US Mission Germany: LE Staff Age Discrimination Cases Fail at the EEOC Over 45-Day Time Limit

Below are two three recent cases at the EEOC where former LE staff at US Mission Germany alleged unlawful employment discrimination in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA). Both complainants were already retired when the complaints were filed at the Commission. In both cases, the EEOC affirmed the State Department’s decision. In the first case, the complainant argues that the Commission should waive the 45-day time limit.  In the second case, the complainant’s case failed for failure to initiate EEO counseling within the 45-day time limit. In the third case, the complainant filed the case 15 years later, “well beyond the 45-day limitation period.”
EEOC Appeal No. 2021001196:
Complainant, a U.S. citizen, was hired by the Agency effective October 17, 2005, as a Secretary, Pay Plan 01, Grade 06 (PP-01-06). She was competitively promoted to Administrative Assistant Move Coordinator), PP-01-09 effective April 1, 2007, was reassigned to Administrative Assistant, PP-01-08 effective April 26, 2009, and retired on December 31, 2018. All these jobs were with the American Embassy Berlin in Berlin Germany, part of U.S. Mission Germany. Complainant worked as Locally Employed (LE) Staff, meaning staff who were legal permanent residents of Germany, including U.S. and non-U.S. citizens.

On August 24, 2020, Complainant filed an EEO complaint alleging that the Agency discriminated against her based on age because throughout her employment she was ineligible, due to being hired after her 45th birthday, to participate in the Mission Germany Retirement Benefit Plan/Defined Benefit Plan (DBP) for LE Staff.
[…]
The Agency dismissed the EEO complaint because Complainant did not initiate EEO counseling within the 45-day time limit of when she reasonably should have suspected discrimination. It found as follows. Complainant should have reasonably suspected discrimination upon her retirement (December 31, 2018) when she learned that she did not qualify for retirement benefits, and again by February 26, 2020, when post leadership issued cable 20 STATE 21066 denying Complainant and similarly situated LE retirees retirement benefits. The Agency found that Complainant had constructive notice of the 45-day time limit because of numerous posted notices on the Agency’s internet site, its intranet site dedicated to employment information, and on Embassy Berlin’s intranet site. The Agency also dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim for various reasons.

The instant appeal followed. On appeal, Complainant argues that when she was hired American Embassy Berlin was in the process of building a new embassy. She writes she was not located in one of official Embassy buildings and because her location did not have access to the Agency and Mission Germany intranet websites she did not have the means to learn of the 45 day time limit. Complainant writes that the above occurred when she worked for Overseas Building Operations (OBO) of the Embassy.

[…]
The record reflects Complainant stopped working in OBO when she was promoted on April 1, 2007, and she does not argue she was unaware of the 45-day time limit thereafter. Rather, Complainant argues that the Commission should waive the 45-day time limit because the Agency deliberately hindered those injured from becoming aware of the age discrimination and because of the gravity of its offense. Complainant argues that she only formed a reasonable suspicion of age discrimination after extensive consultation with experts and similarly situated LE Staff and retirees, and hence her EEO contact was timely. She also argues that her complaint states a claim.
[…]
Complainant argues that after she retired on December 31, 2018, she helped establish a Pension Sub-Committee to meet with management to discuss DBP age discrimination (meaning allow those excluded from DBP due to their age to retroactively join DBP), but on February 26, 2019, via cable, management declined to grandfather them into DBP. Based on this information, we  conclude that Complainant had a reasonable suspicion of discrimination years before she initiated EEO counseling on July 21, 2020. Accordingly, the FAD is AFFIRMED
EEOC Appeal No. 2021001243
Complainant, a U.S. citizen, was hired by the Agency starting on February 24, 1997, to a limited term position as a Commercial Representative at the American Consulate General, Office of the Foreign Commercial Service, in Dusseldorf, Germany. The term appointment allowed for the option of subsequent annual extensions. It appears the Agency annually renewed Complainant’s term employment until he retired on October 31, 2017. In July 2009, Complainant was reassigned from Dusseldorf to Munich, Germany, where he remained until his retirement. Throughout his career with the Agency’s U.S. Mission Germany, Complainant worked as Locally Employed (LE) Staff, meaning staff who were legal permanent residents of Germany.
On July 23, 2020, Complainant initiated EEO counseling and later filed a formal equal employment opportunity (EEO) complaint dated August 26, 2020, alleging the Agency discriminated against him based on his age because he was ineligible, due to being hired after his 45th birthday, to participate in Part A of the Mission Germany Retirement Benefit Plan/Defined Benefit Plan (DBP) for LE Staff.
[..]
The Agency dismissed Complainant’s EEO complaint because he did not initiate EEO counseling within the 45-day time limit of when he reasonably should have suspected discrimination. The Agency found that, at the latest, Complainant should have reasonably
suspected discrimination when he retired on October 31, 2017, because he did not qualify for retirement benefits at that point. It further found that assuming Complainant did not reasonably suspect discrimination upon his retirement, he should have reasonably suspected discrimination when, on February 26, 2020, via cable (identified as 20 STATE 21066), Agency leadership denied the request by similarly situated former LE Staff, also hired after age 45, for retirement  benefits. The Agency found that Complainant knew or had constructive notice of the 45-day time limit because of posted notices on the Agency’s intranet and internet sites dedicated to employment information. The complaint file contains screen shots of the referenced notices.
[…]

The doctrine of laches is an equitable remedy under which an individual’s failure to pursue diligently his course of action could bar his claim. We find laches applies here. Complainant delayed almost three years after he retired to initiate EEO counseling. While the record may not show exactly when Complainant was notified of the time limit to initiate EEO counseling, we conclude that the record sufficiently supports a finding that he did not act with due diligence in starting his EEO case, justifying the application of the doctrine of laches. Accordingly, the FAD dismissing the complaint for untimely EEO counseling is AFFIRMED.
EEOC Appeal No. 2021001278 :
During the relevant period, Complainant worked as a Computer Management Specialist at the Agency’s US Embassy Berlin in Berlin, Germany.

On July 21, 2020, Complainant initiated EEO Counselor contact. Informal efforts to resolve his concerns were unsuccessful.

On August 27, 2020, Complainant filed a formal complaint alleging that the Agency subjected him to discrimination based on age when he was informed that he was not eligible for benefits under Mission Germany’s Retirement Benefit Plan, beginning the date of his employment as a locally employed staff member on October 17, 2015.


In its October 13, 2020 final decision, the Agency dismissed the formal complaint claim for untimely EEO Counselor contact, pursuant to 29 C.F.R. § 1614.107(a)(2).
Specifically, the Agency determined that Complainant initiated EEO Counselor contact on July 21, 2020, which the Agency found was more than forty-five days after the alleged discriminatory event occurred. In addition, the Agency argued that Complainant knew or should have known that retirement benefits were not part of his employment benefit package.
In support of its assertions, the Agency included a copy of Complainant’s offer letter and employment history that he signed on September 9, 2005, acknowledging receipt of the Foreign Service National (FSN) Handbook that explains retirement benefit eligibility.
[…]
The Agency noted further that the instant complaint raises issues of retirement benefits for Locally Employed Staff (LE) which arise under the Foreign Service Act (FSA). Complainant signed the LCP when he began his employment with Mission Germany and properly grieved the LCP provisions. The Agency found that, as a result, the Commission lacks jurisdiction to decide the allegations Complainant raised in his complaint.

Finally, the Agency found that the subject claim is a collateral attack on the Agency grievance proceeding. The Agency stated that Complainant should have raised his allegations through the Agency grievance proceeding, and not through the EEO complaint process.
[..]

Here, the Agency properly dismissed the formal complaint on the grounds of untimely EEO counselor contact. Complainant was notified in his employment contract in 2005 that he was not eligible for retirement benefits. However, Complainant did not initiate contact with an EEO

Counselor until July 21, 2020, 15 years later and well beyond the 45-day limitation period. We note that in his complaint, Complainant states he did not reasonably suspect discrimination until February 26, 2020, when Agency leadership issued a decision entitled 20 STATE 21066 denying retirement benefits to Complainant and other similarly situated retirees. Even counting from that date, Complainant’s July 21, 2020 initial EEO counselor contact was untimely made.
[..]
The Agency’s final decision dismissing the formal complaint for the reasons stated herein is AFFIRMED.
Not sure what “Agency grievance proceeding” the State Department is referencing here. Is there a grievance system for LE staff overseas, besides getting a hearing from the COM? The Foreign Service Grievance System (FSGB) applies to Foreign Service employees only.
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US Embassy Kabul Evacuates 2,800 Locally Employed Staff and Families

 

Related:

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@StateDept Provides Updates on Afghanistan Evacuation: 42,000 Relocated Since End of July

 

It has been over a week since the fall of Kabul. The State Department continues its evacuation from the capital city of Afghanistan. Since the end of July, approximately 42,000 people reportedly been evacuated and relocated. As of this writing, the State Department has not released the number of Americans evacuated from Afghanistan supposedly “in part because that number changes all the time.” This evacuation may be chaotic, but one thing consular folks would definitely track is the Amcit status of evacuees.
How many Americans are in Afghanistan? Estimates vary from 10,000 to 15,000 U.S. citizens in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan according to Reuters. The report also cited Pentagon Spokesman John Kirby who put the number between 5,000 and 10,000 for U.S. citizens  believed to be in the Kabul area. On August 24, NBC News quoted the Pentagon spox saying: “As of today, August 24, we have evacuated approximately 4,000 American passport holders plus their families. We expect that number to continue to grow in the coming days.”
The State Department’s  F-77 report would have an estimate of the number of Americans in the country prior to fall of Kabul.  The report submitted annually provides an estimation of the number of private American citizens in a country, based in part on traveler registration, and is used by State and DOD in planning for and conducting evacuations of American citizens. Of course, reporting a U.S. citizen’s presence overseas at a US Embassy is not mandatory. Dual national may not also report their presence, and could not be counted. While the F-77 data is not perfect, it will have an approximate number of how many Americans post’s believe would need support in an evacuation.
Via the State Department Press Briefing, August 23, 2021:

— …From 3:00 a.m. on August 22nd to 3:00 a.m. on August 23rd, 28 U.S. military flights evacuated approximately 10,400 people from Kabul.

—  Since August 14th, the U.S. has evacuated and facilitated the evacuation of approximately 37,000 people.

— Since the end of last month, the end of July, we have relocated approximately 42,000 people.

— … officers from the U.S. missions in Mexico, Canada, Brazil, and India are assisting, as well as many consular staff from this building and from throughout the Washington, D.C. region.

— The United States wants to sincerely thank the governments of Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Germany, Italy, and Spain for their help in our efforts to safely transit U.S. citizens, at-risk Afghans, and other evacuees from Afghanistan.

— The temporary transit locations we have established at U.S. or joint bases in Germany, Italy, and Spain have capacity to process at least 15,000 people on a rolling basis, significantly expanding our ability to facilitate the relocation of U.S. citizens and at-risk Afghans from Afghanistan.

Doubled Consular presence on the ground. How many?

QUESTION: Okay. Secondly, also really briefly, are you guys still sending consular and other people to Kabul to work at the airport, or has that now – have you now reached the – what you need?

MR PRICE: Well, so we are always evaluating the situation on the ground to determine that we have the right staffing posture to accommodate the tasks that we need to take on. We talked about this last week, but as of late last week we had doubled the number of consular officers on the ground in Kabul. We had sent additional consular officers to some of those initial transit sites in the Gulf, including to Qatar, to Kuwait, and the UAE. But the broader point I would make is that we have been able to take advantage of consular officers throughout this building and around the world.

QUESTION: Okay. But I’m not interested in the broader point. I’m just interested in an answer to the question. Are you still sending people there?

MR PRICE: If —

QUESTION: And if you’re not – which is fine if you are or not, I just want to know if you’re still ramping up. And then on the opposite end of that is that we are approaching the 31st, and if there is no extension in this, you guys are going to have to start thinking, and I want to know have you already started thinking about drawing them back down again if, in fact, they are going to leave, or if you guys think that maybe you can go back to the embassy.

MR PRICE: Well, we are always evaluating what we have on the ground compared with our needs. If we need more people on the ground, we won’t hesitate to do it. We came to that conclusion last week. That’s why we doubled the presence of consular officers on the ground.

Has the Secretary spoken with anyone?

QUESTION: Okay, last one. Yesterday – and I didn’t see this interview; I saw the first one, I didn’t see the second one – in the CBS interview, the Secretary, according to the transcript that you guys put out, misspoke and said that he had spoken to President Karzai. And I’m less interested in his misspeaking and more interested in knowing whether or not there has been any discussion between the Secretary or anyone else, like Zal or anyone, between the U.S. and former President Karzai, or Abdullah Abdullah, or the others who are now in discussions with the Taliban leadership.

MR PRICE: Absolutely. So, as you know, Matt, there continues to be dialogue between the Afghans – that is to say, representatives of Islamic Republic – and the Taliban. For our part, we have been in touch with relevant and key stakeholders, individuals who are taking part in intra-Afghan discussions with the Taliban. We’re not in a position to read those calls out. This has been primarily on the part of our team in Doha, our team on the ground in Afghanistan, to make sure that we have a regular line in to those Afghan stakeholders.

QUESTION: So the Secretary has not been in touch with —

MR PRICE: No.

Local Staff Questions

QUESTION: Ned, my colleague reported that on Saturday a cable came here – a memo was sent to Afghan staff at the embassy on Wednesday inviting them to head to the airport and that it was so difficult for them to – the physical situation was simply impossible, and that some staff reported being separated from children. They said, quote, “It would be better to die under the Taliban’s bullet than face the crowds again.” One staff member said they felt betrayed, that it was – it undermined their sense of dignity, their loyalty. This is embassy staff who should have been presumably prioritized, but they were left behind when the evacuation took place, basically.

MR PRICE: …. We have an obligation to these individuals, a sacrosanct obligation. They have served the United States. They have not only worked for us, they have worked with us. Our embassies around the world could not function without locally engaged staff. That is as true in Paris or London as it is in a place like Kabul. So we absolutely have a responsibility to these individuals who have worked with our colleagues on the ground in Kabul and, in some cases, over years or even longer. They are absolutely a priority in terms of our evacuation and relocation planning.

As you know, Andrea, we are now in a position to offer tailored, personalized advice to those we are relocating from Afghanistan, to those we are evacuating from Afghanistan. We’ve been doing that, of course, to American citizens. We’ve been doing that to Special Immigrant Visa applicants. We’ve been doing that to other Afghans at risk. But our locally engaged staff, they are absolutely a priority, they are absolutely part of our plans, and that commitment to them, to their safety and security, is something that is in no way diminished.

QUESTION: Well, couldn’t they – why weren’t they on the original evacuation from the embassy?

MR PRICE: So when the embassy was evacuated and our personnel started to make the way from the embassy in Kabul to the secure facility on the airport compound, many of, if not all of, our locally engaged staff were not present on the embassy compound at that time. They were working remotely given the volatile security situation. Many of them were at home, were not at work. I can tell you that we have been able to relocate members of our locally engaged staff, but they were not brought to the airport compound with the American direct hires at that time just because they weren’t at the embassy compound by and large that day.

Vetting evacuees

QUESTION: But I’m asking you a different question. Surging resources doesn’t answer the question as to why not do this at the third country – surge them there and get them out of Kabul, where they can have better facilities, sanitation, food, et cetera.

MR PRICE: Well, that vetting by and large is taking place at these third countries. When it comes to SIVs, again, all of those who have received instructions to come to the airport have already completed certain stages of the security vetting process. So that initial vet on these individuals has been completed. In many cases, they’re then taken to a third country, where they will undergo more rigorous vetting if it hasn’t yet been completed.

But that is very much the point of the network of transit countries and partner countries throughout the Middle East, throughout Europe, the rest of the world – more than 26 countries across four continents. It is in part a system that will allow us to provide safe haven to these individuals who in some cases – well, in all cases before they come to the United States, but in some cases still need to complete part of that rigorous vetting process.

Number of Americans evacuated –  no precise figure

QUESTION: Hi, thanks. A couple of questions. One, the National Security Advisor in his briefing at the White House earlier today was asked for the number of American citizens who have been evacuated. He indicated he would give that number out; he just didn’t have it at hand. Do you have that number?

MR PRICE: I don’t have a precise figure to give you, in part because that number changes all the time. Just within the past 24 hours, again, more than 10,400 people. We are evacuating thousands upon thousands of people per day, so I just don’t have that figure to provide right now.

What happens after August 31st?

QUESTION: One final quick point. When you say the Taliban has made commitments, does the Taliban understand that given the U.S.’s commitment to its citizens, to SIV applicants, and to others in that pool, that if this operation needs to go beyond August 31st the Taliban must allow that operation to continue?

MR PRICE: Look, this is a decision that only one person will be able to make. That person is not in Afghanistan. That person is not in this building. That person sits in an office without corners in the White House. President Biden will ultimately have to decide when this operation will come to a close. I can tell you that it is our goal to move as quickly as we can and as efficiently as we can to bring to safety as many people as we can. And I think you are seeing in the metrics in recent days and certainly over the past 24 hours that we are making good progress on that.

It is not our goal to be there one day, one hour, one minute longer than is absolutely necessary, but not going to get ahead of that.

 

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@StateDept Sends M Nominee John Bass to Kabul to Leverage “Logistics Experience” in Evacuation

 

 

Via State Department, August 17:

— We’ve now completed our drawdown to the core diplomatic presence we need, and at this time we will no longer – at this time no longer need to facilitate departures for our embassy personnel.

— All remaining embassy staff will be assisting departures from Afghanistan, and the department is surging resources and Consular Affairs personnel to augment the relocation of American citizens and Afghan special immigrants – special immigrants, and elsewhere adding personnel to assist with P-1/P-2 adjudication processing.

— We’ve successfully relocated many of our locally employed staff and are in direct contact with the remainder to determine who is interested in relocation and the process for doing so.

— Ambassador John Bass – a seasoned career diplomat and former ambassador to Afghanistan, Turkey, and Georgia – is heading to Kabul today to lead logistics coordination and consular efforts. A career member of the Senior Foreign Service, Ambassador Bass brings decades of experience from service at seven U.S. missions overseas and in leadership positions, including executive secretary, here in Washington. Ambassador Wilson, who has remained in Kabul, will continue to lead our diplomatic engagement.

So this is a massive logistical undertaking. The – our presence, our diplomatic presence in Kabul, this is a focus of theirs. Obviously, there is a lot of other important business that needs to get done from management to engagements with the – with Afghans. And so what Ambassador Bass will be doing is overseeing the logistics of this rather large, rather ambitious, expansive operation. He’ll be using and leveraging his managerial expertise and logistics experience to help Ambassador Wilson and the broader Embassy Kabul management team with this challenge.

He is going there to work on the nuts and bolts of this, just given how logistically challenging this is.

In July, President Biden nominated Ambassador Bass, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service to be the next Under Secretary of State (Management). If confirmed, he would succeed Pompeo BFF Brian J. Bulatao. The nomination is pending in the SFRC as of this writing.

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@StateDept Issues New Policy For Local Staff at U.S. Missions in Suspended Operations

 

 

The State Department recently issued its policy for locally hired staff at U.S. Mission in suspended operations (see 3 FAM 7170). Suspended operations denote “a U.S. mission or post that has ceased operating. During this period, U.S. direct hire (USDH) personnel are usually removed from post (often evacuated). It is possible that some LE staff may remain working on premises to maintain the facilities. Diplomatic relations with the host government are usually maintained under suspended operations; it is not a revocation of diplomatic relations with the host country.”

3 FAM 7174 Authorization of Caretaker LE staff 
(CT:PER-1039;   05-13-2021)
(Uniform State/USAID/Commerce/Agriculture)
(Applies Locally Employed Staff Only)

a. LE Staff who will continue to work on behalf of the U.S. mission during suspended operations must be designated as “Caretaker LE Staff”. Caretaker LE Staff continue to be subject to all applicable personnel policies (e.g., discipline, performance management, awards, pay increases, etc.).
b. Within thirty (30) calendar days from the date on which a U.S. mission is determined to be in suspended operation status, the regional bureau will submit an action memorandum to the Under Secretary of State for Management requesting approval for retention of and continuation of pay to current LE Staff. The action memo requesting continued employment of Caretaker LE Staff must include specific information establishing the need for continued employment of and sufficient supervision over Caretaker LE Staff and should include, at a minimum, the following information:

(1)  List of proposed Caretaker LE Staff, along with their respective employment sections;
(2)  Duties being performed and an explanation regarding why these duties are mission essential;
(3)  Confirmation of appropriate supervisory controls;
(4)  The extent to which employees will regularly report to the workplace and, if not reporting to the workplace, information on how employees will be performing their duties and communicating with supervisors; and 
(5)  Data on those employees who may require updated work plans or job reassignments. 

c.  Retention of and/or continuation of pay to LE Staff will be subject to review every six (6) months thereafter by the Under Secretary for Management. If approved, the action memoranda will be provided to CGFS/C/PPR/LE. 
d. As noted in 3 FAM 7174(a), Caretaker LE Staff are subject to applicable personnel policies (e.g., discipline and performance management) and any discipline or separation of Caretaker LE Staff should be consistent with 3 FAM 7720 and 3 FAM 7730.

The new guidance says that immediately upon the determination to place a U.S. mission in suspended operation status, LE Staff who are not designated as Caretaker LE Staff will be temporarily placed in excused-leave status (i.e., administrative leave).
According to the FAM, once a determination is made to remove an LE Staff from excused-leave status or to remove an employee’s position from the authorized caretaker list, separation should proceed pursuant to the U.S. mission’s Reduction in Force (RIF) policy and the mission’s Local Compensation Plan (LCP).
No RIF retention register is required, no RIF appeal process is required, and the FAM says that the “U.S. mission should not include information about appeals in the RIF notice provided to LE Staff.”

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@StateDept “continuing to evaluate the situation regarding the embassy and the staffing” in #Moscow

 

Via Department Press Briefing – August 2, 2021
08/02/2021 06:22 PM EDT

QUESTION: I wonder if you could comment on the report that the Russian ambassador to the U.S. has said there’s 24 Russian diplomats who’ve been asked to leave the country by September 3rd after their visas expired. So why are they being asked to leave? Were any of these people acting in a manner inconsistent with their diplomatic status? And is this a retaliation against something Russia has done?

MR PRICE: Well, let me first address Ambassador Antonov’s remarks. I understand he made these remarks during a media interview. But his characterization of the situation is not accurate; it’s incorrect. The three-year limit on visa validity for Russians, it’s nothing new. When visas expire, as you might expect, these individuals are expected to leave the country or apply for an extension. That is what is at play here.

But since you did raise the – this issue, let me take an opportunity to speak to the broader issue, and that is a statement that you all saw from us – from Secretary Blinken – on Friday. And we issued this statement in response to what the Russian Government has mandated and what took effect yesterday, and that’s namely that the prohibition on the United States from retaining, hiring, or contracting Russian or third-country staff except for our guard force, which very lamentably has forced us to let go of hundreds of staff members across Russia, across embassy and the mission community there. It is unfortunate because these measures have a negative impact on our – on the U.S. mission to Russia’s operation, potentially on the safety and security of our personnel, as well as our ability to engage in diplomacy with the Russian Government.

I will say that we reserve the right to take appropriate response measures to Russia’s actions. The Russian Government has also indicated that it will impose similar measures on the embassies of some other – some of our partners and allies. We also strongly object to this and will stand in solidarity with the other countries, the other members of the diplomatic community there who are affected by this.

The point we’ve made before is that our actions on March 2nd and April 15th, the measures we put into place to hold the Russian Government accountable for its range of threats to our interests and to our people – those were a response. We did not escalate; we did not seek an escalation. Those were a response to the Russian Government’s harmful actions, and we continue to believe that at times like these, we do need open channels of communication between our governments, including through our respective embassies. So we’re continuing to evaluate the situation and will update you as we have new developments.

Shaun.

QUESTION: Could we pursue that a bit? The ambassador – another thing that he said was that three-year validity is unique or almost unique to Russia. Is that accurate as far as you see?

MR PRICE: So the Office of Foreign Missions did issue some guidance recently. What we have said – and we can get you more details if we’re able to share on how this applies to Russia – but we have – we announced last week that the department will limit the assignment duration of most newly arriving members of foreign, diplomatic, or consular missions in the United States to a maximum of five consecutive years. Now, of course, that doesn’t apply to all missions, but the limitation on duration does help us to balance the lengths of tours for bilateral diplomats assigned to foreign missions in the United States and for U.S. diplomats’ assignments overseas.

QUESTION: Five years. Is that not the —

MR PRICE: The maximum is five years across the board.

QUESTION: So when he’s talking about three years, is that accurate? I mean, is that something that’s the case with Russians?

MR PRICE: I couldn’t comment as to whether that is unique to Russian diplomats or not.

QUESTION: Well, can they apply for renewals?

MR PRICE: We’ll see if we can get you more information on that.

QUESTION: Well, because, I mean, you said that after the three years for the Russians, when they either have to leave or they —

MR PRICE: Apply for an extension.

QUESTION: Yeah. Can they get an extension? Or you say no —

MR PRICE: They can apply for an extension. They can apply for an extension, and just as —

QUESTION: But have – and have you – but have you said that we will not accept any extension requests?

MR PRICE: What we’ve said is that they can apply for an extension. As in all cases, applications are reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

QUESTION: All right. But this – but this – but you’re saying in response to his question is that this is not like a retaliatory move for the broader issues or the —

MR PRICE: This is not – the characterization that he put forward is not accurate.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: He also said that you make it impossible for them to get visa again to come back. He said they likely will not come back because you guys make it impossible for them to get visa renewal. Is that – do you dispute what he’s saying?

MR PRICE: What we have consistently said is that we believe that in a relationship like this that, at least at the present, is characterized by disagreement, by tension, by friction, and all of that is probably putting it lightly, that we need more communication rather than less. We think it is in our interest. We tend to think it’s in the interest of our two countries, that we are able to communicate effectively and openly, and we can do that through our embassies, but our embassies need to be adequately staffed. The measures that the Russian Federation put in place on Sunday has, as we said before, forced us to let go of hundreds of our employees across our facilities in Russia. That, in turn, has a ripple effect on our ability, on the ability of our diplomats in Russia to do their jobs. We think that is quite unfortunate.

Yes.

[…]

QUESTION: Can I just follow up on Russia for one second?

MR PRICE: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So you said that the U.S. is continuing to evaluate the situation regarding the embassy and the staffing. What do you mean by that? Do you mean the U.S. is questioning if they should keep open this embassy in Moscow? Do you mean you’re looking at how to respond both of those things? Can you just be a little more explicit?

MR PRICE: Well, so of course, our embassy in Moscow does remain open. When it comes to our other facilities, operations remain suspended at the U.S. consulate general in Vladivostok. All public-facing services were halted earlier this year at our consulate general in Yekaterinburg. The CG there no longer provides consular services, including U.S. citizen services such as passport issuance, notarial services, and consular reports of birth abroad.

What we have voiced strong objection to, including from the Secretary that you saw on Friday, was the idea that because of the prohibition on the use of Russian or third country staff, that we would have to diminish some of the services and some of the operations that are – that take place at our embassy in Moscow. What I was referring to there – and obviously, we regret this decision that the Russian Federation has taken. Of course, we are going to continue to evaluate what might be appropriate – what may be an appropriate response for us to take going forward.

Related posts:

 

US Mission Russia Terminates Local Employees/Contractors Due to Moscow’s Prohibition

 

The US Mission Russia staffing issue that has been brewing for a while has finally erupted to a predictable conclusion. Previously, in late April we reported that there was supposed to be a Mass Termination of Local Staff, and Severe Reduction in Consular Services Effective May 12. That did not happen when Russia informed the US Embassy in Moscow of its intent to postpone its prohibition of the employment of foreign nationals until mid-July.  Presumably, the two sides continued talking but the issue did not get resolved.
On Friday, July 30, Secretary Blinken released the following statement:

The United States is immensely grateful for the tireless dedication and commitment of our locally employed staff and contractors at U.S. Mission Russia. We thank them for their contributions to the overall operations and their work to improve relations between our two countries. Their dedication, expertise and friendship have been a mainstay of Mission Russia for decades.

Starting in August, the Russian government is prohibiting the United States from retaining, hiring, or contracting Russian or third-country staff, except our guard force. We are deeply saddened that this action will force us to let go of 182 local employees and dozens of contractors at our diplomatic facilities in Moscow, Vladivostok, and Yekaterinburg.

These unfortunate measures will severely impact the U.S. mission to Russia’s operations, potentially including the safety of our personnel as well as our ability to engage in diplomacy with the Russian government. Although we regret the actions of the Russian government forcing a reduction in our services and operations, the United States will follow through on our commitments while continuing to pursue a predictable and stable relationship with Russia.

We value our deep connection to the Russian people. Our people-to-people relationships are the bedrock of our bilateral relations.

As of April 1, 2021, Consulate General in Yekaterinburg stopped visa and American Citizen services. In March 2020, the U.S. Consulate General Vladivostok suspended operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Post did not resume its operations in due to critically low staffing of the United States Mission to Russia. It looks like following that suspension of services, U.S. citizens in the Russian Far East were still able to obtain services from the U.S. Consular Agency in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk. Visa services by then were provided solely by the U.S. Embassy in Moscow due to insufficient staffing. It is likely that this consular agency will also shut down.
We once recalled that in 1986, the then Soviet Union barred all Soviet employees from working for the U.S. Embassy or U.S. diplomats, in response to the expulsion from the United States of 55 Soviet diplomats. At that time WaPo noted that “225 diplomats and their families had to adjust quickly to the latest development in the embassy wars.”

Related posts:

 

 

@StateDept Releases Tijuana Accountability Review Board (ARB) Fact Sheet

 

On July 26, the State Department released a Tijuana Accountability Review Board Fact Sheet. A notice dated March 9, 2021 posted on regulations.gov announced the convening of ARB-Tijuana (see Convening of an Accountability Review Board to Investigate the Murder of an Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Locally Employed Staff member in Tijuana, Mexico).

Related posts:

As best we could tell, the Tijuana ARB report has not been released publicly.  Below via the State Department Fact Sheet:

On January 4, 2021, former Secretary of State Pompeo convened an independent Accountability Review Board (ARB) to review the facts and circumstance surrounding the murder of Mr. Edgar Flores Santos, a U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA/APHIS) Locally Employed (LE) Staff member in Tijuana, Mexico that occurred on September 30, 2020.  The body was discovered on October 1, 2020. The Tijuana ARB, as well as local and American law enforcement officials, concluded this unfortunate incident was a case of Mr. Flores being in the wrong place at the wrong time. 

The ARB’s mandate was to determine the extent to which the incident was security related; whether security systems and procedures were adequate; whether those systems and procedures were properly implemented; the impact of intelligence and information availability; and other factors and circumstances which may be relevant to appropriate security management of U.S. missions abroad.

The ARB first met on February 23, 2021.  Former Ambassador George M. Staples served as Chair of the Board.  Board members included Ambassador Janice Jacobs, former USAID Mission Director Dirk Dijkerman, former Diplomatic Security Service Special Agents John Eustace, and Kimber Davidson.  On April 23, 2021, the Board submitted a report of its findings and recommendations to Secretary of State Blinken.  The Department of State appreciates the judgment and insight contained in the report and is grateful for the service of the Board.  Pursuant to law, the Secretary submitted a report to Congress on July 22, 2020, outlining the ARB’s recommendations and actions taken in response.

The United States Department of State, the USDA APHIS operations, and many other U.S. government agencies have a broad presence and role in Mexico.  The United States is Mexico’s largest agricultural trading partner and the growing agricultural ties between the United States and Mexico have created a vital role for the USDA’s APHIS in ensuring that existing trade between the two economies flows smoothly.  In particular, APHIS provides critical safeguarding of U.S. agriculture, helping to prevent the spread of animal and plant pests and diseases. 

Advancing U.S. foreign policy objectives inherently involves diverse types of risk, and the Department recognizes that taking considered risks is often essential to achieving U.S. government objectives abroad.  Working in dangerous locations such as Mexico’s northern border area is critical to maintaining the safety, security, prosperity, and welfare of Americans.  The work accomplished by Mr. Flores and his USDA APHIS colleagues is vital to the agricultural security of the United States; the Department of State is grateful for their service.   

In the Tijuana operating environment, the Board found that the Department’s security systems and procedures were overall adequate and properly implemented, though the Board identified a few challenges in communication and information sharing that were immediately rectified following this incident.  Moreover, the Board did not find any U.S. government employee engaged in misconduct or perform unsatisfactorily in a way that contributed to this incident. 

The ARB issued 11 recommendations that focus on security systems and procedures and security management.

Security Systems and Procedures:  The ARB found that by all accounts, Mexican law enforcement and U.S. law enforcement agencies at the embassy responded quickly to the incident and shared available information and assisted the Regional Security Officer (RSO) in response to this incident.  However, the Board recommended that APHIS and the RSO take steps to ensure closer monitoring of security-related incidents, information sharing and integration of that intelligence into APHIS’s operational decisions.  The Department of State in coordination with USDA/APHIS will review policies and procedures to strengthen the security of APHIS personnel overseas.  U.S. Embassy Mexico City and all posts with an APHIS presence in their district will engage in robust publicity efforts to raise public awareness about what APHIS does, how it works, and how the work benefits Mexico.

Security Management:  The Board also made several recommendations that USDA and State will take to improve the safety of field inspectors related to their roles and responsibilities; program requirements considering threats and vulnerabilities; and enrolling USDA/APHIS locally employed staff in the Department of State’s worldwide standardized emergency notification system.

 

 

 

 

Russian Govt to Postpone Prohibition of US Mission Russia’s Employment of Foreign Nationals

13 Going on 14 — GFM: https://gofund.me/32671a27

 

A follow-up to our April 20 post: US Mission Russia: Mass Termination of Local Staff, Severe Reduction in Consular Services Effective May 12.
On May 14, the US Embassy in Moscow announced to US citizens in Russia that the host country has informed the US Mission of its intent to postpone its prohibition of the employment of foreign nationals at US Mission Russia. So for now through July 16, routine U.S. citizen services will temporarily resumed.

Temporary Resumption of Consular Services – The Russian government has informed U.S. Embassy Moscow of its intent to postpone the prohibition of U.S. Mission Russia’s employment of foreign nationals.  Consequently, through July 16, U.S. Embassy Moscow will temporarily resume routine U.S. citizen services, including passport services, Consular Reports of Birth Abroad, and limited notarial services.  Please visit our website for instructions on scheduling an appointment.  We will also provide immigrant visa processing for priority and urgent cases.

Actions To Take:

If you are a U.S. citizen present in Russia and your visa has expired, we strongly urge you to depart Russia before the June 15 deadline set by the Russian government.

If you plan to remain in Russia past this deadline, please visit your local Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) office to start the necessary paperwork as recently suggested by MVD.

Be aware that Embassy Moscow is unable to answer any specific questions about Russian residency or Russian visas, as this process is managed entirely by the Russian government.

In related news, Moscow Times reports that US Embassy Moscow spokesperson Rebecca Ross and nine other American diplomats have until May 21 to leave the country in line with Russia’s retaliation to the expulsion of 10 of its diplomats from the United States.

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US Mission Russia: Mass Termination of Local Staff, Severe Reduction in Consular Services Effective May 12

Once a year, we ask for your support to keep this blog and your dedicated blogger going. So here we are on Week #7 of our eight-week annual fundraising. Our previous funding ran out in August 2020. We recognize that blogging life has no certainty, and this year is no exception.  If you care what we do here, please see GFM: https://gofund.me/32671a27.  We could use your help. Grazie!  Merci! Gracias!

 

On April 30, the US Embassy in Moscow issued a Message to U.S. Citizens: U.S. Mission Russia – Reduction of Consular Services (30 April, 2021)

Reduction of Consular Services – Effective May 12, U.S. Embassy Moscow will reduce consular services offered to include only emergency U.S. citizen services and a very limited number of age-out and life or death emergency immigrant visas. These service reductions are necessary due to the Russian government’s April 23 notification of its intention to prohibit U.S. Mission Russia from employing foreign nationals in any capacity. Non-immigrant visa processing for non-diplomatic travel will cease.

Embassy Moscow will not offer routine notarial services, Consular Reports of Birth Abroad, or renewal passport services for the foreseeable future. If you are resident in Russia and require a new U.S. passport to remain legally present, or if you require an emergency U.S. passport for a demonstrable, life or death emergency (booking travel with an expired U.S. passport does not qualify) please send an email to moscowacs@state.gov and we will work to accommodate your request. Provision of emergency services to U.S. citizens in Russia may also be delayed or limited due to staff’s constrained ability to travel outside of Moscow.

If you are a U.S. citizen present in Russia and your visa has expired, we strongly urge you to depart Russia before the June 15 deadline set by the Russian government. If you plan to remain in Russia past this deadline, please visit your local Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) office to start the necessary paperwork as recently suggested by MVD.  Embassy Moscow is unable to answer any specific questions about Russian residency or Russian visas, as this process is managed entirely by the Russian government.

We regret that the actions of the Russian government have forced us to reduce our consular work force by 75%, and will endeavor to offer to U.S. citizens as many services as possible.

We understand that the Russian Foreign Ministry has already labeled locally employed staff working for the US Mission in Russia as “spies.” Given the LE staff currently imprisoned in Turkey, and the State Department’s inability to secure their release, this is worrisome. We hope to write a follow-up.
The last OIG inspection of US Mission Russia was conducted in 2013, a year after Putin’s return to office. At that time, State/OIG reported that across Mission Russia, employees “face intensified pressure by the Russian security services at a level not seen since the days of the Cold War.” The report also indicates at that time that the mission employed 1,279 staff, including 301 U.S. direct-hire positions and 934 locally employed (LE) staff positions from 35 U.S. Government agencies. These numbers are from 2013, so the count on U.S. direct-hire positions may have changed significantly given the diplomatic skirmishes the last several years. We’re not sure about the LE numbers either but we’re looking.
Note that the Embassy’s consular sections and general services typically have the most number of locally hired employees. With the mass termination of locally employed staff,  US Mission Russia will be on its own with no local staff support for visa services, American services, emergency services to American citizens, maintenance and repairs, procurement of goods/services, motorpool, housing, health unit, cashier, and on and on.

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