SECTION 1. PURPOSE.
This Order sets forth the Department's policies and procedures for the Employee Suggestion Program. The purpose of this program is to motivate employees to increase productivity and creativity by rewarding those whose adopted ideas benefit the Government.
SECTION 2. GENERAL PROVISIONS.
.01 Definition. A suggestion is s proposal submitted in writing by one or more Federal employees to enhance the efficiency or effectiveness of the Department's or Government's operations.
.02 Eligibility. To be eligible for consideration, suggestions must contribute directly to efficiency or economy, or improve Government operations, and must:
a. Improve working conditions, procedures, operating methods, or equipment;
b. Speed up production;
c. Conserve material or property;
d. Save human resources, money, or energy; or
e. Produce tangible or intangible benefits.
.03 Suggestions Not Eligible for Consideration. Suggestions are not considered for adoption and are returned to the suggester if they:
a. Merely call attention to the need for maintenance or repair work on buildings, grounds, or parking lots, such as painting, replacing, or cleaning;
b. Relate only to improved employee benefits, such as vending machines, cafeteria services, restroom or parking facilities, holidays, or insurance;
c. Relate to ordinary safety practices such as protective devices, removal of obstructions, or installation of warning or traffic signals;
d. Relate only to cosmetic preferences, such as in layout or color of facilities, forms, or publications;
e. State vaguely a complaint or describe a problem without proposing a solution;
f. Enhance working conditions, such as air conditioning, decorations, or furniture;
g. Are within the scope of the employee's normal job expectations and within the authority of the employee to approve or adopt; or
h. Are primarily for the personal benefit of the suggester.
.04 Ideas and proposals of the types listed in .03a.-h. above are excluded from the provisions of this Order and should be made through administrative channels rather than through the Suggestion Program.
.05 Grievability. The decision to adopt or not adopt a suggestion, or to grant or not grant an award based on a suggestion, is a management prerogative and is not grievable.
SECTION 3. RESPONSIBILITIES.
.01 Employees Submitting Suggestions. To be eligible for consideration, a suggestion must be submitted on form CD-36, "S*M*A*R*T (Save Money and Reduce Taxes) BONUS Idea Registration." (See Exhibit 1 of this Order). The suggester must:
a. Describe the specific problem or objective, present a solution or plan for improvement, and show benefits to the Government;
b. Include sufficient information to clarify the proposal (sketches, photos, stock numbers, identification of office, etc.);
c. Sign the form to signify agreement that the United States Government may use the suggestion without incurring any further claim by the suggester or heirs; and
d. Indicate if more than one person is involved in submitting the suggestion.
.02 Supervisors/Managers. Supervisors should encourage employees' participation in the Suggestion Program and assist them, if requested, in developing their proposals. Managers must implement adopted suggestions and authorize payment of cash awards in a timely manner.
.03 Serving Personnel Office Suggestion Program Coordinator (SPC). The SPC, designated by each Personnel Officer, must acknowledge all suggestions within 15 workdays of receipt and must:
a. Process all suggestions received under the guidelines described in Section 5. of this Order;
b. Track all suggestions and maintain appropriate records;
c. Refer to the Department's Incentive Awards Officer nominations for awards of $5,000 or more based on adopted suggestions; and
d. Arrange for the presentation of awards and prepare documentation for the employee's Official Personnel Folder.
.04 Department's Incentive Awards Officer must:
a. Submit awards in excess of $5,000, for adopted suggestions, to the Department's Incentive Awards Board for consideration;
b. Refer to other Government agencies or to the Office of Personnel Management suggestions adopted by the Department that have potential for wider application;
c. Refer suggestions that have been favorably evaluated but are not within the authority of the Department to adopt to the controlling agency, as appropriate;
d. Report to the Office of Personnel Management on suggestions submitted by employees of other agencies and adopted by the Department;
e. Notify the SPC of actions taken on interagency referrals; and
f. Refer suggestions by employees of other agencies received for Department adoption to the appropriate operating unit SPC.
.05 Suggestion Evaluators. The organization having primary responsibility for an operation, procedure, system, or program that is the subject of a suggestion must evaluate its benefits to the Department or the Government. The organization must assign an evaluator to:
a. Give proper consideration to the suggestion;
b. Recommend whether or not it should be adopted; and
c. If the suggestion is to be adopted, recommend the form of award the suggester should receive.
SECTION 4. OTHER REQUIREMENTS.
.01 Time Limits. Suggestions that can be decided on within the operating unit in which they originate should normally be processed within 30 days. When suggestions require Department level approval, they should normally be processed within 60 days.
.02 Eligibility for Awards.
a. The suggester retains eligibility to be considered for an award for two years after the date of final action on the suggestion. The date of final action is the date of notice to the employee of non-adoption of the suggestion, or, if the suggester requests reconsideration, the date of notice of the reconsideration decision.
b. An employee whose idea is implemented, and in retrospect, would merit an award under the Suggestion Program, may request that his/her idea be considered for a suggestion award no later than three months after the idea was first placed into effect.
.03 Government Rights to a Suggestion. Acceptance of a cash award constitutes an agreement that use by the Government of an idea, method, or device for which the award is made does not form the basis of a further claim of any nature against the Government by the employee, or his or her heirs or assigns. Once an award is made, the suggestion becomes the exclusive property of the United States Government.
.04 Reporting Requirements. Each operating unit must keep records of the total number of suggestions received and the number of monetary and honorary awards granted. This information must be submitted to the Director for Personnel and Civil Rights by October 15 of each year.
.05 Awards and Amounts.
a. In addition to any award granted initially upon local application of a suggestion, a further award may be granted if there is wider application or if there are greater benefits than originally determined.
b. A detailed description of suggestion awards and procedures for determining award amounts is contained in Federal Personnel Manual Chapter 451, Incentive Awards, Appendix C, dated August 14, 1981 and DAO 202-451, "Incentive Awards Program."
SECTION 5. SUGGESTION PROCESSING.
.01 Suggestions by Department Employees. Employees must submit suggestions to their servicing personnel office.
a. Registration. The proper registration point for every suggestion by an employee of the Department is the Suggestion Program Coordinator (SPC) of the suggester's servicing personnel office. If the suggester misdirects the suggestion, it should be referred by its recipient to the suggester's servicing personnel office for registration. The SPC should acknowledge receipt of the suggestion on form, CD-399 "Suggestion Processing."
b. Screening. The SPC must review each suggestion for compliance with the basic eligibility requirements of the Suggestion Program. If the suggestion does not meet the basic requirements, it must be returned to the suggester with the reasons for its rejection. If the suggestion is eligible, it must be referred to the appropriate evaluator.
1. Adoption within the Control of Operating Unit Management.
(a) If the suggestion is within the authority of an operating unit to adopt, it should be referred to an evaluator at the lowest organizational level with the authority to make a decision on adoption. If the evaluator is not in an organization serviced by the personnel office where the suggestion is registered, the suggestion should be referred to the evaluator through the SPC of the evaluator's servicing personnel office.
(b) The evaluator must complete a form CD-170, "Official Suggestion Evaluation Form," within 30 days. The recommendation to adopt or not adopt the suggestion should state specific reasons, so that the evaluation report may be forwarded verbatim to the suggester and to higher level reviewers, if appropriate. If the evaluation is positive, the evaluator must return it to the SPC with:
(1) A recommendation for any award for the suggester with an estimate of benefits;
(2) A recommendation on whether the suggestion should be referred to other organizations for consideration; and
(3) The estimated date of implementation within the operating unit.
(c) If the evaluator needs to discuss the suggestion with the suggester to gain a clearer understanding of the intent, he or she should contact the SPC.
(d) A suggestion may be recommended for partial adoption if, for example, the evaluation led to the development of another solution.
(e) If testing is necessary before adoption of a suggestion, the evaluator should notify the operating unit SPC in writing and state an estimated time required for testing.
2. Adoption of the Suggestion beyond the Control of Operating Unit Management.
(a) When the Operating Unit is Affected by the Change.
(1) If an operating unit does not have the authority to adopt a suggestion but would be affected by it (e.g., a change in Departmental administrative policy or OPM regulation), the SPC should refer the suggestion for evaluation to the highest-ranking management official within the operating unit who is responsible for the subject matter. If the evaluator is not in an organization serviced by the personnel office where the suggestion is registered, it should be referred to the evaluator through his or her SPC.
(2) The evaluator must consider the merits of the suggestion and make a recommendation on form CD-170 regarding its adoption. The recommendation should then be returned to the suggester's SPC (through the evaluator's SPC, if appropriate).
(b) When the Operating Unit is Not Affected by the Change. If an operating unit does not have the authority to adopt a suggestion and would not be affected by it, the SPC refers the suggestion directly to the SPC in the appropriate organization without evaluation. For example, a Pro employee suggests a change in technology for the National Weather Service.
If the initial evaluation of the suggestion is negative, the SPC should return it to the suggester with the reasons for its non-adoption and notice of the suggester's right to request reconsideration from the Director for Personnel and Civil Rights.
2. If the initial evaluation is positive and the operating unit has the authority to implement the suggestion, the SPC, should notify the employee that the suggestion is adopted and arrange for appropriate recognition. The responsible manager must take whatever action is necessary to put the suggestion into effect.
3. If the initial evaluation is positive and either (a) adoption of the suggestion is beyond operating unit control, or (b) the evaluator recommended that a suggestion adopted within the operating unit be considered by other organizations, the suggester's SPC should refer the suggestion to the Department's Incentive Awards Officer, for potential Department-wide or Government-wide application.
(a) The Incentive Awards Officer refers the suggestion to an appropriate evaluator, i.e., one who has the authority to adopt the suggestion for the Department, or to recommend its adoption Government-wide to the controlling agency.
(b) The evaluator must assess the suggestion on its merits and either (1) decide to adopt it or not, if the Department has the authority to adopt it; or (2) recommend it for adoption or not to the controlling agency. The evaluator must then return the suggestion with his or her determination and the reasons for it through the Incentive Awards Officer to the suggester's SPC.
(1) If the Departmental evaluation is negative, the suggester's SPC must notify the suggester of the action and the reasons for it, and inform the suggester of his or her right to request reconsideration through the Director for Personnel and Civil Rights.
(2) If the Departmental evaluation is positive, and the Department has the authority to adopt it, the suggester's SPC must notify the suggester of the outcome and arrange for any recognition for the suggester that is appropriate. If the evaluator recommends the suggestion for consideration outside of the Department, the Department's Incentive Awards Officer refers the suggestion to other agencies or to the Office of Personnel Management and informs the suggester's SPC of the referral.
(3) If the evaluation is positive but the suggestion is not within the Department's authority to adopt, the Department's Incentive Awards Officer refers the suggestion to the controlling agency and informs the suggester's SPC of the referral. If the controlling agency's evaluation is negative, the SPC must notify the suggester of the outcome and the reasons for it. If the evaluation is favorable, the SPC must notify the suggester and arrange for suitable recognition.
1. Suggesters receiving an initial negative evaluation of a suggestion are entitled to request reconsideration. The reconsideration request must be addressed to the Director for Personnel and Civil Rights and must be accompanied by a copy of the original suggestion, the initial evaluation, and the employee's telephone number and home or office mailing address.
2. Employees must submit reconsideration requests within 90 days of notification of non-adoption.
3. Requests for reconsideration are accepted for processing if:
(a) They provide additional information that was not considered in the initial evaluation; or
(b) They make a reasonable showing that the initial evaluation was flawed, incomplete, or otherwise inadequate.
4. If a suggestion accepted for reconsideration is within the authority of an operating unit to adopt, it is referred with supporting papers to the head of the responsible operating unit for reevaluation. The head of the operating unit must return the suggestion within 30 days to the Director for Personnel and Civil Rights with a final evaluation. The evaluation is returned to the suggester's SPC, who notifies the suggester of the results and arranges for any appropriate recognition.
5. If a suggestion accepted for reconsideration is not within the authority of an operating unit to adopt, it is referred to the responsible Departmental official for evaluation. The evaluator must consider the suggestion and the supporting paperwork, and return a final evaluation to the Director for Personnel and Civil Rights within 30 days. The suggester's SPC is then notified of the outcome.
.02 Suggestions by Employees of Other Federal Agencies.
a. The Department's Incentive Awards Officer receives suggestions from employees of other Federal agencies for consideration by the Department. Such suggestions with Department-wide application are referred to the responsible Departmental official for evaluation and appropriate action. Suggestions applicable only to particular operating unit(s) are referred to the appropriate operating unit SPC(s) for action.
b. The Department's Incentive Awards Officer notifies the source of the referral of the outcome of the Department's evaluation and any recognition that is granted.
SECTION 6. EFFECT ON OTHER ORDERS.
This Order supersedes the provisions of all operating unit or regional directives that prescribe policies related to the suggestion program.
Signed by: Director for Personnel and Civil Rights
Approved by: Assistant Secretary for Administration
Ofice of Primary Interest: Office of Personnel
Add: Suggestion Program 202-454