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Health legislation aims to help employees' adult children

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But that's not the complete picture. When it comes to organizational culture and leadership, DHS gets failing grades.

The survey indicates that most workers are not confident that the department's system for evaluating employee performance is fair. Just 24 percent said pay raises depend on how well employees perform and only 29 percent said promotions in their units are based on merit.

One reason for those dismal showings is many employees don't seem to have much faith in the work atmosphere created by top management. Forty percent of the respondents gave a favorable rating to senior leaders on creating an environment of trust. Immediate supervisors fared better on this point, with a 57 percent favorable rating, but that's still not anything the leadership should be proud of.

"The critical responsibilities of this department require complete employee engagement, so it is not productive to have employees believe that personnel decisions are based on arbitrary factors or personal favoritism," said Colleen M. Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union. "Further, employees should feel as if they can raise issues with their managers without negative consequences but few of them do."

DHS said it would continue to concentrate on improving its leadership and culture.

Whistleblower update

A Merit Systems Protection Board administrative judge has ruled against Robert MacLean, a well-known whistleblower who revealed federal government plans in 2006 to stop assigning air marshals to some flights because of budgetary reasons.

MacLean fought his firing, but the judge found in favor of the Department of Homeland Security in a ruling Wednesday.

He lost this round, but his fight continues.

"We'll be appealing the decision either until Mr. MacLean achieves justice or until there are no doors left to pound on in the legal system," said his attorney, Tom Devine.

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