Since the COVID-19 Pandemic began last year, tens of millions of Americans have fallen sick with the disease. To help protect its workers and their families, the government has offered several benefits to federal workers who experience difficulties because of COVID-19. If you’re one of the many federal employees with coronavirus, you’ve probably asked yourself, Do I get paid if I have COVID-19? The good news is that there is paid COVID-19 leave for federal workers who had the disease, been quarantined, or had to care for an ill family member. Take a moment to learn more about whether you are eligible for federal COVID-19 leave. Is There Federal COVID-19 Leave? Yes. The latest effort to provide federal employees with leave began in March. At that time, Congress passed the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA). ARPA included a provision that granted federal employees up to 15 weeks of emergency paid leave (EPL) under certain COVID-19-related circumstances. As outlined by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), employees can obtain COVID-19 leave if they meet one of eight qualifying circumstances. Here are several of those circumstances: The employee is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms; The employee is receiving the COVID-19 vaccine or recovering after experiencing side effects from the vaccine; The employee is subject to a federal, state, or local quarantine order that is based on COVID-19; The employee received advice from a doctor or other health care provider to quarantine due to COVID-19; The employee is caring for a family member who is subject to a COVID-19 quarantine order; or The employee is caring for their child because the child’s school or place of care is not open due to COVID-19. To receive the paid sick leave, the employee must be unable to work at their office and unable to work from home because of the qualifying circumstance. Also, federal agencies cannot force any employee to use other forms of paid leave before requesting EPL. Limitations of Federal COVID-19 Leave Under the American Rescue Plan Act Unlike regular paid sick leave, EPL has a monetary cap. An employee will receive 100% of their salary if that salary is less than $1,400 per week. EPL provides no compensation beyond that cap. Therefore, if you normally make $2,000 a week in your federal position, you’ll only receive $1,400 for each week you use EPL. Also, there is a small window of time to use emergency paid leave. Employees can only use EPL between March 11 and September 30. 2021. Finally, the government set aside a limited amount of money—$570 million—to pay for emergency paid leave. If those funds run out before September 30, 2021, then you cannot receive EPL. Who Processes EPL Claims? After you request EPL from your employer, they’ll decide whether or not to accept your request. Assuming they accept your claim, they will forward it to OPM for reimbursement. However, it may take time for OPM to resolve your claim because it processes EPL claims on a first-come, first-served basis. That’s one reason why it’s important to request EPL sooner rather than later. What If I Had COVID-19 in 2020? You cannot request EPL if you had COVID-19 last year. Before passing ARPA, the government offered federal COVID-19 leave under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act. After Congress passed the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act, OPM released clarifying guidance for all federal agencies. According to that guidance, EPSLA gave employees up to 80 hours of paid leave if they were in quarantine, experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, or caring for a family member. EPSLA’s paid sick leave equaled 100% of the employee’s regular pay if the employee was in quarantine or had COVID-19 symptoms. Unlike EPL, EPSLA’s COVID-19 leave did not have a pay cap. So Do I Get Paid If I Have COVID? Yes and no. There isn’t a law that gives COVID-19 payments specifically to federal employees. However, federal employees indirectly receive payments through EPL because it is paid leave. Moreover, any federal employee who made less than a certain amount of money ($75,000 for an individual or $150,000 for a couple) received stimulus checks earlier this year. Is Your Employer Giving You the Federal COVID-19 Leave that You Deserve? Getting COVID-19 can be a devastating experience with long-lasting effects. Because of that, the new federal COVID-19 leave law grants you special rights for COVID-19-related situations. If your employer is denying you emergency paid leave or retaliating against you because of your sick leave request, they may be infringing on your rights. At the Law Office of Aaron D. Wesing, PPLC., we work to help federal employees stand up for their rights. We have many years of experience assisting hundreds of federal employees with a huge range of federal employment problems. If you think your employer is violating your rights, contact us online or call (833) 833-3529 for a free initial consultation today. Don’t wait. Let us help you!Read More
The Law Office of Aaron D. Wersing PLLC
The Lawyers for Federal Employees
Federal employees have unique rights unlike other employees, and many of those rights are governed by specific laws that are unique to federal employees. The Law Office of Aaron D. Wersing PLLC and our team of experienced federal employment lawyers are dedicated to helping federal employees understand and protect their rights.
Just like other employees, federal employees can face an array of challenges. When these challenges require you to file a lawsuit, an administrative complaint, or a claim for benefits, it is important that you have a knowledgeable advocate on your side. The Law Office of Aaron D. Wersing has experience with all types of legal issues affecting federal employees, including disability claims, discrimination and harassment, whistleblower claims, retaliation, wrongful termination, and other adverse employment actions.
If you are a federal employee, the process for protecting your rights is different than for most employees in the private sector. It is important that you have an attorney with specific experience in federal employee law, not just general employment law. Our practice is directly focused specifically on federal employee law.
Enforcing your rights as a federal employee frequently involves navigating various layers of bureaucracy. Additionally, it can often be challenging to determine which agency is responsible for your specific type of claim and what process that agency requires you to comply with.
The Law Office of Aaron D. Wersing has experience working with numerous agencies across the federal government regarding federal employee issues. These issues can include complaints or claims involving:
- The Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB),
- The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
- The Office of Special Counsel (OSC)
- The Federal Employees’ Retirement System (FERS)
- The VA Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection (OAWP)
- The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB)
- The Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA)
When dealing with claims before these agencies, even small mistakes, such as missing filing deadlines, failing to gather adequate supporting documents, or filing a claim with the wrong agency can be costly. Having an experienced federal employee lawyer on your side can make all the difference.
At the Law Office of Aaron D. Wersing, our team of federal employment attorneys is passionate about helping federal employees with any legal issues they may face. If you need help pursuing benefits you are entitled to or protecting your rights against wrongful conduct, contact us today.
How We Can Serve You
Meet Aaron Wersing
Federal Employee Attorney
Aaron Wersing is the founder of the Law Office of Aaron D. Wersing. His practice focuses solely on assisting federal employees in a broad array of litigation and transactional matters. Mr. Wersing’s practice includes the evaluation and resolution of a diverse variety of federal employment matters.
I can’t say enough good things about Mr. Wersing. He was dedicated to my case and because of his dedication he won my case. I was lost without him. I went to many attorney’s and all of them told me they were unable to help me because the government was to hard to fight against, but not Mr. Wersing. He knew his stuff . If your looking for an attorney who treats you like a person and just not like another number, Mr. Wersing is that attorney. He knows his stuff and will fight for your rights. I can never thank him enough.- Sandy | EEOC
Aaron Wersing is at the very top of every attorney I have met or dealt with. He is a patient, pleasant and professional attorney who is mission oriented and dedicated to get the job done. He helped me through a very arduous disability process allowing me to keep my self dignity and respect. I cannot imagine working with any attorney other than Aaron Wersing when applying for Fers Disability or any other employment & labor, employee benefits or workers compensation issues.- Howard M. | FERS Disability
Aaron is not only confident in getting things done, he is very compassionate and caring. He is a true fighter for what he believes is right. My case was a bit complicated but Aaron never backed down. Applying for OPM can be daunting and personal. Aaron has the ability to keep you focused and on track which means he understands how emotional it can be for somebody that has to retire due to medical conditions. Because of Aaron my OPM was approved the first time and we didn't have to do a reconsideration. If you want a good attorney that will fight for you, Aaron is your man. I will be forever thankful.- Tammy | FERS Disability
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Empowering Federal Employees To Know and Exercise Their Rights
Working for the federal government comes with many benefits. As a federal employee, you can enjoy regular working hours, ample health benefits, a generous retirement package, and some protections against being fired or laid off. However, many of these retirement benefits depend on your service computation date (SCD). For that reason, it’s essential to understand what a service computation date is and how to calculate your own service computation date. Once you understand your service computation date, you can plan your retirement date and assess when you will be able to access certain employment perks. What Is a Service Computation Date? A service computation date is a date used by the federal government to determine what benefits you should receive and when you should start receiving them. SCDs are applicable in both the current Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) and its predecessor, the Civil Servant Retirement System (CSRS). That said, there are several different SCDs. A more precise service computation date definition depends on the type of SCD. Below are the four different types of SCDs. Leave Service Computation Date Your leave service computation date relates to your annual leave accrual. All federal employees gather annual leave at a rate of four hours per pay period during their first three years in service. After three years of service, federal employees accrue annual leave at six hours each pay period. After 15 years, the annual leave accrual rate increases again to eight hours per pay period. You can locate your leave service computation date on Block 31 of every standard form 50 (also called “SF-50”) in your personnel file. Retirement Service Computation Date Your federal retirement SCD indicates when you will be eligible for retirement. As with the leave SCD, it is usually the date that you began your first federal appointment. However, the leave SCD and retirement SCD can vary if you served in the military prior to joining the federal service. Military veterans can choose to add their time in the military to their time in the federal service by “buying back” their military time and making that period of service count towards their SCD. To do this, veterans must submit a “deposit” equal to a small percentage of their military base pay when they were on active duty. Thrift Savings Plan Service Computation Date The Thrift Savings Plan is a savings and investment retirement account that constitutes one of the core pillars of FERS. The TSP allows the employee to contribute their own funds towards a retirement account. The government will then match the employee’s contributions up to a certain point. It’s almost like a 401K plan operated by the government. 5 CFR §1603 includes a vesting requirement for the funds contributed by the government. Under this requirement, the government’s contributions to an employee’s TSP only vest after the employee has three years of service. The TSP service computation date represents the date that a TSP participant begins to fulfill the three-year vesting period. Unlike the retirement SCD and leave SCD, the TSP SCD does not include prior military service. Reduction in Force Service Computation Date Although rare, federal agencies occasionally lay off employees through a reduction in force (RIF). The agency determines who to lay off first according to seniority. The earlier your RIF SCD, the lower the chance that your agency will lay you off. Unlike the other SCDs, your RIF SCD can be adjusted by your performance ratings over the previous four-year period. Your appointment type can also affect your RIF SCD. How Can I Calculate My Service Computation Date? Now that we’ve discussed the concept of the various service computation dates, you might be wondering, What is my service computation date? As you might be able to guess by now, the answer depends on which service computation date you are trying to calculate. The leave SCD is easy to obtain because it is listed on your SF-50. However, the other SCDs are harder to calculate because they are affected by factors like prior military service and past performance. For more information on your SCD, you should either contact your human resources office or a federal employment attorney. Are You Considering Whether to Sue Your Federal Employer? Federal agencies are far from perfect. A mistake by your employer could easily affect your service computation date and your access to government employment benefits. If you think that your federal employer has incorrectly calculated your SCD or is wrongly denying you benefits, contact the Law Office of Aaron D. Wersing, PLLC. Over the years, we’ve helped hundreds of federal employees with a wide variety of federal employment problems. We are committed to protecting the rights of federal employees. Don’t hesitate to contact us or call (833) 833-3529 for a free initial consultation today.Read More
Although being a federal employee has many benefits, it carries certain responsibilities as well. One of these obligations is to not use illegal drugs. To ensure that federal employees comply with this restriction, the government sometimes requires them to receive regular drug testing. In other situations, the government requires employees to be drug tested before starting a position. However, there isn’t one clear-cut approach to drug testing. The exact federal employee drug testing policy varies from one position to the next. Because the rules around federal employee drug testing are far from straightforward, it’s critical to learn about drug testing laws to protect your rights. A Brief Background of Federal Drug Testing Laws Prior to the 1970s, drug testing was unheard of in the United States. However, this changed during the Vietnam War. High levels of drug usage amongst American soldiers abroad and throughout the growing counterculture prompted the government to launch a “war on drugs.” In 1986, President Ronald Reagan signed Executive Order (EO) 12564, which mandated that all government employees refrain from using illegal drugs at all times. It also stated that anyone who uses illegal drugs is unsuitable for federal employment. Common Federal Employee Drug Testing Situations Executive order 12564 defined various circumstances where federal employees could receive drug testing. Testing Designated Positions (TDPs) Under executive order 12564, each federal agency had to develop its own federal employee drug testing policy. One part of making an agency-wide drug testing policy is designating certain jobs as “testing designated positions” (TDPs). Any employee occupying a TDP can receive a drug test at any time. Agencies typically test a certain percentage of employees occupying TDPs each month. While the exact policy varies somewhat, federal law requires agencies to test at least 30% of all employees in TDPs every 12 months. Each federal agency is free to designate any position as a TDP. However, the Department of Health & Human Services released guidance in 2010 to help agencies determine which positions should be TDPs. According to the DHHS guidance, some positions are “presumptive” testing designated positions. “Presumptive” TDPs are those that the agency must designate as TDPs unless there is a compelling reason to not do so. Examples of “presumptive” TDPs include: Positions requiring the use, possession, or maintenance of firearms; and Positions involving the use of a motor vehicle, aircraft, or train. The DHHS’s guidance also identified “preferred” TDPs which include: Presidential appointments; Frontline law enforcement positions; Drug rehabilitation positions; and Positions requiring security clearances. If you are in a TDP, know that you may be subjected to a drug test at any time with little or no advance notice. Federal Government Pre-Employment Drug Tests Whether a position is considered a TDP or not, agencies can make passing a drug test a condition of employment. When that happens, agencies can mandate that job candidates receive drug tests prior to beginning employment with the agency. When Can Federal Employees Who Aren’t in a TDP Be Drug Tested? Every federal employee, regardless of whether they’re in a testing designated position, can receive a drug test in two situations after they have begun employment. The first situation is if there is a “reasonable suspicion” that the employee is under the influence of illegal drugs. The agency can base its reasonable suspicion on various signs, including physical symptoms of being under the influence of drugs, abnormal behavior, and an arrest for drug possession or drug trafficking offense. The second situation is if the employee is involved in a work-related or vehicular accident. Can I Get in Trouble for Using a Drug That Is Legal in My State? Yes. This is a common issue with marijuana now that it is legal for recreational or medical use in 36 states and Washington D.C. Even if a drug is legal under your state’s laws, it can still be illegal under federal law. And because federal laws control every federal workplace, you can be disciplined for using any drug that the federal government says is illegal. What Drugs Do Agencies Test for? The most common drug classes that agencies test for are: Marijuana, Cocaine, Opiates (heroin, opium, etc.), Amphetamines Methamphetamines, and PCP. However, agencies can test for any illegal drug. Want to Learn More About How Federal Drug Testing Laws Affect You? Federal drug testing laws and policies aren’t really straightforward. On top of that, federal agencies are far from perfect. If your employer is forcing you to get a drug test without reason, they may be infringing on your rights. At the Law Office of Aaron D. Wesing, PPLC., we work to guarantee that federal employees get the treatment they deserve from their employers. We’ve helped hundreds of current and former federal employees over the years stand up for their rights. So if you think that your federal employer is violating your rights, contact us or call (833) 833-3529 for a free initial consultation today.Read More