Coronavirus Information

POPA Updates on Coronavirus Actions 

(Updates listed in chronological order.)

 

5/20/2020

Update From Kathy Duda

Emergency Paid Sick Leave under Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)

The link to the time codes is in Laura Peter's email (5/11/2020). The codes are also copied at the end of this message. The ADCs sent those out to TC employees yesterday.

Extension of Excused Absense for Dependent Care (EADC)

We have been informed an extension is pending. We requested that it be announced ASAP since EADC expires this Saturday.

Paid Parental Leave (FEPLA)

In the last update, we mentioned that several congressional representatives wrote a letter to congressional leaders encouraging them to make paid parental leave retroactive to December 20, 2019. Go to POPA News Feed to find out how you can help.

Printers

Management will be sending out a reminder with a deadline for requesting a printer. If you have not done so and want a printer, please get your request in by the deadline.

PE2E Phase One Search Deployment

POPA has agreed to an early adopter program for the new Search Tool. A first deployment of 500 examiners and then a second deployment of 750 examiners will start sometime in May. This will be a volunteer only deployment for examiners who have two external monitors provided by the Agency. This requirement is to ensure that any problems with the tool are not because of examiner-owned equipment or settings. Withdrawal from the program is available at any time. Request for an additional monitor for a total of 2 external monitors provided by the agency may be available depending on availablity of monitors. OPIM is eager to present Examiners with the new Search Tool in development. More features are in the works; however, OPIM is confident that it is ready for deployment and that examination can be performed by using the tool. Both Management and POPA want to see how the tool performs and need your feedback.

CARES Act Extensions

POPA is working with management to get FAQs out to examiners. How the extensions affect examining is complicated since they change due dates between March 27, 2020 and May 31, 2020 to June 1, 2020. Examiners will not have to evaluate the statement accompanying the response.

Time, Routing, and PAP (TRP)

The rest of TRP is set to be implemented on October 1, 2020. POPA is working with management on routing and training. The training is slated to start next month. Examiners are encouraged to ensure they have a working camera. The camera can be either an external USB webcam or the internal laptop webcam. The new PAP will require you to use the collaboration tools, including the camera. Contact the service desk for assistance. POPA is working with management on a new Designs PAP for implementation on October 1, 2020.

Prioritized examination for COVID-19 related applications. 

The USPTO has reserved up to 500 places in Track 1 for COVID-19 related applications. These applications will be examined under the Track 1 rules. The application must include a statement that the application is COVID-19 related. This statement will be reviewed by support staff before a COVID-19 related application is placed on the Examiner's docket. Management will be sending out an email to examiners who are likely to receive these applications, providing a POC and how to get training on Track 1, if needed. 

EADC/FFCRA codes:

WEBTA CODE LEAVE PROGRAM REASON PAY RATE
ANTIME-0000-A00196 EADC

Evacuation

Excused

Absence

Full
ANTIME-0000-A00194 FFCRA Isolation Full
ANTIME-0000-A00194 FFCRA Quarantine

Full

ANTIME-0000-A00194 FFCRA Medical Full
ANTIME-0000-A00195 FFCRA Individual Care 2/3
ANTIME-0000-A00195 FFCRA School Closure 2/3
ANTIME-0000-A00195 FFCRA Other 2/3

 

5/11/2020

Updated Notice to Colonial Parking Customers

Previously, Colonial Parking stated that if the USPTO was still operating under mandatory telework guidance as of Friday, May, 22, Colonial would require all tag master devices be returned, or parking accounts would be charged $60, the nonrefundable cost of the device.

This is no longer the case. Per recent communication from Colonial Parking, suspended parking accounts will be placed on hold and devices can be kept until employees return to the USPTO. There will be no $60 fee and members will not have to return their parking devices by May 22.

 

5/9/2020

Emergency Paid Sick Leave under FFCRA

Emergency sick leave will be recorded under the Regular Time section of the timecard. Employees must use the appropriate PPA code and transaction code that correlates to the qualifying reason for taking emergency sick leave.

Qualifying Reasons

 

5/9/2020

Update from Kathy Duda

Monitors/Printers

By this point, everyone who requested a monitor and/or printer should have received them or will receive them soon. After you receive a printer, you should receive an email explaining how to request paper and/or toner. If you have any questions on this, you can contact PatentTeleworkQuestions@uspto.gov. There is a lag for this email after you receive your printer. You will not be using the same portal as those on PHP so please follow the instructions in the email.

Excused Absence for Dependent Care (EADC)

EADC has been extended through May 23, 2020. POPA has asked that any further updates be announced as soon as possible since May 23rd falls on the holiday weekend.

Annual Leave

POPA has received many questions regarding whether annual leave accrued over 240 hours (known as "use or lose" leave) can be carried over into the new leave year, which starts January 3, 2021. The USPTO is working on this with OPM. In addition, a bill has been introduced in the House to address this. The bill is entitled "Federal Frontline Worker Leave Protection Leave" and was introduced by Rep. Jennifer Wexton and co-sponsors including Rep. Don Breyer, Rep. Stephen Lynch, and Rep. Jamie Raskin, as well as Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton. This bill appears to use an existing regulation, the "restoration of annual leave," which allows restored annual leave to be used not later than 2 years from the end of the leave year after the leave has been restored.

Federal Employee Paid Leave Act (FEPLA)

This act provides the new paid parental leave benefits. The USPTO is waiting for draft regulations from OPM on implementation of the paid parental leave. In the meantime, several representatives, including Rep. Jamie Raskin, Rep. Carolyn Maloney, Rep. Gerry Connolly, and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, have written to congressional leaders asking them to "extend paid parental leave coverage to all covered and eligible federal workers in connection with a birth, adoption, or foster care placement of a child that occurs between Dec. 20, 2019, and Oct. 2, 2020."

IT Systems Outages

Please read all OCIO Service Advisories and OPM Advisories carefully. They contain important information regarding patent examination system maintenance outages or deployments that may impact your ability to access certain USPTO applications. 

The next large planned outage is for the weekend of May 22-23, 2020. This outage will have the following effects on the core examination tools:

OC - examiners will NOT be able to post, approve, or return office actions; examiners will be able to create new office actions ONLY for applications having previous office actions created in OC;

DAV - examiners should be able to use DAV, although DAV may experience intermittent outages during this time and

SEARCH TOOLS - examiners will be able to search using EAST and WEST

This outage is over a count weekend, and the Agency has refused to move it to a non-count weekend. If you have planned on working the weekend of May 22-23rd, please take steps now to prepare for this outage. 

Within Grade Increases (WIGIs)

POPA has heard of an uptick in employees not receiving their WIGI and being re-rated. Examiners can find their date for their WIGI in the Production and Award Calculator, under their employee profile. The information is also on the top of your PALM 3025 as STEP DT.

The date of your WIGI is unlikely to fall right on the end of a quarter or the fiscal year. So it is important that you are aware of this date. 

If you are denied a WIGI, you may be re-rated. This will affect your eligibility for overtime, awards, and programs such as telework and Non-duty Hours Legal Studies. 

More information on WIGIs

Docket Management

POPA is also receiving more emails regarding Docket Management and attorneys not responding in a timely manner. Examiners need to be aware that they are responsible for their docket management. DON'T harm yourself waiting for an attorney to call you back. Best practices would include leaving a deadline for an attorney to respond to you. If the attorney doesn't respond by that deadline then mail out the appropriate response. Attorneys are dealing with the pandemic also and you do not want an application to go ceiling exceeded while waiting for an attorney to respond. That hurts your DM score and you will most likely not get compensation from management. Please look out for yourself.

Q. Todd Dickinson

Undersecretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the Patent and Tradement Office Q. Todd Dickinson passed away earlier this week. Todd did a lot to help employees at the USPTO in addition to the advancements he made in examination. He valued collaboration with POPA and cared about employees. He instituted a casual dress policy (including being permitted to wear jeans), abolished sign in/out sheets, established that leave could be reported in 15 minute increments, instituted the transit subsidy (it was $65/month then), expanded service desk hours, and probably the most important, permitted the IFP work schedule. In addition, Todd was behind the Millennium Agreement which led to the special pay rate for examiners and the start of our telework programs. These changes helped boost morale at the office and made it a better place to work. 

 

 

4/27/20

The following was emailed to all Directors, SPEs, and teleworking employees on PTP-10, PTP-20, PTP-N, and situational ad hoc program in the Technology Centers.

This message is to ensure that you have had the opportunity to take advantage of the April 9th announcement of a new process to have a USPTO monitor delivered directly to your approved alternative worksite. The deadline to request a monitor through this program is COB Wednesday 4/29/20.

Over 60% of eligible employees have requested a monitor through this program and a large portion of those requests have been fufilled. As such, the up to 8 hours of non-production time for working without an external monitor is set to expire for all employees at the end of the PALM pay period 2020-16 (5/9/20).

You should have received an email from the PatentTeleworkQuestions@uspto.gov mailbox with instructions on how to request your monitor. If you would like to request a monitor and do not have that message, you may send an email directly to the mailbox to indicate your interest. 

 

(Note: this message was also originally emailed to employees on PTP-32; however, because PTP-32 already includes a monitor, this group is not included in the monitor request program.)

 

4/24/2020

Update from Laura Peter

We are extending Excused Absence for Dependent Care Leave (EADC) through May 23, 2020 for USPTO employees who qualify for such leave. (Please refer to my email of April 9, 2020.)

Please contact your supervisor with any questions or direct them to COVID-19questions@uspto.gov. For more information on coronavirus please visit coronavirus.gov.

 

4/17/2020

Update from Kathy Duda

Mid-year Evaluations

Patents and OCIO have extended the deadline for supervisor's giving employees their mid-year evaluation until May 15, 2020. In addition, after your supervisor discusses your mid-year evaluation with you, you will receive an email with a link to click on to acknowledge you had your mid-year evaluation. This is in lieu of having to sign acknowledgement. Employees will need to acknowledge their mid-year evaluation. Acknowledging your mid-year evaluation does not mean that you agree with it.

Flexibilities and Leave

Most flexibilities and leave are set to last until further notice except for the excused leave (excused absense for dependent care - EADC). EADC is the bank of 20 hours of leave/biweek and is set to expire April 30, 2020 unless it is extended. 

Equipment

Employees on ad hoc, PTP-10, PTP-20 and PTP-32 should have received information on how to request a printer to be shipped to your telework location. If you did not receive the email, please contact PatentTeleworkQuestions@uspto.gov

POPA recommends that, if eligible, you put in your requests for printers and monitors as soon as possible. 

Information about ordering paper/toner is supposed to follow after the printers have been sent out. 

Association Grievance

POPA has filed an association grievance related to working conditions. Further details are available here

 

4/17/2020

POPA filed the following association grievance on Friday, April 10, 2020. The next step will be an informal meeting with management to discuss.

"Dear Deputy Commisioner Faile,

Please accept this email as formal notice of POPA's invocation of the grievance procedure regarding the Agency's failure to provide the same full set of equipment to all [bargaining unit] members who have been placed into mandatory telework status due to coronavirus pandemic. A 'full set of equipment' includes: universal laptop computer (UL), mouse, keyboard, headset, webcam, docking station, SOHO router, two 24" monitors, Cisco telephone, printer with scanning capabilities, toner, printer paper, and all appropriate power and data cables.

The grievance docket number identifying this matter is assigned as follows: XX-XXX-XX.

This grievance has been directed to you in accordance with the parties' Collective Bargaining Agreement. In the event that you do not have the authority to resolve the matter, please promptly refer the grievance to the official who does have such authority and notify POPA."

 

4/10/2020

Update from Kathy Duda

As a reminder, you can contact POPA at popahelp@popa.org with any questions or concerns about COVID-19 issues or any other work issues. 

Equipment

Patent examiners on ad hoc PTP-10 and PTP-20 should have received emails from Andy Faile and the "Patent Telework Questions" email box about receiving a USPTO monitor to use at your telework worksite. If not, please contact PatentTeleworkQuestions@uspto.gov mailbox (you need to do this on your UL).

POPA has asked management to provide printers to employees. This will require close to 3,000 printers which the office does not have available at this time to send to examiners. We will continue to ask for these printers. 

Time Compensation

An email was sent out this afternoon from Drew Hirshfeld authorizing up to 8 hours of non-production time per biweek for ad hoc, PTP-10, and PTP-20 until further notice as long as you teleworking without an extranal monitor. 

The remainder of this email concerns Dependent Care and leave under Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA).

Dependent Care and leave under Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)

POPA has received many questions regarding the dependent care and leave under FFCRA mentioned in Laura Peter's email April 9, 2020. Please note these are 2 different types of leave. Both types of leave are applicable to all employees in the agency. 

Dependent Care

  • Excused leave of up to 20 hours per biweek can be used for dependent care the reasons delineated in the email if you can't work or teleworks. 
  • Excused leave is administrative leave and is paid leave (at your regular pay rate like annual or sick leave). Many people were asking about this because they weren't clear what excused leave meant.
  • Excused leave and overtime, compensatory time, or non-IFP credit hours can't be claimed in the same biweek. You will have to make a choice.
  • Excused leave needs to be requested in advance as you would any other leave.
  • If you took leave or LWOP starting March 23 (Alexandria, Detroit, and Dallas), March 16 (San Jose), or March 19 (Denver) for dependent care purposes, you can subsitute excused leave for that leave (up to 20 hours per biweek). Talk to your supervisor to change your timesheet. NOTE: If you claimed the 8 hours of admin time permitted by Drew Hirshfeld for the last biweek, that time counts against the 20 hour limit per biweek.

Leave under FFCRA (Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act)

  • This leave is a new category of sick leave separate from your accrued sick leave.
  • 80 hours of this leave is available April 1, 2020 until Decemeber 31, 2020 (pro-rated for part time employees).
  • Currently, implementation guidance (including time codes) is not available, but the agency is allowing employees to take leave (including advanced sick leave or LWOP) and then correct their timesheets once the new time code is available. IMPORTANT: make it clear to your supervisor and include a note in the remarks session of your WebTA that this leave is being used under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave.
  • This leave is available as follows:
    • 100% of regular pay rate up to $511 daily (8 hours) and $5,110 (80 hours) for quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19; self-quarantine as advised by health care provider or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking medical diagnosis. 
    • 2/3 of regular pay rate up to $200 daily (8 hours) and $2,000 (80 hours) for caring a person under quarantine or self-quarantine as discussed in a. or experiencing any substantially similar to COVID-19 condition specified by HHS.
    • 2/3 of the higher of regular pay rate or state/Federal minimum wage for caring for a child whose school or place of care is closed due to COVID-19 related reasons.
  • See POPA's email from 4/1/2020 with more information on this leave.

POPA's thoughts

  • Excused leave under dependent care is paid at 100% of your current pay rate and available now. You would probably want to used that leave if you have a qualifying situation.
  • Under FFCRA, be aware of the caps on the amount that can be paid for leave. Your hourly pay rate for your grade can be found on the overtime charts on our website.
  • If you are taking leave under FFCRA which pays at the 2/3 rate, check your pay rate as discussed above and consider taking LWOP until the correct time codes are available. This way you will not have to pay back money to the government. Why would you have to pay back money? If you used sick leave (which is paid at your current pay rate), then when this leave is subsituted for your regular sick leave you will owe the government the difference between your current pay rate and the 2/3 rate calculated.
  • Leave under the FFCRA (Emergency Sick Paid Leave Act) is available until December 31, 2020. You may want to consider waiting until the time codes become available and use the leave at that time. 

 

4/10/2020

Sent to production employees on ad hoc, PTP-10 and PTP-20

I appreciate and admire the flexibility and agility you are demonstrating as you transition to mandatory telework, and I am inspired by your commitment to serving our country. Adapting to the current circumstances has been challanging, and I commend all of you for your efforts. 

To continue to facilitate your transition to mandatory telework, up to 8 hours of non-production time per bi-week is authorized, until further notice, under code ANTIME-0000-A00131 for production employees on the PTP-10, PTP-20, PTP-N, and situational (ad hoc) telework agreements for as long as you are teleworking without an external monitor. 

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

Regards,

Drew Hirshfeld

 

4/9/2020

From Andy Faile

For those on situational ad hoc, PTP-10, and PTP-20.

I'm pleased to announce a new process to have a USPTO monitor delievered directly to your approved alternative worksite.

Shortly, you will receive and email from the Patent Telework Questions mailbox with instructions on how to request your monitor. Please fill out the requested information set forth in that email and send back to the Patent Telework Questions mailbox to get the process underway. 

 

4/8/2020

Information from HR

Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account (DCFSA) Elections

As more dependent care providers and schools respond to the call for social distancing, participants may feel the need to make a change to their Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account (DCFSA) election. Changes to a DCFSA election midyear are permitted, if a participant experienced a Qualifying Life Event (QLE). Two of our QLEs that many have experienced recently are:

  • A change in employment status for you, your spouse, or dependent
  • A change in cost or coverage of your dependent care services

The change to an account must be consistent with the reason for the change. For example, if a dependent care provider is no longer providing care (i.e., before/after care/daycare closes, summer day camp cancels, or care is no longer needed), the election can be reduced. Similarly, if you need supplemental child or adult care due to an increase in hours worked, you may increase your election. 

Participants may submit a QLE, in their online account, at www.FSAFEDS.com or by calling 1-877-FSAFEDS (372-3337).

 

4/7/2020

Safe Commuting!

As the nation's health crisis persists, anyone using public transportation should travel only if absolutely necessary for essential purposes as stipulated under stay-at-home executive orders in effect throughout the Washington, D.C. service area. Transit Subsidy participants must follow the general guidance to "use only what you need." Please read the DOT COVID-19 FAQ Sheet to learn more. 

Transit subsidy benefits will remain active and available for program participants to use for commuting purposes only (between home and the workplace). For more information, refer to the USPTO commuter site

Credit Card Holders: Please cancel renewable and auto reload orders

If you are not currently commuting into the office on a daily basis, please cancel any and all renewable orders and auto reload orders with entities such as CommuterDirect.com (this does not apply to WMATA riders in the Washington, DC area). If you have already received a monthly pass for April, reach out to your vender to request return and reimbursement. NOTE: Refunds and exchange rules may vary by vendors. 

For commuters using VRE and/or Commuter Direct, there is potential for reimbursement for monthly passes only:

  • Postmarked prior to effective month: 100% refund
  • Postmarked 1st through 10th of effective month: partial refund
  • Postmarked after the 10th of the effective month: 0% refund
  • The $114 Metrorail portion of a Transit Link card is nonrefundable after the first of the month
  • The $114 portion of the Transit Link card is nonrefundable once it has been used in the Metro system

Find more information and return procedures:

For VRE, visit https://www.vre.org/, email gotrains@vre.org, or call 800-743-3873.

For Commuter Direct, visit https://www.commuterdirect.com/, email questions@commuterdirect.com, or call 703-228-7433.

WMATA further reduces rail and bus service

WMATA has announced new service hours for the Washington DC Metro area. Metrorail will close at 9 p.m. every day, and the daily schedule is:

  • Monday - Friday, 5 am to 9 pm
  • Saturday - Sunday, 8 am to 9 pm

Bus service will end at 11 pm or until the end of the route. For the latest updates, visit:

https://www.wmata.com/about/news/Pandemic-service-schedule.cfm 

SmarTrip card benefits access

When a SmarTrip card is not used for several weeks at a time, benefits become "locked" and inaccessible due a known WMATA system issue. Commuters working from home for an extended period should expect delays in accessing benefits on their SmarTrip cards when returning to regular Metrorail and bus commuting. WMATA Metro customers are encouraged to keep a cushion of personal funds stored on SmarTrip cards to cover their commuting costs until benefits load. 

For more information, review the WMATA Autoload sheet.

 

4/7/2020

Update from POPA President Kathy Duda

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act

The CARES Act, section 12004, gives the Director of the USPTO the authority to "toll, waive, adjust, or modify any timing deadline." Last Tuesday, USPTO announced 30 day extensions for various responses including response to office actions with dues dates between March 27, 2020 and April 30, 2020 (inclusive). A statement that the delay in filing or payment was due to the COVID-19 outbreak is required with the filing. The Patents statement can be found here with complete information on the extensions. 

Due to this extension, examiners should wait at least 7 months to contact applicants before abandoning applications, 8 months from the date of a notice of appeal, to avoid potential revivals of applications. A memo was sent to examiners this morning. 

Dependent Care and Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)

We have been told for about a week that information is going to be coming out to employees but the message has not been cleared yet. 

Time Compensation

POPA has not received any information about time compensation for the current biweek due to the inefficiencies of working without a complete suite of equipment. We have made it clear to management that this information should come out before the biweek ends and not after. 

Equipment

Patent examiners on ad hoc, PTP-10, and PTP-20 should have received an email about receiving a SOHO router if you didn't already have one. Employees are supposed to receive an email from the deployment team when it is ready to be shipped.

Patent examiners without a docking station should request one from the Service Desk (2-9000). 

Hopefully, information will be coming out soon on how examiners without a monitor can receive one monitor.

POPA has requested printers for employees and paper/toner but haven't received decisions on these yet.

Other Items

POPA has received questions about the telework training mentioned on USPTO Weekly and the proper disposal of documents. We are awaiting further guidance from management on if time to take the training is available and proper disposal of documents. 

 

4/3/2020

From Andrei Iancu

Dear Colleagues,

On March 7, 1876, the United States Patent Office granted patent number 174,465 to Alexander Graham Bell for a speaking telegraph. A few days later, Bell used his device in his Boston lab to speak these famous words to his assistant, stationed in a different room: "Mr. Watson, come here, I want to see you!"

Graham was just 29 years old, but remarkably prescient when he told his father at the time: "The day is coming when telegraph wires will be laid on to houses just like water and gas - and friends converse with each other without leaving home." And here we are today, conversing and teleworking - and so much more - without leaving home, just as Bell predicted. 

The vast majority of you already have extensive experience with telework. Approxiamately 55% of our employees telework full time, and approxiamately another 30% telework at least one day a week. Still, I am certain that the extraordinary times we now live in, and the rapidly changing environment all around, have created new challanges for us all. Many of you now have children at home who otherwise would be at school. Others now have a spouse at home who needs to share a home office - and the Wi-Fi. And some of you have parents or relatives you must attend to. 

In one way or another, we are all operating in a new environment. We are all going through a common set of experiences the likes of which most of us have never seen before. And it is extremely challanging. But we rise to the occasion, and we persevere. 

What USPTO employees and contractors have done over the past few weeks is illustrative. Because of you, we are able to remain open, in full operation, providing valuable services, programs, and resources to our stakeholders and the public. For example:

  • Our patent examiners and trademark examining attorneys continue to examine tens of thousands of applications through this health emergency, helping Americans obtain important intellectual property protections. 
  • The Patent and Trademark Trial and Appeal Boards have taken their hearings into a virtual environment, allowing cases to continue on schedule, with judges and parties participating exclusively by phone and video. 
  • Earlier this week, and within two business days of the enactment of the CARES Act, the USPTO issued notices to the public extending certain patent and trademark deadlines, providing much needed relief to our applicants.
  • Last week our task force on expanding innovation launched the Expanding Innovation Hub, which offers valuable resources to help broaden the innovation ecosystem, as I often say, "demographically, geographically, and economically."
  • Our task force on Artificial Intelligence recently launched our AI landing page, complete with the latest information about our AI engagements, events, and resources, including the two recent Federal Register Notices (FRNs) and the almost 200 responses we received from the public.
  • Our Global Intellectual Property Academy (GIPA) has converted their in-person meetings to offer virtual programs that provide education, training, and capacity building on IP protection, commercialization, and enforcement. 

Your continued efforts to keep our IP operations and initiatives running during these challanging times made this - and much, much more - possible. 

Special kudos to our IT team, many of whom still have to come to campus, who have kept our computer systems up and running, uninterrupted, despite the incredible surge in activity on our networks with some 12,000 teleworkers now logging in every day. OCIO is also working overdrive to supply us the equipment we need to better work remotely, and answering our questions as needed. While there have been a few glitches, as expected with the sudden move to full-agency telework, OCIO's ability to respond promptly to support all of our work has been remarkable. 

All around, USPTO employees and contractors are setting a standard of excellence. As a result, we have managed to continue, to a large extent, "business-as-usual" during these most unusual times. 

Thank you for your continued professionalism and support of our ongoing mission. I hope that you and your loved ones stay safe and healthy. 

Please do everything you can to follow the directives provided by the CDC and by your local governments, including staying at home. Each one of us has a part to play in order to win this fight, and together we will prevail - even if "together" is now via telework. 

 

4/1/2020

From POPA President, Kathy Duda

Today the Families First Coronavirus Act goes into effect. As of yesterday, POPA was told that OPM and NFC have not provided guidance on how the leave available under the Act is going to be implemented. 

To the extent we understand the Act, we are providing the information so that employees have some awareness of what is in the Act. Implementation instructions still need to come from the agency but the basics: the amount of leave and the reasons that the leave can be used, should not change. Hopefully the USPTO will be able to provide guidance soon. 

Since leave must be requested in advance, you should request this leave as soon as you know that you need it. POPA suggests you make the request in writing, ie. email. 

The Act is effective April 1, 2020 through December 31, 2020. 

The Act provides a seperate category of sick leave. This is in addition to the sick leave you currently earn. 

  • This leave does not rollover to the next leave year and it is not paid out if you leave the agency/federal government. 
  • You are not required to use your accrued leave including sick, annual, compensatory time or credit hours (non-IFP) before taking this leave.
  • Federal employees are entitled to take leave related to COVID-19 if the employee is unable to work, including telework, and meets the conditions for the leave as discussed below.
  • It does not appear that the leave must be taken all at once.

The leave provided by the Act is up to 80 hours (pro-rated for part time employees based on schedule)

  1. 100% of regular pay rate up to $511 daily (8 hours) and $5,110 total (80 hours) for quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19; self-quarantine as advised by health care provider or experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking medical diagnosis
  2. 2/3 of regular pay rate up to $200 daily (8 hours) and $2000 total (80 hours) for caring for a person under quarantine as discussed in a. or experiencing anything substantially similar to COVID-19 condition specified by HHS.
  3. 2/3 of the higher of regular pay rate or state/Federal minimum wage for caring for a child whose school or place of care is closed due to COVID-19 related reasons.

Note: Employees at USPTO are covered under Title II of Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Since we are not federal employees covered by Title I under FMLA, the additional 10 weeks of partially paid expanded FMLA for providing childcare due to school closure does not appear to cover USPTO employees. 

 

3/31/2020

From Andy Faile

This email is being sent to Patent employees on the PTP-10, PTP-20, and PTP-N telework programs. 

For Patent employees working under a PTP-10, PTP-20, or PTP-N telework agreement, the 10-hour per day limit has been waived effective immediately until further notice. Employees on a PTP-10, PTP-20, or PTP-N telework agreements may work their normal daily work schedules from their authorized worksite, up to a maximum of 12 hours. 

Employees are encouraged to take advantage of the flexibilities provided by the IFP/IFS work schedule, which provides expanded working hours from 4:30 am to 11:59 pm. Monday through Friday until further notice. Employees choosing to temporarily elect an IFP/IFS work schedule during the mandatory telework period must notify their supervisor in writing. Employees will be permitted to return to their previous work schedule at the conclusion of the expanded telework period. 

 

 

3/31/2020 

If you are having trouble getting your headset to work, here is a guide to help you.

 

3/30/2020

From Andrew Hirshfeld

Thank you for so diligently serving our country during this unprecendented time. Our priority as an Agency is to safeguard all of our employees while maintaining our work operations in the best manner possible. The Agency is monitoring situations as they develop and is striving to adjust under these fluid circumstances. 

We've heard from many employees about additional flexibilities that would be helpful to them during this unprecendented time. To address this, the Agency has:

  • Expanded the working hours under the IFP schedule from 4:30 AM to 11:59 PM, Monday through Friday;
  • Waived the requirement in IFP/IFS that you may only work on one weekend day in a calendar week;
  • Removed the 16 hour cap on earning comp time on the weekend;
  • Provided adjustments for teleworkers on the PTP10, PTP20 and new situational teleworkers in recognition of these teleworkers working with minimum levels of equipment;
  • Waived the prohibition to connect to personal monitors and printers; and
  • Started to deploy additional equipment.

It is recognized that the timing of this situation poses additional challenges because we are at the end of the second quarter. We will be monitoring second quarter performance outcomes and will consider the current circumstances when evaluating employee performance. While we know that employees have been impacted in a variety of ways, we want to ensure that impacted employees who needed to take leave to account for their 80 hours are compensated. Therefore, any employee who used annual leave, sick leave, or leave without pay in PALM pay period 2020/13 to fufill their 80 hour bi-weekly requirement may replace up to 8 hours of that leave with administrative leave. An appropriate code will be distributed on Monday morning. Additional adjustments are being evaluated. 

 

3/30/2020

COLONIAL PARKING

UPDATE: You might want to modify your payroll deduction for pre-tax parking if you decide to suspend or cancel parking at the office. 

(As was posted in USPTO Weekly)

Colonial would like to keep monthly patrons informed on how to manage their monthly parking accounts during this mandatory telework period. Colonial has requested that all montly parking permit holders who wish to temporarily suspend their accounts do so by March 31. Employees who fail to suspend by March 31 will automatically be charged the regular $90/month fee for employees and the $125/month fee for contractors on April 1. 

Employees will have to contact Colonial to reactivate their accounts if they elect to suspend at this time. Employees can choose to immediately return their tage master devices to Colonial in person or via mail. Please inform Colonial at the time of your call if you would like to return your device or maintain it in your possession. If the USPTO is still operating under mandatory telework guidances as of Friday, May 22, Colonial will require all tag master devices be returned, or your account will be changed $60, the nonrefundable cost of the device.

Please contact Colonial directly at monthly@ecolonial.com, ptoparking@ecolonial.com, or call 703-683-3140 to suspend your account. You may contact Operation Manager Abdi Wondimu at 202-744-6528.

3/29/2020

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA or Act) requires the Federal government to provide all of its employees with paid sick leave and, for employees who are covered under Title I of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), with expanded family and medical leave for specified reasons related to COVID-19. These provisions will apply from April 1, 2020 through December 31, 2020.

 

► PAID LEAVE ENTITLEMENTS

Generally, the Federal government must provide Federal employees:

Up to two weeks (80 hours, or a part-time employee’s two-week equivalent) of paid sick leave based on the higher of their regular rate of pay, or the applicable state or Federal minimum wage, paid at:

  • 100% for qualifying reasons #1-3 below, up to $511 daily and $5,110 total; and
  • 2/3 for qualifying reasons #4 and 6 below, up to $200 daily and $2,000 total.

Federal employees including those not covered under Title I of the FMLA can receive either 2/3 of the higher of their regular rate of pay, or the applicable state or Federal minimum wage for the two-week period for qualifying reason #5 below. However, for leave under qualifying reason #5, Federal employees covered under Title I of the FMLA can receive 10 additional weeks of expanded family and medical leave for reason #5 below, up to $200 daily and $12,000 total. A part-time employee is eligible for leave for the number of hours that the employee is normally scheduled to work over that period.

► ELIGIBLE EMPLOYEES

All Federal employees are eligible for up to two weeks of fully or partially paid sick leave for COVID-19 related reasons (see below).

Federal employees who are covered under Title I of the FMLA and have been employed for at least 30 days prior to their leave request are eligible for up to an additional 10 weeks of partially paid expanded family and medical leave for reason #5 below. Most federal employees are not covered under Title I of the FMLA and so would not be eligible for partially paid expanded family and medical leave. Please consult with your agency to determine whether you are covered under Title I of the FMLA. The Office of Personnel and Management will issue guidance on this question.

► QUALIFYING REASONS FOR LEAVE RELATED TO COVID-19

A Federal employee is entitled to take leave related to COVID-19 if the employee is unable to work, including unable to telework, because the employee:

  1. is subject to a Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19;
  2. has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine related to COVID-19;
  3. is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and is seeking a medical diagnosis;
  4. is caring for an individual subject to an order described in (1) or self-quarantine as described in (2);
  5. is caring for his or her child whose school or place of care is closed (or child care provider is unavailable) due to COVID-19 related reasons; or
  6. is experiencing any other substantially-similar condition specified by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

► ENFORCEMENT

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) has the authority to investigate and enforce compliance with the FFCRA for Federal employers covered under Title I of the FMLA. Employers may not discharge, discipline, or otherwise discriminate against any employee who lawfully takes paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave under the FFCRA, files a complaint, or institutes a proceeding under or related to this Act. Federal employers covered under Title I of the FMLA in violation of the provisions of the FFCRA will be subject to penalties and enforcement by WHD.

 

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. 

 

 

From Andy Faile: 3/34/20

The requirement in IFP/IFS that you may only work on one weekend day in a calendar week is temporarily lifted. (Note: Employees choosing to work on Sunday may only earn credit hours or work approved overtime or compensatory time; no regular hours may be worked on a Sunday.) In addition, if you are authorized to work compensatory time, the limitation that you may only earn 16 hours of compensatory time on Saturdays and Sundays during a bi-week is temporarily lifted. (Note: You may only work up to the number of compensatory time hours you are authorized; if you are authorized to work fewer than 16 hours of compensatory time during a bi-week, this does not increase your authorization.) 

 

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 Peter 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 Peter:

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