Update on Telework Legislation
Blog by Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO David Kappos
This is a good opportunity to update the topic of telework, for two reasons. First, it remains a topic of vital importance to many USPTO employees. And second, there is actually very important news to report. Last week, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 1722, the Telework Improvements Act of 2009. The House included in their bill a provision for a travel test program that would allow the General Services Administration (GSA) to test flexibilities within the travel regulations. If this provision passes, the USPTO will submit to GSA a proposal to permit more USPTO teleworkers to voluntarily locate outside the Capitol metro area by lifting the biweekly reporting requirement for employees who live outside of the 50-mile radius.
By lifting the bi-weekly reporting requirement, the legislation would help the USPTO recruit and retain our highly skilled workforce both in the Mid-Atlantic area and throughout the United States, while minimizing the costs associated with workforce expansion. This in turn would enable the Agency to expand our traditional hiring methods and seek out talented workers in all areas of the country where the expertise exists to fulfill our mission.
There are also two provisions in the Senate telework bill (S. 707, the Telework Enhancement Act of 2009) that provide new flexibility for teleworkers. S. 707 passed the full Senate on May 24. If S. 707 were enacted into law, an employee could choose to live anywhere in the United States in exchange for a willingness to return, on a limited basis, to Alexandria at their own expense and on their own time.
While the recent developments regarding the House and Senate bills are unquestionably good news, we still have more to do on telework legislation. The House and Senate need to work out the differences between their two bills, to create one piece of legislation. Then each body needs to pass the consolidated legislation by majority vote. And there is not much time left this Congress, with the summer recess approaching and elections coming this fall. But, the very act of the House and Senate both including travel regulation test program provisions in their versions of telework legislation is a very positive step.
It is a tremendous honor for me to lead an Agency that is such a trailblazer in telework. But we can and will make our programs even better. I’ll continue to work with Congress and will continue to support this very important telework legislation. And I will keep you updated on its progress.