Annual Report 2013 | American Foreign Service Association
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AFSA Annual Report 2013




Looking Out for Our Members



State Department labor management represented several

employees who were interviewed by members or staff of the

House Foreign Affairs Committee, the Committee on Over-

sight and Government Reform and the Senate Select Com-

mittee on Intelligence in connection with the Sept. 11, 2012,

attack on our mission in Benghazi, Libya. We also assisted

in a case that is currently pending before the Foreign Service

Grievance Board related to an individual who was placed on

administrative leave, without due process, following publica-

tion of the Benghazi Accountability Review Board Report.



For several years, the Department of State has sought to

discipline employees for certain types of private, off-duty

conduct that it characterizes as “notoriously disgraceful con-

duct.” In one case, State sought to suspend an employee for

allegedly creating the appearance of prostitution by giving a

woman money to facilitate her departure from a hotel after

having had sexual relations with her the night before. The

Foreign Service Grievance Board overturned the charge,

finding that “a broad-brushed application of the ‘appearance

is enough’ principle is not applicable where the only source

of information is from the grievant, whose statements con-

tradict the finding, and there is no other evidence.”

The Foreign Service Grievance Board also examined

whether the department could discipline an employee

whose allegedly offensive e-mails—sent to his friends from

his private computer on his own time—were hacked and

published in a public, online forum, causing embarrassment

to the State Department. The board upheld the charge of

notoriously disgraceful conduct, finding that Foreign Service

employees serving overseas are on duty at all times and

must conduct themselves in a manner that does not reflect

negatively on the department. But it ruled that the penalty

(a 30-day suspension) was too harsh, and mitigated it to a

five-day suspension.



AFSA assisted an entry-level employee with a grievance

regarding entitlement to locality pay. The Foreign Service

Grievance Board held that State Department regulations and

procedures supersede a 1998 Office of Personnel Manage-

ment memo designating all entry-level officers as having

“in-transit” status before going overseas for their first

assignment. In light of the FSGB ruling, AFSA has begun

discussions with the Department to enable local hires to be

assigned to FSI in accordance with Department regulations,

thus making them eligible for locality pay.


Labor management represented six Bureau of Diplomatic

Security agents who, relying on erroneous advice from the

department and their travel orders, had filed for per diem at

the locality rate for their house-hunting trips. Though new

guidance from the General Services Administration autho-

rized reimbursement only at the lower continental U.S. per

diem rate, the Foreign Service Grievance Board ruled in

favor of the grievants. Finding that “the grievants’ detrimen-

tal reliance on the erroneous information contained in their

travel orders was reasonable,” the board ordered that all six

be paid per diem at the locality rate.



Labor management worked with AFSA’s Foreign Agricul-

tural Service vice president to block the agency’s attempt to

directly assign an employee to an overseas position without

opening the position up for bidding by other Foreign Service

employees, in violation of the collective bargaining agree-

ment. Similarly, the AFSA Foreign Commercial Service VP

was advised on that agency’s collective bargaining obliga-

tions during the consolidation of headquarters and field

activities of the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service and

the Market Access and Compliance Division.



AFSA and APHIS signed a charter to establish a forum for

cooperative and productive labor management relations.

AFSA hopes to appoint an APHIS member to the AFSA

Governing Board in 2014. To be eligible, the member must

be occupying a bargaining unit position in the D.C. area.


AFSA worked with the U.S. Agency for International Devel-

opment to revise ADS 459, which outlines the mandatory

policies and required procedures for newly hired employees

entering USAID as Foreign Service Career Candidates,

and the New Officer Reference Manual. USAID labor

management also began negotiations with the agency on a

reasonable repayment schedule for 11 employees who were

overpaid for their service in East Timor. AFSA is also in

the process of developing an AIDList for State Department

employees, which provides a voluntary service for use by

personnel of USAID and State to sell, rent, buy or exchange

personally-owned items or services such as apartments,

rooms, sublets and temporary housing, furniture and other

items in both overseas missions and D.C.