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Vol. LXIV, No. 8
April 13, 2012
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Feedback

Have a question about some aspect of working at NIH? You can post anonymous queries at www.nih.gov/nihrecord/index.htm (click on the Feedback icon) and we’ll try to provide answers.

Feedback: Why is smoking tolerated in the parking lot area behind Bldg. 10 (adjacent to the cafeteria) when NIH is supposed to be a “smoke-free” campus? While I understand that only employee supervisors are empowered to address this, it seems unimaginable that this daily occurrence has gone unnoticed to this point. I see the same thing on the dock area along Bldg. 13.

Reply from the Office of Research Services: NIH has collective bargaining agreements with unions representing employees who work at NIH. Until the Tobacco Free Policy can be made a part of all these agreements, there will be individuals who are allowed to smoke on the campus as long as they abide by the previous NIH Smoking Policy. For more information about the current policy, visit http://tobaccofree.nih.gov/tfpolicy.htm.

Feedback: When are NIH and other federal agencies going to stop discriminating against committed same-sex couples? Whereas committed opposite-sex couples are allowed the same access to federal benefits as legally married opposite-sex couples (such as health insurance), committed same-sex couples are not. In light of the recent repeal of the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” regulation in the United States military, isn’t it time to offer federal benefits to all the committed couples, regardless of their sexual orientation? It seems a bit unfair that a newly formed opposite-sex couple gets federal benefits, yet a same-sex couple that’s been in a committed relationship for 20 years does not.

Response from the Office of Human Resources: In June 2010, a Presidential memorandum directed federal agencies to implement the changes necessary to extend benefits to same-sex domestic partners of federal employees that are currently available to opposite sex spouses, wherever permitted by law. The benefits extended include, among others, access to day care for the children of employees’ domestic partners, travel and relocation allowances and access to employee assistance programs. In addition, same-sex partners are eligible to apply for coverage under the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program and can be designated as the beneficiary to receive payment of life insurance, retirement contributions, Thrift Savings Plan account balance and unpaid compensation.

Some other programs, however, such as the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program, Federal Employees Group Life Insurance Program and Flexible Spending Accounts Program could not be extended to same-sex partners. The Defense of Marriage Act narrowly defines a spouse to be a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife and marriage to be a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife.

Questions may be directed to the Benefits and Payroll Liaison Branch at (301) 496-4556.

 


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