OHR Reneges on Student Loan Repayment Program Waivers, Disappointing Many New Employees


10/9/13: Early this summer, the SEC stated that, beginning this year, new employees would be granted a waiver from the one-year service requirement for participating in the Student Loan Repayment Program (SLRP). These waivers would have permitted new employees to participate in the program during their first year at the SEC.  The SEC has now reversed course.  In new guidance issued just a few weeks ago, the SEC is now instructing managers that an SLRP waiver may only be granted if: (i) the employee was offered a waiver “as a recruitment incentive prior to joining the SEC”; or (ii) in extremely rare circumstances where the employee is “exceeding expectations” and he or she “narrowly missed fulfilling the one-year service requirement.” These new requirements will mean that only a small handful of new employees will receive a waiver.

In June, the SEC agreed in principle upon some improvements to the SLRP. Those improvements include a new waiver process that would allow SEC managers the discretion to grant a waiver of the one-year service requirement, permitting employees who have been here less than one year to apply for the program. They also included converting the application process from an annual one with everyone applying during one open period each year, to a rolling one allowing new employees to apply during one of three open seasons during the year. With the new guidance from OHR, almost all new hires will now have to wait until their second year at the agency to apply for the program.

“My manager was willing to sign my application,” one new enforcement employee, who asked to remain anonymous, stated in an interview with the Union last week. “But he says he doesn’t have the discretion to grant it now because of this new policy. I don’t really understand why the SEC is doing this.”

In recent months, the SEC has hired hundreds of new employees. Many of them are eager to participate in the SLRP, due to their large outstanding student loan indebtedness. Letting them participate would be good for the agency, because they would be required to sign a three-year service agreement in order to get a loan repayment disbursement. Many of these new employees will now have to wait until the fall of 2014 to participate in the program, despite the fact that their frontline managers would be willing to let them participate right now.

“During our CBA negotiations last year, the SEC management negotiating team repeatedly attempted to insert new language into the SLRP article in the contract which would have made it harder for employees to participate in the program,” Union CBA Negotiating Team member Lawrence Pisto said today. “It was clear to me that they wanted to cut the program back, but the Union's team managed to keep the current terms in the contract. With morale as low as it is lately at the SEC, I think that OHR needs some new strategies on these types of issues,” he added.

NTEU successfully lobbied for the statute that allows for Student Loan Repayment Programs, and then NTEU negotiated the SLRP at the SEC as soon as the Union was established at the agency in 2002. Our negotiated program may be found in Article 25 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. If you would like to learn more about the history of this important recruitment and retention program at the SEC, and how the Union has worked to defend it from cutbacks by the SEC over the years, please read this article on the Union’s website.