The Foreign Service Journal - March 2018

70 MARCH 2018 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL NOTES FROM LABOR MANAGEMENT AFSA NEWS AFSA Labor Management Is Here to Help ANSWERS TO AL L OF YOUR LM QUEST I ONS In 2017, some 2,000 members came to AFSA’s Labor Man- agement Office for assistance. Questions ranged from the simple and quick—we can handle those with a phone call or an email—to more complicated issues that can take months, or even years, to resolve. Members frequently have questions about bidding and assignments, tenure, employee performance evalu- ations, medical and security clearance issues, as well as financial questions related to pay, benefits and allowances. We’ve put together guidance for some of the more common questions, which you can find at But if you want to know more, read on. Performance Evaluations We are often contacted about problems with employee evaluation reports.Work with your rater early on to know what to expect. Address criti- cism in a constructive manner, and try to maintain an open dialogue with your rater and reviewer—this is key to a good final product. Should you sign your EER? Yes! Your signature indicates receipt, not that you agree with the content. Also, read the instructions! This will save you a lot of grief later. Finally, make sure you check your offi- cial personnel folder each year before the promotion boards meet. It’s up to you to ensure that the relevant documents are actually there. Countless grievances have been filed due to missing awards and evaluations. EER season is right around the corner: for those using Form DS-5055, find the instructions in DS-5055i, accessible through the intranet or a quick Google search. Or ask me to email a copy, along with other useful articles on how to fill out your EER. If you’re having trouble with GEMS and the EER pro- cess, check out HR’s ePerfor- mance Training Tools on the intranet. Good guidance from former promotion board members on how to write your EER includes Diplopedia’s EER guidance from 2012, State Magazine ’s March 2017 issue and the 2017 cable State 112070. The boards look for patterns: If you had an area for improvement, did you do anything to improve on it or are they seeing the same issue raised time and again? Investigations We get many questions, not just frommembers who are subjects of an investigation, but also fromwitnesses and members who wish to open an investigation. Some of the more common are equal employment opportunity (EEO) investigations within the Office of Civil Rights (S/OCR), which examines dis- crimination and harassment issues; Office of the Inspector General (OIG), which covers cases concerning fraud and waste; Diplomatic Security’s Office of Special Investiga- tions (DS/ICI/OSI), which investigates employee mis- conduct; and DS’s Office of Personnel, Security and Suit- ability, which handles security clearance investigations. We encourage AFSAmem- bers to contact us prior to agreeing to any interview, as each employee has the right to legal counsel and/or union representation. If you are the subject of an OIG or DS/OSI investigation, you can find detailed guid- ance at In most cases, we recommend a compelled interview over a voluntary interview; but again, contact us to discuss the specifics. Financial Fiascos Members often turn to us after they receive a letter saying, in effect,“Oops, we overpaid you. You owe Uncle Sammoney. And it’s due in 30 days.”We can help you respond to these letters. Keeping track of the various allowances and differential payments can be confusing, but if you were indeed over- paid, the government will want the money back—waivers are rare. The good news is that the folks behind the letters from Charleston Global Financial Services are quite helpful. If the debt is accurate, they can work with you on how to pay it back and, for larger amounts, create a payment plan. If you believe the debt is not owed, you have the right to request an internal administrative review of the case. Ask for a detailed report, and don’t hesitate to share what you know, as well. Plan ahead to avoid these prob- lems by ensuring, for example, that you turn off separate maintenance allowance and other allowances when you leave post and by keeping good records and all relevant cables explaining any unusual pay scenarios. Teamwork? Workplace conflicts are not unusual. For information on resources available if you find yourself in a bad situ- ation, check out ALDAC 15 STATE 45178, known as the “Toxic Behaviors Cable.” Resources listed there include the Ombudsman; Office of Civil Rights; HR’s Conduct, Suitability and Discipline office; Employee Consultation Service; Human Resources/ Grievance; DS investigative offices; FSI’s Leadership and Management School Leader- ship Coaching; the Office of the Inspector General; and your union (AFSA). We can be a first contact if you need help in figuring out the right place to go—or if you need assistance when you get there. n –Patrick Bradley, AFSA Labor Management Adviser