance appraisal system.
The Association will discuss the "New Beginnings" initiative with management to find out more information on DoDEA's intentions regarding the performance appraisal system and will determine our course of action based on those discussions.
Federal Employee Background Checks to Include Examining Social Media
The Association has contacted management concerning if background checks will now include investigators checking employee social media postings. In the event that management intends to implement this change, the Association will request that this change be held in abeyance pending the completion of bargaining.
The Holman Rule
As has now been widely reported, The U.S. House of Representatives took action to revive a procedural rule that had been abandoned since the early 1980's called the Holman Rule. The Holman rule would allow a member of Congress to propose an amendment that could target a specific agency, or even an individual employee. However, the revival is currently effective for only one year.
The stated rationale offered when reviving the Holman Rule was that individual members of Congress could use this process to find ways to save the government money and cut spending. However, critics contend that the Holman Rule is really a thinly disguised effort to target agencies and employees by members of Congress.
The Association is well aware of the Holman Rule revival. The Association, through the NEA, will closely monitor any amendments made using the Holman Rule - and if any amendment might affect an NEA member(s) and/or DoDEA, the Association wants to assure members that the NEA will take any and all actions necessary to protect its members, including our DoDEA educators.