The Foreign Service Journal, September 2009

S E P T E M B E R 2 0 0 9 / F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L 65 N ew administration, new priori- ties? AFSA recently helpedmove forward three key issues that have plagued FSOs for years. Legislative Di- rector Casey Frary explains: Pay Gap Issue In March of this year, Congress passed the Fiscal Year 2009 Omnibus Appropriations bill, appropriating $41 million to close the pay disparity cur- rently affecting Foreign Service officers. However, it lacked language that actu- ally authorized the State Department to use the monies for that purpose. This problem was solved when the FY 09 Supplemental Appropriations bill was passed by the House and Senate in mid-June and signed by President Obama on June 24. This version of the bill included the necessary authoriza- tion language to allow State to actually spend the money to close the pay gap. This is historic and unprecedented. As of this writing, AFSA understands that State will move swiftly to close approx- imately one-third of the current 23.1- percent gap, most likely beginning in August. While this an extremely positive de- velopment, this slight closure of the pay gap is only for FY 09, and thus ends on Sept. 30. The House Foreign Affairs Committee recently passed H.R. 2410, the Foreign Relations AuthorizationAct, which includes language that would permanently close the pay gap in incre- ments over the next two years. This bill still has a long way to travel through the legislative process, but is a strong start to resolving this issue. Domestic Partner Benefits After President Obama signed a presidential memo granting certain benefits to domestic partners of federal employees, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was quick to point to the meaning this memo will have for members of the Foreign Service: “I am pleased to announce that the Depart- ment of State is extending the full range of legally available benefits and al- lowances to same-sex domestic partners of members of the Foreign Service sent to serve abroad.” Because FSOs have particularly uni- que demands being stationed abroad, the State Department will be extending some key benefits to their domestic partners and children of domestic part- ners. Secretary Clinton’s release on this topic includes the following: “To qualify for these benefits and al- lowances on behalf of a same-sex do- mestic partner, an employeemust file an affidavit identifying his or her same-sex domestic partner and certifying to cer- tain eligibility requirements that will be set forth in the Foreign Affairs Manual. “The Department of State intends to provide the following additional bene- fits and allowances for declared same- sex domestic partners of eligible em- ployees serving overseas: • Diplomatic passports • Inclusion on employee travel or- ders to and from posts abroad • Shipment of household effects • Inclusion in family-size calcula- tions for the purpose of making hous- ing allocations • Family member preference for em- ployment at posts abroad • Use of medical facilities at posts abroad • Medical evacuation from posts abroad • Emergency travel for partners to visit gravely ill or injured employees and relatives • Inclusion as family members for emergency evacuation from posts abroad • Subsistence payments related to emergency evacuation from posts abroad • Inclusion in calculations of pay- ments of overseas allowances (e.g., pay- ment for quarters, cost of living and other allowances) • Representation expenses • Training at the Foreign Service In- stitute. “The department also will work with foreign governments to provide same- sex domestic partners, to the extent pos- sible, with diplomatic visas, privileges and immunities, and authorization to work in the local economy.” Parental Leave for Federal Employees The House of Representatives has passed H.R. 626, the Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act of 2009. The legislation provides that of the 12 weeks of unpaid leave guaranteed by the Fam- ily and Medical Leave Act, federal em- ployees be allowed to substitute four weeks of paid leave, as well as any ac- crued annual or sick leave, for the birth or adoption of a child. AFSA joins with other organizations, such as the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association, that have hailed this bill as a great step in the right direction to bring the federal work force up to the same standard as 75 per- cent of the Forbes 500 companies, as well as most Western societies, when it comes to family-friendliness and par- ental leave. ❏ A F S A N E W S OVERSEAS PAY GAP, DOMESTIC PARTNERS AND PARENTAL LEAVE ADDRESSED AFSA Plays Key Role in Legislative Successes This bill is a great step in the right direction to bring the federal work force up to the same standard as 75 percent of the Forbes 500 companies, when it comes to family- friendliness and parental leave.