Coronavirus Information

POPA Updates on Coronavirus Actions 

(Updates listed in chronological order.)

 

3/25/2020

Update from POPA President, Kathleen Duda

Alexandria Office closure

As of 3/26/20, all Alexandria office buildings will be closed to all except mission-critical employees. Those employees have been informed that they are mission critical. You can't ask to be made mission critical. Mandatory telework is in effect and only mission critical employees will be able to enter the buildings. Employees have asked us if they will be enter the buildings at a later time to retrieve something from their office, to print out additional papers, ect. The Agency has told us that the answer is no.

POPA office hours suspended 

POPA will not be holding office hours during the closure of the Alexandria office buildings. Please send a detailed email to popahelp@popa.org regarding your issue(s) for which you need assistance. 

Families First Coronavirus Response Act

POPA has received many requests for information on the Families First Coronavirus Response Act passed by Congress and signed by the President which provides paid sick leave for those who need to be diagnosed, have or are quarantined for coronavirus; for those caring for a family member impacted by the coronavirus and parents with childcare issues due to school closures. The bill was signed into law on March 18, 2020 and is not in effect until April 2, 2020. POPA has asked OHR about the provisions and has been told the agency is awaiting OPM guidance. 

Administrative Leave or other compensation

Mary people have been asking about administrative leave or compensation for issues with teleworking without full equipment, not having internet access (or insufficient internet connection) and childcare issues due to school closures, among others. Management has refused to offer any blanket compensation or paid leave (such as administrative leave) for these issues. Requests for compensation including administrative leave must be made individually and will be decided on a case-by-case basis. Management has also directed us to use our own accrued leave or leave without pay for these issues. POPA requests that you email us at popahelp@popa.org with any leave or compensation you have had approved or denied so we can look at further action. 

Leave Without Pay (LWOP)

LWOP is supposed to be approved liberally during the coronavirus even though it has been referred to as "Discretionary Leave Without Pay" in some guidance. POPA's understanding is that you will not be required to use all of your accrued leave before being approved for LWOP but if you have a large amount of annual leave you would need to use some of that before being approved for LWOP. There are effects of taking LWOP that you should be aware of. Please see OPM guidance on LWOP for more information. 

Computer Outage Downtime

Please remember to consult the "Guidelines for Computer Outage Downtime" and request time as appropriate. POPA has posted these guidelines on our website under "Coronavirus Information" section, POPA News Feed, and in "Automation" under Topics

Employee-owned printers and monitors 

Andy Faile has sent out guidance on using employee-owned printers and monitors with you UL. We are expecting more guidance on other issues to be coming out as it is approved for dissemination. 

SOHO routers for ad hoc, PTP-10 and PTP-20 Teleworkers

Ad hoc, PTP-10 and PTP-20 teleworkers should have received an email this week about small office home office (SOHO) routers. The SOHO routers will be shipped to ad hoc, PTP-10 and PTP-20 teleworkers who do not have them. It will be shipped to your alternate work site. Please follow the directions in the email and with the following information to PatentTeleworkQuestions@uspto.gov: the correct address for shipping of the equipment and a contact phone number. The SOHO router significantly improves the connectivity experience for teleworking. Docking stations, keyboards, mice, headsets, laptop power supply, and associated connecting cords may be removed from you Alexandria office by 3-25-2020. The buildings will be closed as of 3-26-2020.

On-going Discussions 

POPA understands that this is a difficult time for employees and we are advocating for you with management. A number of changes and flexibilities have been implemented as a result of on-going discussions with management. We encourage you to send your personal situations to upper management so they are aware of some of the hardships employees are facing. 

Employee Assistance Program

Please remember that Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is available for you as well as local services in your area. 

Additional Information

POPA has run across a couple of articles that some employees might find helpful (or not) on stress and the new environment we are in. These are meant to be helpful. Please ignore if they will add to the stress.

"Telework: Keeping Your Sanity in the New Normal"

"Telework: Seven Ways to Improve Teleworking"

 

 

3/25/2020 Update from Laura Peter

As a reminder, the USPTO is operating under mandatory telework effective Monday, March 23, 2020. The Department announced this change to protect employee health and safety and to stop the spread of this virus. 

The ONLY employees who will be allowed into the USPTO facilities are those who have been notified that it is mission critical for them to be present on campus for work. Please contact your supervisor if you have any questions. 

For more information on coronavirus please visit: coronavirus.gov

Routine Alexandria Campus Access through Wednesday, March 25, 2020

As a follow-up to Q1 we have extended the time to briefly pick up your laptop, work papers, and any personal items in your office through Wednesday, March 25, 2020.  You may also take your keyboard, mouse, docking station, headset, power cords, and/or camera with you for teleworking.  After Wednesday, you may not come in to the office unless you are instructed to do so or receive permissionAfter Wednesday, you must contact the COVID-19 questions mailbox to request permission to enter the buildings for picking up equipment or essential personal items. 

 

Mandated Telework Q&As 

From Andy Faile: 3/24/20

Q1: Can I come into the office on Monday (3/23) and retrieve my laptop, work papers, or personal items? If I cannot come in on Monday, is there another day next week I can come in?

A1: Yes, you may come into the office and retrieve your laptop on Monday. The guards will let you in for a limited time to do this. You should retrieve your laptop, work papers, or personal items and then exit the building as soon as practicable. Please make every reasonable effort to access the building on Monday. For building access after Monday to retrieve your items, contact your supervisor for further instructions. 

As a follow-up to Q1 we have extended the time to briefly pick up your laptop, work papers, and any personal items in your office through Wednesday, March 25, 2020.  You may also take your keyboard, mouse, docking station, headset, power cords, and/or camera with you for teleworking.  After Wednesday, you may not come in to the office unless you are instructed to do so or receive permission.  After Wednesday, you must contact the COVID-19 questions mailbox to request permission to enter the buildings for picking up equipment or essential personal items. 

Q2: I left my laptop in the office but I am sick or under quarentine. What should I do?

A2: Please contact your supervisor. Your supervisor will make arrangements to get your laptop to you. 

Q3: I recently signed the situational ad hoc telework agreement but don't have internet access yet. What do I do?

A3: You should attempt to procure internet service. If internet service is not available, please see your supervisor for further instructions. 

Q4: I took the mandatory situational ad hoc telework training, but did not sign the telework agreement. Should I sign it now?

A4: Yes, you should sign it now, but under the guidance in the DOC Broadcast message of March 21, 2020 you are required to telework, and are subject to the situational ad hoc agreement whether you have signed it or not.

Q5: The DOC broadcast of March 21, 2020 states that all-telework eligible Department employees are required to telework until further notice. If I did not sign the situatuational telework agreement and still don't want to sign it, do I have to telework?

A5: Per the DOC Broadcast message of MArch 21, 2020, all telework-eligible USPTO employees are required to telework. You are considered telework-eligible whether of not you have signed the situational telework agreement. The only employees not on telework are employees that are "mission critical" and necessary to work in the office. If you are not teleworking, you may use annual leave, accrued compensatory time, or accrued credit hours in accordance with current practice. Please see your supervisor for further questions. 

 

3/24/20 

Guidance for requesting reasonable Other Time.  This may prove useful during mandatory telework.  Guidelines for Computer Outage Downtime

3/24/20 

Due to the mandatory telework enacted by the Department of Commerce, office hours are suspended until further notice. Please direct all questions and concerns to popahelp@popa.org. Thank you.

 

Hardware Update - Personal Printers

3/23/20 From Andy Faile

This email is being sent to all Directors, SPEs, and teleworking employees on the situational (ad hoc) work agreement, PTP10, PTP20, and PTP32 in the Technology Centers.

As referenced in the email below, the USPTO Rules of the Road prohibits connecting personally owned hardware to any government furnished equipment. Due to the expansion of telework, the prohibition for connecting a personal printer has been waived until further notice

Below is a list of USPTO printers that are compatible with the printer drivers on your laptop. If you have a personal printer not listed below that you would like to connect to your docking station or laptop, please contact the OCIO Service Desk (2-9000) for assistance.  However, the use of a Wi-Fi printer connection is not permitted.

 

HP Color LaserJet Pro 400 M451dn

HP ColorJet Pro M454dn

HP LaserJet Pro 400 M401dne

HP LaserJet Pro 400 MFP M425dn

HP LaserJet Pro M402dn

HP LaserJet Pro M404dn

HP LaserJet Pro MFP M426fdn

HP LaserJet Pro MFP M428DN

HP OfficeJet Pro 9010

 

The printers listed above can be directly connected to your laptop or to your docking station using a USB cable (see below). 

 

For teleworkers on the situational (ad hoc) telework agreement, PTP10, and PTP20 telework programs, until further notice, you may connect a personal printer, from the list above, directly to your laptop if you do not have a docking station; if you have a docking station, you must connect the printer through your docking station.

For teleworkers on the PTP32 telework program, until further notice, you may connect a personal printer, from the list above, to your docking station.

A quick reference guide (QRG) for connecting a personal printer can be found here

Additional telework reference and training materials can be found on the Patents Telework Resources page

If you have questions, please contact your telework coordinator. A listing of Patent Telework Coordinators can be found here.

 

POPA Update on the Coronavirus Response

3/21/20 DOC Broadcast:

In light of new developments in the COVID-19 outbreak, the Department is implementing mandatory telework for employees. This decision aligns with evolving guidance from federal, state, and local health authorities.

Mandatory Telework

Effective Monday, March 23 at 12:01 AM EST, all telework-eligible Department employees are required to telework until further notice. Only mission critical employees may enter their normal worksite and only if necessary. Employee-specific questions should be directed to supervisors.

This move to mandatory telework is a necessary precaution to further protect employee health and safety.

The Department of Commerce is open for business and continues to serve the public and execute upon its important missions during this period of mandatory telework.

Monitoring COVID-19 Cases

Department and Bureau leaders are tracking known COVID-19 cases that impact Department employees across the country. This includes positive COVID-19 test results received by Department employees and contractors as well as by employees of other agencies in shared buildings.

When management learns of a new COVID-19 case with potential impact, management works with the Bureaus to ensure all relevant employees are notified as soon as possible and that impacted offices and common areas receive the professional deep cleaning recommended by CDC guidelines.

Update to HCHB

Yesterday, the Department received confirmation that a second employee based at the Herbert C. Hoover Building (HCHB) has tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. This second employee worked in close physical proximity to the first HCHB employee to test positive. Neither employee has been in HCHB since Wednesday, March 11.

As was done Wednesday, all employees who worked in proximity to the newly affected employee have been notified. Professional cleaning crews will conduct a deep clean of the employee’s office and surrounding areas over the weekend. These areas are strictly closed off to ALL employees until the cleaning has concluded.

Contractors

The Department greatly appreciates all our contractors and partners in industry who support the Department of Commerce each and every day. Any contractor who believes this notice will impact the performance of their contract duties should contact their company’s management team. Contracting officers are the correct point-of-contact to determine appropriate needs for alternate work locations, travel changes, and schedule adjustments, and will seek to help contractors maximize the use of telework for their employees, consistent with OMB Memorandum M-20-18.

The Department is grateful for all its employees and associates who are helping stop the spread of COVID-19. Updates can be found on the DOC COVID-19 employee updates page: https://www.commerce.gov/covid19employeeupdates.

 

 

3/21/20 Laura Peters sent:

Dear Colleagues,

Earlier today, the Department sent an All-Hands message (All Hands: Coronavirus Update and Mandatory Telework), which you should have all received. I urge you to review it and the other DOC messages carefully. They can be found at commerce.gov/covid19employeeupdates.

Pursuant to today’s message, effective Monday, March 23, 2020, all USPTO employees are on mandatory telework, unless it is mission critical that you enter the office. Those of you who are still required to work on campus have already been notified or will be notified shortly. If you have any questions, please contact your supervisor.

USPTO is open for business, and we are grateful to each of you for your continued service even as operational adjustments are made to slow the spread of this virus.

For more information on coronavirus please visit: coronavirus.gov.

 

3/19/2020 From Drew Hirshfeld,

I appreciate and admire the flexibility and agility you are demonstrating as we work through ways to continue serving the American people. While telework has been expanded, I recognize that, currently, some of you are teleworking with essentially only your laptop. I am actively working with the OCIO to explore potential equipment options to enhace your teleworking equipment. 

In the meantime, to facilitate the transition to expanded telework, patent examiners working under the following telework agreements are authorized up to 8 hours non-production time this biweek under code ANTIME-0000-A00131:

  • situational (ad hoc) telework agreement if you telework,
  • PTP-10, when teleworking exceeds the 10 telework hours permitted by your original program,
  • PTP-20, when teleworking exceeds the 20 telework hours permitted by your original program.

Thank you for your patience and your dedication to the mission of the USPTO. 

 

3/19/20 Andy Faile sent out more guidance yesterday afternoon to Patents employees. Patents, CIO, and CFO management have been communicating with us about the information they are sending out to employees. 

Additional information and clarification:

  • Currently, the USPTO is under voluntary telework for telework-ready employees to the maximum amount
  • The definition of telework eligible employees has been expanded. If you are not sure about your telework eligibility status, you should contact your supervisor. Do not assume that if you were considered telework ineligible previousbly that you are still considered telework ineligible. For example, probationary patent examiners are now considered telework eligible for the situation
  • If you received an email requiring you to take telework training, you must take the training. You are not required to sign the ad hoc/situational telework agreement. During the time telework is voluntary, you cannot telework without a signed telework agreement. Taking the training and signing a telework agreement makes you ready to telework during the time period that telework is voluntary
  • If the Agency mandates telework without telework agreements, all employees who have work that can be done remotely and who are not barred by the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010 from telework would be required to telework full time unless they are taking leave or have no work that can be performed remotely. Leave can include annual leave, compensatory time, credit hours, leave without pay (LWOP), or sick leave, as appropriate. All leave would need to be requested in advance as is required currently. If employees are directed to telework, they may wish to sign the "ad hoc" telework agreement provided by the office so that they can benefit from terms covering the end of the mandatory telework once the threat subsides and we return to normal operations.
  •  Childcare - many people have asked us about childcare and telework, especially with school closures. Expansion of the IFP time has been made for Patents, now 4:30 am to 11:59 pm, Monday-Friday (please see Andy Faile email sent 3/17/2020 at about 3:46pm). You are allowed to work while a child or an elderly adult is at your telework worksite. However, you cannot claim work hours when you are caring the child or elderly adult. You must take leave (annual, compensatory time, credit hours, or LWOP) or mid-day flex (IFP schedule only) when you care for the child or elderly adult. Sick leave can't be used for the care of healthy individuals. 
  • Part time employees - there has been some confusion as to how many hours part time employees are permitted to work. Part time employees are allowed to work the number of hours they have been approved to do. These are often referred to as the number of hours you are scheduled for. All of these hours can be worked as telework hours if you have a telework agreement or have now taken the training and signed an ad hoc/situational telework agreement. The other portions of the part time agreement are in effect. These include but are not limited to: asking your supervisor if you wish to work more hours than you are scheduled for, not working more than 64 hours two biweeks in a row and the limitations on earning overtime, credit hours and compensatory time. You can't earn overtime, credit hours, or compensatory time based solely on the overtime chart. You can only earn overtime or compensatory time if you work more than 40 hours in a week or more than 8 hours in a day and are authorized to work overtime. You can find the part time agreement on www.popa.org.
  •  Alexandria campus - the childcare center and gym are closed until further notice. The Jazzman, Einstein Bagels, and Freshii are closed. The cafeteria is being evaluated day-to-day. Local restaurants that are still open are moving to take-out and delivery only. The USPTO buildings are not open to the public. Only badged employees and contractors may enter. This means family members and other guests of employees will not be allowed to enter.
  • Printer and Monitors - many people have been asking about hooking up printers and/or monitors to the laptop at the alternate worksite. POPA has been told guidance will be coming out. 

 

 

3/19/20 From Andy Faile:

The USPTO Rules of the Road prohibits connecting personally owned hardware to any government furnished equipment. Due to the expansion of telework, the prohibition for connecting a personal monitor has been waived until further notice.  We are also looking into the possibility of connecting personal printers and will follow up with any further guidance once available.

For teleworkers on the PTP10 and PTP20 telework programs, until further notice, you may connect a personal monitor directly to your laptop if you do not have a docking station; if you have a docking station, you must connect the monitor through your docking station.

For teleworkers on the PTP32 telework program, until further notice, you may connect a personal monitor to your docking station.

Attached is a quick reference guide (QRG) for connecting a personal monitor. Additional reference and training materials can be found on the Patents Telework Resources page

If you have questions, please contact your telework coordinator. A listing of Patent Telework Coordinators can be found here.

 

3/18/20 From Kathy:

Good afternoon,

Andy Faile sent out more guidance yesterday afternoon to Patents employees.  Patents, CIO and CFO management have been communicating with us about the information they are sending out to employees.

additional information and clarification:

-        Currently, the USPTO is under voluntary telework for telework ready employees to the maximum amount. 

-        The definition of telework eligible employees has been expanded.  If you are not sure about your telework eligibility status, you should contact your supervisor.  Do not assume that if you were considered telework ineligible previously that you are still considered telework ineligible.  For example, probationary patent examiners are now considered telework eligible for this situation.

-        If you received an email requiring you to take telework training, you must take the training.  You are not required to sign the ad hoc/situational telework agreement.   During the time telework is voluntary, you cannot telework without a signed telework agreement.  Taking the training and signing a telework agreement makes you telework ready to telework during the time period that telework is voluntary.

-        If the Agency mandates telework absent telework agreements, all employees who have work that can be done remotely and who are not barred by the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010 from telework would be required to telework full time unless they are taking leave or have no work that can be performed remotely. Leave can include annual leave, compensatory time, credit hours, leave without pay (LWOP) or sick leave, as appropriate.  All leave would need to be requested in advance as is required currently.  If employees are directed to telework, they may wish to sign the “ad hoc” telework agreement provided by the office so that they can benefit from terms covering the end of mandatory telework once the threat subsides and we return to normal operations. 

-        Childcare –many people have asked us about childcare and telework especially with school closures.  Expansion of the IFP time band has been made for Patents, now 4:30 am to 11:59 pm, Monday-Friday (please see Andy Faile email sent 3/17/2020 at about 3:46 pm).  You are allowed to work while a child or elderly adult is at your telework worksite.  However, you cannot claim work hours when you are caring for the child or elderly adult.  You must take leave (annual, compensatory time, credit hours or LWOP) or mid-day flex (IFP schedule only) when you care for the child or elderly adult.  Sick leave can’t be used for the care of healthy individuals.

-        Part time employees – there has been some confusion as to how many hours part time employees are permitted to work.  Part time employees are allowed to work the number of hours they have been approved to do.  These are often referred to as the number of hours you are scheduled for.  All of these hours can be worked as telework hours if you have a telework agreement or have now taken the training and signed an ad hoc/situational telework agreement.  The other portions of the part time agreement are in effect.  These include but are not limited to:  asking your supervisor if you wish to work more hours than you are scheduled for, not working more than 64 hours two biweeks in a row and the limitations on earning overtime, credit hours and compensatory time.  You can’t earn overtime, credit hours or compensatory time based solely on the overtime chart.  You can only earn overtime or compensatory time if you work more than 40 hours in a week or more than 8 hours in a day and are authorized to work overtime.  You can find the part time agreement on www.popa.org.

-        Alexandria campus – the childcare center and gym are closed until further notice.  The Jazzman, Einstein Bagels and Freshii are closed.  The cafeteria is being evaluated day-by-day.  Local restaurants that are still open are moving to take-out and delivery only.  The USPTO buildings are not open to the public.  Only badged employees and contractors may enter.  This means family members and other guests of employees will not be allowed to enter.

-        Printer and Monitors – many people have been asking about hooking up printers and/or monitors to the lap top at the alternate worksite.  POPA has been told further guidance will be coming out.

POPA can be reached at popahelp@popa.org.  We have read every email sent to us and provided suggestions/concerns to management.  Conditions are changing daily.  The most important thing is that employees take care of themselves and their families.

Thanks,

Kathy Duda

POPA President

 

 

Enhanced Telework Flexibility Update

3/17/20

From Andy Faile: We have received many questions about the Enhanced Telework Flexibilities message sent by Commissioner for Patents Drew Hirshfeld on March 15, 2020.  Please find additional information below.

 

·        Expansion of IFP working hours –

Effective immediately and until further notice, IFP regular working hours have been expanded to 4:30 a.m. to 11:59 p.m. Monday through Friday (currently 5:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.); all claimed time worked Monday through Friday (regular time, overtime, and compensatory time) must be performed between 4:30 a.m. to 11:59 p.m. All of these times are employees’ local times.

There are no changes to the time band on Saturday and Sunday, which remains 5:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., local time.

 

OCIO IT system maintenance hours will continue as follows:

·        Monday – Thursday 12:00 a.m. - 5:30 a.m. ET

·        Friday and Saturday 10:00 p.m. - 9:00 a.m. ET

·        Sunday 10:00 p.m. - 5:30 a.m. ET 

 

Accordingly, some systems may be impacted during these times while undergoing maintenance.

·        Overtime, compensatory time, and credit hours –

There are currently no changes to authorization for overtime, compensatory time, or credit hours.  You may telework up to 80 hours for your biweekly basic work requirement, plus any authorized overtime, compensatory time, and/or credit hours.

·        Part-time work schedule –

Part-time employees will be allowed to telework up to their regularly scheduled hours, plus any authorized overtime and/or compensatory time.

·        Voluntary overtime –

Employees not exempt from the overtime provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) are not allowed to work voluntary (uncompensated) overtime. This includes Patent Examiners at the GS-7 level or below.

·        Telework Location –

Employees are permitted to change their approved alternate worksite. Teleworkers should follow procedures for setting or changing their approved alternate worksite consistent with their current telework program. Please contact your supervisor for any changes to your alternate worksite.

We have also received many questions from employees without a telework agreement. The following information clarifies some of the questions for those without a telework agreement:

·        ­Telework training and situational (ad hoc) telework program work agreement –

The training includes three components:

1.      IT training,

2.      Non-IT training, and

3.      USPTO Situational (Ad Hoc) Telework Program Work Agreement.

 

The IT training and Non-IT training are mandatory for those employees without a telework agreement. 

Signing of the USPTO Situational (Ad Hoc) Telework Program Work Agreement is voluntary. No employee is required to sign the agreement unless they wish to voluntarily start teleworking immediately. 

Up to 2 hours of non-production time can be claimed under time code PNCSPA-0000-112051 for taking the training, as well as reading through QRGs and setting up the telework equipment.

 

·        Unlocking your laptop –

Your laptop should be locked in place with a combination lock securing it to your desk.  If you have been unable to open the combination, please call the OCIO service desk at 2-9000. 

 

·        WebTA instructions for claiming telework hours –

When claiming examination time (specifically, “Prepare all examiner actions” – code 112012) at the alternate worksite, employees are to use/add the examination line in their default sheet with the transaction code “Telework Home.”

For any other activity codes, employees are encouraged, but not required, to designate other remote activities as “Telework Home.”  Instructions for adding telework codes are found in the WebTA QRG

Our employees are our top priority. We are working diligently to provide as many answers, resources, and flexibilities as possible. Please continue to reach out to your immediate supervisor with your questions, as well as any requests for additional telework, changes to your schedule, or leave requests.

 

Enhanced Telework Flexibility

3/15/20 From Drew Hirshfeld:

Colleagues,

Following up to the Department of Commerce all hands message issued this evening, all telework-eligible employees should begin teleworking to the extent possible until further notice.  Please see below for details.

As always, please work closely with your supervisor to make appropriate arrangements and address any questions or concerns.

For the Patents Business Unit:

  1. All Patent employees (including those on a part-time work schedule) currently participating on an approved telework program including, for example, PTP-10, PTP-20, PTP-32, PMTP, will be allowed additional telework hours up to 80 hours per bi-week.
  2. As stated previously, all full-time Patent teleworkers (hotelers) with a reporting requirement will have the reporting requirement waived until further notice.
  3. For employees who do not currently have a signed telework agreement in place, please complete the Learning Center telework training as soon as possible. Once you have completed the training, you will be able to sign a telework agreement and contact your supervisor to arrange your telework schedule. 
  4. This guidance does not alter the guidance sent to the Silicon Valley Regional Office employees on March 12, 2020.

Thank you for all that you do for the USPTO and our country.

 

Regards,

Drew

 

Friday March 13, 2020, 1:15 From Kathy

Good Afternoon,

Additional guidance was just sent out from Laura Peter.

POPA is disappointed in that it only addresses employees who fall into the CDC recommendations, have childcare issues due to school closures or “to accommodate state and local responses”.  We know many of you have other issues that need to be addressed.  This guidance was not discussed or even given to POPA before it was sent out. 

We did have an opportunity to talk with Andy Faile and he explained that expanded telework mentioned in the guidance will be given on a case-by-case determination.  There is no authority to give blanket telework.

POPA encourages any employee who has a situation where they believe they should be allowed to telework additional hours to make the request in an email to their SPE/supervisor with the reason as soon as possible. 

There is news that a national emergency may be declared today.  We have not been given any information about how that might change things.  We will update you as we learn more.

Please continue emailing popahelp@popa.org with any issues.  Please understand at this point that we may not be able to respond to every person individually as the amount of email we receive increases.  We have been sending regular emails to management with the concerns raised by employees 

Thank you,

Kathy Duda

POPA President

 

Friday, March 13, 2020 12:04 PM From Laura Peters:

Dear Colleagues,

We continue working closely with Department of Commerce leadership, and are monitoring the guidance of Federal, State, and local officials.  We have just received new guidance related to the ability to maximize telework opportunities for employees within the populations that the CDC identifies as being at higher risk for serious complications from the COVID-19 virus and to CDC-identified special populations  COVID-19 virus.  These CDC-identified populations include pregnant women, older adults and individuals who have chronic health conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, lung disease, or compromised immune systems. 

Additionally, we are able to extend telework opportunities to accommodate state and local responses to the outbreak including, but not limited to, school closures.  Please note that for those employees currently on telework agreements, our programs already allow for enhanced flexibilities in these situations.  Under agency telework policies, the mere presence in the home of a child or other person who requires care or supervision does not prohibit an employee from teleworking.  Employees are permitted to telework for the length of time the employee is free from care duties and has work to perform to effectively contribute to the Agency’s mission.  Employees with dependent care responsibilities that preclude telework may request annual leave, accrued credit hours or comp time, or LWOP for any days or portions of the day that they are not free from care duties.

If you fall into one or more of the CDC categories, or are impacted by state and local responses as noted above, please work with your supervisors to determine the best telework solution possible for your situation. 

For those employees currently not on a telework program, you will be getting more information later today that will enable you to become telework ready quickly.  Again, please coordinate with your supervisor to determine the best telework option possible for you.

Please contact your supervisor with additional questions or email them to COVID-19Questions@uspto.gov.  

We will continue to provide updates as new information becomes available.

 

Thursday, March 12, 2020 11:14 AM  From Kathy:

Good Morning,

POPA is concerned about the coronavirus and the effect on employees in regards to their health and work.  We have asked management to (1) send updates to employees, (2) start letting employees telework more and (3) get other employees ready to telework if they aren’t.

We are still waiting for information.  We have been told we should receive agreements and communications by today.

If you already participate in telework and have a situation where you need to be able to telework more hours, please talk with your SPE.  POPA has been told situations are being decided on a case-by-case manner.  Please email popahelp@popa.org if you have questions or need help.

Please follow CDC guidance and do not come to work if you are sick or have been exposed to someone with the coronavirus making sure you request the appropriate leave.  The CDC has a page devoted to information on the coronavirus:  https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html

If you have concerns, you should email Fred Steckler, Chief Administrative Officer, and Andy Faile, Deputy Commissioner for Patent Operations.

Thanks,

Kathy Duda

POPA President