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Article 11: Telework Program

Section 1

A. The Parties recognize that telework arrangements may:  (a) protect environmental quality and conserve energy by reducing traffic congestion and vehicle emissions; (b) improve employees' work lives by allowing a better balance of work and family responsibilities and reduce work-related stress; (c) improve the Employer's ability to recruit and retain a high-quality workforce in a competitive job market; and (d) provide for continuity of operations during emergencies.  In recognizing the benefits, both parties also acknowledge the need of the Commission to accomplish its mission.  Eligible employees may participate in the telework program to the maximum extent possible without diminished employee performance (Public Law 106-346, 359 of October 23, 2000 and Public Law 111-292 of December 9, 2010).

B. Telework is subject to approval by the Employer and is not an employee entitlement.  The Employer will grant or deny an employee's request to participate in the Program consistent with law, regulations, and the provisions of this article.  Moreover, while telework should provide greater options to employees seeking to balance their work and family demands, telework may not be used for dependent or family care, nor may it be used to conduct other personal business while the employee is in official duty status at an approved alternative work site.

C. Participation in the telework program is voluntary, and an employee may choose to discontinue a telework arrangement at any time.

D. Participants in the telework program will receive the same treatment/opportunities as non-teleworking employees in regards to work assignments, awards and recognition, development opportunities and promotions.

Section 2

For purposes of this Article, terms contained herein have been defined:

1. Alternative Worksite – A location in the employee's home, designated by the employee as the location they will use to perform their official SEC duties, or another location approved by the SEC (e.g., telework center).

2. Official Duty Station – An employee's Official Duty Station is the Official Duty Station as defined by applicable Office of Personnel Management (OPM) regulations, particularly 5 C.F.R. § 531.605.

3. Telework – (Also referred to as telecommuting, flexi work, flexible workplace, and flexi place) Performance of official duties at an alternative work site (i.e., home or other satellite work location).

4. Teleworker – An employee (i.e., permanent, part-time, temporary) who works at an Alternative Worksite (i.e., home, telework center, or other satellite work location) either on an occasional and/or recurring schedule with a written agreement.

5. Telework Agreement – A written agreement, completed and signed by an employee and appropriate official(s) in his or her mission area/agency/staff office that outlines the terms and conditions of the telework arrangement.

Section 3

A. All employees may request a telework arrangement.

B. The following telework arrangements are available:

1. Ad Hoc or Episodic – Approved telework performed when an employee's work assignments, or part of his/her work assignments, can be performed remotely for a portion of the day or week.  Ad hoc telework may be recurring for short periods of time.  For example, an employee may have a special project that warrants the use of ad hoc telework on the same day or days for a number of consecutive or non-consecutive weeks.  If the Employer approves an employee’s request for a recurring telework arrangement, the employee is automatically approved for an ad hoc telework arrangement.  Prior supervisory approval is required for each and every ad hoc occurrence.  An ad hoc telework arrangement normally will last for one, two or three days but may be for up to five days under exceptional circumstances.

2. Recurring – A recurring telework arrangement can be up to five days per week.  If the Employer approves an employee's request for a regular, recurring telework arrangement, the employee's telework schedule will remain fixed, unless and until changed in accordance with this Article.

3. Temporary Medical – Approved ad hoc or recurring telework performed for a period not to exceed 160 hours due to a documented medical condition of the employee or family member that temporarily prevents the employee from performing their duties in the traditional office.

4. Reasonable Accommodation – Approved ad hoc or recurring telework performed to enable a disabled employee to perform the full range of their official duties.  All requests for reasonable accommodations must be approved by the Employer's Disability Officer in OHR.

5. Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP) – Ad hoc or recurring telework performed to ensure that the Agency can continue to perform mission essential functions during a wide range of emergencies, including localized acts of nature, accidents, and technological or attack-related emergencies.

C. Termination of Expanded Telework Trial Program. From the effective date of this agreement, employees on a trial expanded telework schedule will automatically be approved for their respective telework schedule under the Expanded Telework Trial Program.  Employees may continue using the Employer-provided equipment, but they are now subject to the requirements under this Article.

Section 4 (Eligible Positions)

A. Positions most suitable for telework include specific work activities that are portable and can be performed as effectively and efficiently outside the office.  Face-to­face contact with other employees and clients is predictable or contact can be efficiently managed through telephone or email communications.  Access to necessary reference materials is available through photocopying, faxing, or electronic transfer of documents, and will not violate any law, regulation or policy.

B. Work suitable for telework depends on the nature and job content, rather than job series or title, type of appointment, or work schedule.  Jobs not entirely suited for telework may contain duties that can be performed at an Alternative Worksite either on a regularly scheduled or ad hoc basis.

C. Tasks and functions (positions) generally suited for telework include, but are not limited to:

1. Writing,

2. Policy development,

3. Research,

4. Analysis (e.g. investigating, program analysis, financial analysis),

5. Report writing,

6. Telephone-intensive tasks,

7. Computer-oriented tasks, and

8. Data processing in cases where the security of data can be adequately assured

Section 5-1 (Eligible Employee)

A. An employee may be eligible for a telework arrangement if:

1) the employee's work does not require frequent face-to-face interaction with supervisors, co-workers, or others.  If the employee's work does require frequent face-­to-face interaction, the Employer will consider whether the use of telephone and/or e­mail communications, or adjustments to employees' schedules, is an appropriate substitute;

2) the employee does not require specialized equipment or reference materials that are only available at the Official Duty Station, or access to specialized equipment or reference materials can be grouped and scheduled when the employee is at the Official Duty Station;

3) the employee can function independently, without frequent or close oversight or supervisory consultation; and

4) the employee's work does not require frequent access to confidential or sensitive data or information which is not attainable from home, for example, personnel and/or payroll records; non-public (SEC restricted) information; or information protected from unauthorized disclosure by the Privacy Act of 1974 and its implementing regulations.  However, the Employer will consider whether the security of data or information (including sensitive and Privacy Act material), can be adequately assured.

B. An employee that does not meet the criteria in Section 5-1.A above may still be eligible to request ad hoc telework under Section 3.B.1 and 3.B.5 if there are sufficient work assignments that can be performed at an Alternative Worksite without diminishing the employee's performance or agency operations.

Section 5-2 (Transition from Trial to Permanent Expanded Telework)

A. The Expanded Telework Trial Program, under which employees telework for 3, 4 or 5 days per week, will be made permanent.

B. Current participants will remain in the program on their current telework schedules, or may separately apply to increase the number of telework days.

C. No more than 25% of bargaining unit employees may participate in expanded telework, in any Regional Office, Division, or Office, except that there will be no participation cap in the Division of Corporation Finance.  As an initial selection process if the cap is reached in any office, selections will be based on seniority among applicants who meet the eligibility criteria.  Thereafter, qualified applicants will be selected on a first come, first served basis as slots are available.

D. In order to participate in 3-day telework the employee must have previously been on 2-day telework for one year; to participate in 4-day telework the employee must have previously been on 3-day telework for one year; and to participate in 5-day telework the employee must have previously been on 4-day telework for one year.

E. Either party may elect to reopen Article 11 for negotiation for a period of thirty days after this term agreement has been in effect for two years.

F. All 3, 4, or 5-day teleworkers may be required by the SEC to share spaces with one other expanded teleworker, except for Union Stewards.  The Union will conduct the selection process for shared work space, with input from the Employer.  An employee may elect to hotel rather than share work space.  An employee who ends his or her participation in recurring 3, 4 or 5 day telework is not guaranteed to return immediately to a dedicated office or work space.

Section 6 (Decision to Grant or Deny a Telework Request)

A. The supervisor's decision to grant or deny an employee's request for an ad hoc or recurring telework arrangement will be based on the nature and content of the employee's job, whether the arrangement interferes with the Employer's ability to meet mission, staffing and workload requirements and whether the employee's request is otherwise consistent with this article.

B. A supervisor may deny a request for a particular telework schedule based on the business need to maintain minimum coverage requirements.

C. In deciding whether to grant or deny a telework request, the supervisor will consider the following factors:

1. The employee has demonstrated self-motivation, independence, and dependability in accomplishing work assignments;

2. The employee can work effectively in an isolated environment; and

3. The employee has good time management skills

D. The Employer may limit or exclude an otherwise eligible employee's participation in a telework arrangement if he or she:

1. is on a performance improvement plan (PIP) or has significant performance weaknesses previously communicated to the employee;

2. has documented time or attendance issues previously communicated to the employee in the prior six (6) months;

3. has received any disciplinary or adverse action in the preceding twelve (12) months;

4. is undergoing training in a new job, or is serving a probationary period;

5. has work that requires him or her to be at his or her Official Duty Station in order to accomplish his or her duties (e.g., answering office telephones, receiving visitors, sorting or delivering mail, making copies of or binding documents, or providing on-site computer support); or

6. is requesting a recurring telework arrangement and he or she proposes an alternative work site so far away from the official duty station that reporting to the official duty station would be impractical.

E. The Employer may suspend or terminate an employee's telework arrangement if the Employer finds that:

1. the employee fails to adhere to the provisions of his or her Telework Agreement;

2. the employee's continued participation in the telework arrangement is inconsistent with this article;

3. the employee's performance has declined (for example, where the employee fails to meet established deadlines or fails to progress satisfactorily on assignments, but not insignificant fluctuations or declines in performance);

4. the employee fails to truthfully report time worked; or

5. the Employer receives and communicates to the employee verifiable information from co-workers, the public, or others, indicating dissatisfaction with the employee's availability while performing telework assignments.

Under these circumstances, the Employer will give an advance notice of a suspension or termination of the employee's telework arrangement.  The employee will have an opportunity to meet with the Employer to discuss the reason(s) for suspension or termination.  To the extent possible, the Employer will provide the employee with this opportunity to be heard prior to implementing a final action.  On request, the Employer will provide the employee with the reason(s) for the suspension or termination in writing.  An employee who has his or her telework arrangement terminated may reapply for a telework arrangement six (6) months from the date of termination.

F. The Employer will respond to a properly submitted request for a recurring or ad hoc telework arrangement within fourteen (14) calendar days.  Denial of a recurring or ad hoc telework arrangement will, upon request, be provided to the employee in writing, specifying the reason(s) for denial.

G. If multiple employees in the same branch request similar telework arrangements and not all can be accommodated by the Employer, such requests will be evaluated by the Employer based on grade and Agency seniority.

H. The granting or denial of requests to telework shall be made in a fair and equitable manner.

I. The Employer will consider an employee's request to use a telecommuting center, subject to budgetary considerations, and consistent with this article.

Section 7 (Training)

A. Any employee considering participation in the Telework Program is required to complete telework training prior to submitting a "Telework Request and Agreement Form" and an Alternative Worksite Safety Checklist.  The respective supervisor must also complete the telework training prior to the employee teleworking.  The telework training can be found via the Employer's online training system.

B. Certifications of training completion must be attached to a Telework Request and Agreement Form.

Section 8 (Telework Agreement)

A. An employee requesting to work a telework arrangement will submit a signed "Telework Request and Agreement Form" to his or her supervisor.  The telework agreement documents the terms and conditions of participation in the telework program.  The agreement must be signed by both parties prior to the start of teleworking.

B. If employees have an approved agreement for recurring telework, they may also ad hoc telework, with advance supervisory approval, without submitting an ad hoc telework agreement.

C. Employees may be required to re-certify their telework agreement on an annual basis to ensure that all information is accurate and up to date.

D. Consistent with this Article, a supervisor may elect to review telework agreements as the business need arises to insure compliance with this Article, and any modifications to the telework agreement may only be made pursuant to this Article.  The supervisor will discuss the reasons for any modification to the telework agreement with the employee and, upon request, provide the reasons for such revision in writing to the employee.

E. The employee must submit a new Telework Request when either of the following occurs:

1. The employee is promoted, reassigned, or detailed to a different position; or

2. The employee wishes to make any change to the original approved telework arrangement, such as the number of telework days, location of Alternative Worksite, etc.

G. If an employee seeks to discontinue his or her established telework arrangement, he or she must notify his or her supervisor.

H. An employee may submit a written request to change his or her recurring telework schedule once each calendar quarter. The Employer will respond to the, request within fourteen (14) calendar days.  The Employer will grant such requests if consistent with mission, staffing and/or workload requirements.  In the event of denial, upon request, the Employer will provide the employee with the reason(s) for the denial in writing.

I. For a particular pay period, an employee may request to change his or her scheduled telework day to another day in the work week.  Such request will be granted as long as the change does not unreasonably interfere with mission, staffing and/or workload requirements.

Section 9 (Maintaining a Safe Alternative Worksite)

A. If the Alternative Worksite is the employee's home, the employee must designate a room or location in their home for placement and use of the work materials.  An employee will ensure that this alternative work site location is safe and has adequate workspace, lighting, ventilation, temperature controls, telephone service, power, smoke alarms, and security.  As part of the telework approval process, the employee is required to complete and submit with the telework request form, the SEC Self­Certification Safety Checklist prior to teleworking.

B. The Employer reserves the right to inspect the Alternative Worksite during an employee's regularly scheduled tour of duty or at another agreed upon time to ensure proper maintenance of government-owned property and conformance with safety standards.  The Employer will give reasonable advance notice to the employee of an inspection, generally not less than two (2) workdays.

C. A teleworker is covered by the applicable provisions of the Federal Employee's Compensation Act if injured while performing official duties at his or her approved alternative work site.  An employee will notify his or her supervisor immediately of any such accident or injury and will complete any required forms. The Employer will investigate such an incident promptly.

D. The Employer will not be liable for damages to a telework employee's personal or real property while the employee is working at an alternative work site, except to the extent the Employer is held liable under the Federal Tort Claims Act or the Military Personnel and Civilian Employees Claims Act.

Section 10 (Official Duty Station)

For pay and travel purposes, the employee's official duty station shall be used.

Section 11 (Performance of Work)

A. Performance requirements for teleworking employees are the same as those for non-teleworking employees.  Nothing in this Article shall affect the Employer's right to assign work or make reasonable requests to ascertain the status of work assignment(s) in accordance with applicable laws, rules, regulations, the Employer's needs, or operational goals.  The employee will notify a member of the supervisory chain if and when lack of access to resources, documents, or data makes performing assigned duties while teleworking impracticable.

B. A teleworking employee will be available at a specified Alternative Worksite to supervisors, co-workers, and the public by telephone, voicemail, e-mail, and other communications media during his or her scheduled daily tour of duty. Employees shall comply with supervisor direction regarding other contact requirements such as changes to voice mail messages, number of times daily required to check voice mail, email contact, etc.  The parties recognize that the nature of telework may result in reasonable inquiries or communications to the teleworker not made to the staff as a whole.

D. The teleworking employee must forward their business telephone to an alternative telephone number so they are available to conduct business.  The following are additional Call Forwarding provisions:

1) The Employer will take reasonable steps to ensure that the private residential or cellular telephone numbers of telework participants who have their calls forwarded will not be available to the public.

2) Employees are expected to forward their office telephone to their Alternative Worksite before their scheduled telework duty hours and turn off Call Forwarding at the end of their telework day.

3) Employees will be permitted to forward their calls to either a private residential telephone number or a cellular telephone number.

4) When office calls have been forwarded, the employee will answer the telephone at his or her Alternate Worksite in the same professional manner as he or she would at his or her Official Duty Station.  However, employees will only be required to field these business phone calls while on duty.  In the event that the employee misses a telephone call, he or she will return the call in a timely fashion.  If only a single telephone line is available for both voice and data at the employee's alternative work site, or if the primary telephone at the employee's alternative work site is a cellular telephone, the teleworker is authorized to have the office line forwarded to a cellular telephone in an effort to ensure telephone communication is available while the teleworker is working online.  Under these circumstances, the Employer will reimburse the teleworker for official telephone calls made to and from the cellular telephone.

5) The Employer will not preclude an employee from participating in telework arrangements because Call Forwarding is not available in his or her area.

E. An employee and his/her supervisor may meet to discuss any issues relating to the employee's performance while on telework.  This discussion may include identifying any problems or obstacles, which may be interfering with the employee's ability to perform the required work under his/her telework arrangement.

Section 12 (Balancing Work and Family Needs)

A. Telework arrangements are for the performance of official duties and, while the arrangements give teleworkers flexibility, the work hours should not be treated as an opportunity to conduct personal business.  Teleworkers must follow the SEC standards of ethical behavior, conduct, and confidentiality regardless of where the official duties are performed.

B. Teleworking is not a substitute for childcare or dependent care.  The teleworker must continue to make arrangements for child or dependent care to the same extent as if he or she was working at the traditional office.  It is permissible for a caregiver to be present at the Alternative Worksite to take care of a dependent (newborn to non-school age and/or elderly person) while the teleworker is officially working.

C. If a situation arises where the teleworker must attend to a dependent at the Alternative Worksite during scheduled duty hours, the teleworker shall immediately notify the supervisor and arrange to take leave, credit hour(s) or make other arrangements.

Section 13 (Time and Attendance)

A. Time spent working in a telework status must be accounted for and reported in the same manner as if the employee reported for duty at the Official Duty Station.  Each hour of telework must be accurately recorded and identified as “telework” in the electronic Time and Attendance system and the appropriate telework indicator code must be entered.

B. Normal procedures regarding the requesting and approval of leave, overtime, and credit hours applies when an employee is teleworking.

Section 14 (Work Schedules)

A. The work schedule (days and duty hours) at the telework site must be documented on the agreement signed by both the approving official and employee.

B. A teleworking employee's work schedule may include any alternative work schedules allowed for by Article 7 of this Agreement.  Employees may earn credit hours when teleworking, including weekends, subject to Article 7 and approval by the employee's supervisor.

C. An approved teleworker may telework less than their regular scheduled tour of duty with prior supervisory approval. This may occur when an employee works a portion of the work day in the office or is taking approved leave for a portion of his or her work day and requests to telework the remaining hours in the work day.  Requests made on the same day will not be approved except in exceptional, unforeseen circumstances.  The supervisor's decision to grant or deny an employee's request will be based on Section 6.A and 6.B.  The Employer ordinarily will respond to such request, in writing, within seven (7) calendar days.

D. The Employer reserves the right to direct an employee scheduled for telework to report to his or her Official Duty Station in circumstances deemed necessary by the Employer to meet mission, staffing and/or workload requirements such as:  meetings, receiving work assignments, training, travel, absences of other employees, emergency situations, or other situations deemed necessary by the Employer to meet mission, staffing and/or workload requirements.  The Employer will give the employee as much notice as possible of the need to report to the Official Duty Station.

E. When the Employer directs the employee to report to his or her Official Duty Station (or to a temporary duty location, if applicable) on the employee's scheduled telecommuting day in a given week, the Employer will grant or deny an employee's request to work a different telecommuting day during that same week based on mission, staffing and/or workload requirements.  In the event of denial, upon request, the Employer will provide the reasons for denial in writing.

F. An employee may request to change his or her scheduled telecommuting day to another day in the work week as long as the change does not unreasonably interfere with mission, staffing and/or workload requirements.  In the event of denial, upon request, the Employer will provide the employee with the reasons for denial in writing.

G. There will be no ''carryovers" of "missed" telework days from week-to-week.

H. If an emergency occurs at the telework employee's Alternative Worksite that impacts on his or her ability to perform official duties, the employee will immediately notify the Employer.  In such an emergency, the Employer may direct the employee to report to the Official Duty Station, or approve annual leave (or credit hours), administrative leave, or leave-without-pay.

Section 15 (Technology, Equipment and Supplies)

A. The Employer will consider an employee's request to use his or her own computer equipment to perform his or her official duties at the Alternative Worksite.  The employee is responsible for maintenance and repair of personally owned equipment.

B. If the Employer determines that an employee requires a computer to perform his or her official duties, subject to budgetary considerations, the Employer will strive to provide a laptop computer to the employee when working at the approved Alternative Worksite.  An employee must ensure that government-provided property is used only for approved purposes.  The Employer will service the government equipment provided to an employee at the Official Duty Station.

C. An employee must comply with all relevant information technology security measures, including password protection and data encryption, so that Privacy Act and other security standards are not compromised.

D. Where there is a demonstrated need, the Employer will provide a teleworker participating in recurring telework arrangements with a phone card for making business­related long-distance telephone calls.

E. The Employer will provide a teleworker on a recurring schedule with necessary and routine office supplies.  Necessary and routine office supplies include pens, paper, paper clips, file folders, etc., but do not include such items such as furniture, fax machines, hole punchers, printer cartridges, etc.

F. The Employer may provide underutilized computers or other equipment for use by teleworkers.

G. The Employer will reimburse a teleworker for appropriate and authorized expenses incurred while conducting official duties at the approved Alternative Worksite, as provided for by law and regulations.

H. The Employer will not be responsible for operating costs, home maintenance, insurance, or any other costs (e.g., utilities, internet service) associated with the use of an Alternative Worksite.

Section 16 (Protection of Government Records)

A. The teleworker is responsible for maintaining confidentiality and security at the alternate workplace, as the teleworker would at the Official Duty Station.  The employee must protect the security and integrity of data, information, paper files, and access to agency computer systems against unauthorized disclosure, access, mutilation, obliteration, and destruction.

B. Any compromise in the security and/or integrity of government records must be brought to the teleworking employee's supervisor immediately.

Section 17 (Continuity of Operations in Weather or Emergency Conditions)

A. Agency closures, due to weather, road conditions, or conditions at or around the official duty station do not normally affect the employee's ability to work at home or an Alternative Worksite.  Therefore, the employee is expected to work their normal tour of duty on the days they are regularly scheduled to telework when the government has announced unscheduled leave/unscheduled telework, delayed arrival, early departure, or Federal offices are closed to the public.  Ad hoc teleworkers may request and may be granted unscheduled telework during agency closures, weather, road conditions, special events that severely impact commuting or other emergency conditions to the extent they have access to necessary equipment, documents, and data.  Weather-related conditions include inclement weather or forecasted inclement weather.

B. Employees regularly scheduled to telework on a day that there is an agency closure will continue to work during these closures and will not normally be granted administrative leave.  However, if the condition at the Official Duty Station impacts the ability to work at the Alternative Worksite (e.g., servers are shut down or where power outage forces the closures of an office and a power outage prevents a teleworker from completing his or her work at the alternative work site), employees at the Alternative Worksite will be treated in the same manner as those at the Official Duty Station.

C. A supervisor may approve an employee's request to ad hoc telework for a full day or partial day in the event the government is open with the option of unscheduled leave/unscheduled telework  or in the case of late opening or early departure.  This may occur when an employee with a current SEC approved telework agreement is able to maintain business continuity but cannot safely commute to and from the Official Duty Station.

D. When the SEC announces an early dismissal of employees for non-emergency conditions such as on the day prior to a Federal holiday, employees who telework will be excused.

E. When an emergency affects only the Alternative Worksite for a major portion of the workday, the teleworker is expected to report to the Official Duty Station or request supervisory approval of annual leave, compensatory time, credit hours if on a flexible work schedule, or leave without pay.

F. When an employee knows in advance of a situation that would preclude working at the Alternative Worksite, the employee must either come to the Official Duty Station or request leave.

Section 18 (Compensation for Travel)

A. If the Official Duty Station and the Alternative Worksite are different, and the two are within reasonable commuting distance, then travel between the Official Duty Station and the Alternative Worksite is considered local travel, and there is no reimbursement for travel expenses.

B. If an employee must return to the Official Duty Station on a telework day, mileage is not reimbursed, but the time spent traveling must be credited as work time.

C. If a teleworker is directed to travel to the Official Duty Station during his or her regularly scheduled basic tour of duty—for instance, for an unplanned meeting, or an emergency at the Official Duty Station—the teleworker's travel hours must be counted as hours worked.

Section 19 (Reporting)

A. There are a number of reporting requirements internally and externally to SEC for telework.  The Employer will be responsible for preparing and submitting necessary information for reporting purposes.

B. Within sixty (60) days of the Fiscal Year, the Employer will report to the NTEU the number of bargaining unit employees participating in the telework program broken down by Name, Division/Office/Regional Office, type of telework  (e.g., recurring and ad hoc), days per pay period, and effective dates.  In order to accurately collect this data, employees may be required to report the number of hours teleworked each pay-period.