Federal HR Policies Affecting Cooperative Extension Organizations
CES Personnel Action System
There are several personnel reporting systems used by Federal government agencies. The standard system that uses the SF-50, Notification of Personnel Action, described in the Office of Personnel Managements' (OPM) Guide to Processing Personnel Actions, is not used by the Cooperative Extension Service (CES) program to record and process personnel actions. The CES has a system unique to their program, and their employment and staffing policies and procedures. The CES system is a hybrid of the OPM and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) systems and USDA policies and procedures are inherent in the CES system.
The CES system, approved by OPM February 2002, included the CES 436, Notification of Personnel Action form, Nature of Actions (NOAs), and Remarks Codes specific to CES. Instructions for completing the revised personnel action form, as well as the CES NOAs and Remarks Codes are attached to this section as Adobe Acrobat PDF file. The implementation of the new CES 436 recorded data that the ES 436, the previous personnel action form, did not.
Public Law 107-171, Section 7220, terminated the Federal Schedule A appointment authority that was used by the CES to grant Federal appointments and related Federal benefits for the CES employees with the companion Federal appointment. The law allowed for the continuation of the employees' benefits and these benefits are recorded and documented on the conversion actions to the new forms and system; the termination actions that were processed on the new CES 436 form; and the employee's Individual Retirement Records (IRRs). In addition, the law eliminated the need to use the CES 436 form to record and process personnel and benefit data. As a result the CES 436 form, NOA' s and remarks codes will not be updated.
The current system used by CES to record and process Federal personnel actions and benefit information continues to be unique to CES and is in compliance with OPM and other federally approved systems . The system must accommodate and continue to reflect the policies and procedures of OPM, USDA, and other Federal program and benefit organizations.
OPM, USDA, Department of Labor (DOL), and other agencies and organizations, e.g. Thrift Savings Board (TSB), are responsible for the Federal programs and benefits available to the former Federal appointees in the CES organizations. The university/college Human Resources Offices, including Payroll Offices and Office of Workers' Compensation Program (OWCP) Coordinators, in conjunction with the USDA, Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Human Resources Branch (HRB), National Capital Region Business Service Center (NCRBSC) are responsible for administering the Federal CES program. In addition, USDA representatives are responsible for working with outside organizations to ensure that their rules and regulations are adhered to and to incorporate their policies and guidelines into the CES program, policies, and procedures.
Several resources are available for the Federal program and reference material is abundant. The Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) governs the employment benefits available to Federal employees and information on the Federal benefits available to the CES former Federal appointees is available. Several resources are referenced through out this handbook and they should be reviewed when instructed. However, care should be taken to see what processes are unique to CES since many standard processes and procedures do not apply to CES and/or the standard processes and procedures have been or need to be modified to accommodate the CES program.
USDA and National Finance Center (NFC)
The USDA, Office of Human Capital Management (OHCM), and the USDA HRB NCRBSC, along with other USDA personnel are responsible for the Federal program policies and procedures for the Extension program. The personnel files and records for CES former Schedule A appointees are maintained by the CES Human Resources offices.
NFC, a part of USDA, is responsible for: the processing and maintenance of personnel actions; data files of payroll and other employment information; and the transmission of financial documents and records necessary to generate Federal payments. Agencies that use the SF-50 system can process their employment actions through the NFC and all of the information required is maintained and reported in accordance with USDA and NFC policies and procedures. The information required by OPM for the CPDF is maintained by NFC and reported to OPM on a regular basis.
CES organizations that participate in the Federal benefits programs process many of their benefits payments through the NFC payroll system and the NFC is responsible for processing the payment records for those benefits. Information or problems with the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) and other benefits payments to NFC and/or to OPM should be discussed with the USDA ARS HRB NCRBSC if problems persist or unusual problems are encountered.
Personnel Action Processing
Federal benefit documents and records processed by CES will be processed and maintained in accordance with the CES Personnel System, and data files for each CES employee with Federal benefits must be maintained in addition to the information and documents in the Official Personnel Folder (OPF). The Notification of Personnel Action forms, CES/ES 436, used by the USDA, Cooperative Extension Service, are not used by other Federal agencies. In addition, some of the NOAs are not used by other government agencies and other agencies have very little knowledge of the CES program and the CES Federal Personnel System.
Effective January 31, 2003, the CES organizations are no longer required to process CES 436 personnel actions for their employees that participate in the Federal Retirement and other Federal benefits programs. However, the organizations must continue to process Federal benefit changes and forms for their employees as long as they continue to meet the requirements for the continuation of Federal service and benefits. Changes that impact on an employee's Federal benefits will be recorded on the former Federal appointee's IRR's. The IRR NOAs to be used by the CES program are attached to this section and they will be updated when necessary.
Offices that choose to do so may continue to use the system that was approved by OPM in 2002, including the NOAs and Remarks Codes. However, CES organizations that choose to continue to use the CES 436 are also required to record all benefit changes on the employees' IRR's using the approved IRR NOAs. The USDA copy of the CES 436 is no longer necessary.
Personnel Records Systems
The OPF for CES Schedule A appointees are set up and maintained in accordance with OPM, USDA, and CES policies and procedures. All documents related to the employment of former Schedule A appointees are maintained and secured in accordance with the applicable laws and regulations that govern the disposition of such documents, e.g. Volunteer Early Retirement Authorization, Discontinued Service Retirement, payroll records, etc.
The OPF will be handled in accordance with OPM guidelines for the maintenance of OPF's and the records of all personnel actions and benefit forms will remain with the employing CES organization.
All records for retirement, TSP, Federal Employee’ Group Life Insurance Program, FEHB, etc. must be created and maintained in accordance with the policies and procedures that govern the use of these documents, e.g. SF-2806/SF-3100, Individual Retirement Records, SF-2815, Report of Withholdings and Contributions to OPM, etc. Guidance is available from the OPM website and other applicable websites. Additional guidance on IRRs can be found in the Retirement Section of this guidance.
All documents related to CES Federal Workman's Compensation cases must be created and maintained in accordance with the DOL, OWCP policies and procedures that govern the use of the forms, reports, and documents necessary to process injury claims. Guidance is available from the OWCP website and OWCP offices throughout the country. Note: Claims for new injuries can not be filed with the DOL after January 31, 2003, the effective date of the termination of the Schedule A appointments. New claims must be filed with the State Workman's Compensation office.
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