Can the Government Require an Employee to Carry a GPS Locator?

By on July 13, 2015 in Q&A with 8 Comments

Q: Can the government make an employee carry a GPS locator to keep track of his location? We have been told to carry GPS locators 90% or more of time while away from the office to receive a Successful or Exceeds for a Critical Element of our Performance Evaluation.

A: While I do not have a definitive answer for you, in that I don’t believe there is anything in OPM guidance on performance evaluation regarding GPS locators, let me share a few thoughts I had after reading your question.

First, if your agency is requiring you to carry a GPS locator 90% or more of your time away from the office, does this cover on-duty time only or does it include both on-duty and off-duty? While the agency may have some latitude in asking you to carry a GPS locator while on-duty, I believe it would be more difficult to show how carrying such a device off-duty is closely related to the accomplishment of assigned duties. While on duty the agency is concerned about ensuring your health and safety, and a requirement to carry a GPS locator might be justified on such a basis. However, in contrast, while off-duty I think it would be more difficult for the agency to support establishing such a requirement.

Second, if carrying this GPS locator is part of your performance evaluation, then should the requirement be challenged the agency must be able to demonstrate how carrying such a device contributes to accomplishing your assigned duties and responsibilities, and how it differentiates a satisfactory performer from a non-satisfactory performer. This means that the agency would be required to demonstrate how carrying this device will help you to perform your work more effectively, efficiently, or some similar performance measurement. And they would be required to show how not carrying such a device would result in an less than satisfactory performance of the work. Has the agency provided an explanation as to how this requirement differentiats the successful performer from one who is less than successful?

An example of a situation where carrying a GPS locator might be job related: if a job involved the delivery of highly sensitive materials, then the agency might justify the requirement to carry a GPS device for two reasons: to ensure that the security of the delivery process is maintained by tracking the employee’s route(s) in order to provide backup or support in the event of an unplanned incident; and to demonstrate that the most direct and secure route is being followed in making such deliveries.

A second example might be a requirement to carry a government issued smart phone (a de facto GPS locator) because the employee is on-call 24 hours per day where that on-call requirement is a significant and regular part of the job. It is likely that if challenged, such a requirement could be shown to be directly job related.

Finally, in looking at chapter 10 on performance management in the FSH 6109.13 performance, training and awards handbook, I note that there is a requirement for employee participation in the performance planning process process (see page 19). In addition, the handbook lists three mandatory performance elements for non-supervisory positions – mission results, managing work assignments, and teamwork and partnerships (see pages 19-20). It is possible that the GPS requirement would have been tied to one of these mandatory elements.

As part of the performance planning process and follow up discussions, did your supervisor discuss why the GPS requirement was being added to your performance plan? If your supervisor did not discuss why the GPS requirement was being added to your performance plan, and did not discuss how this requirement helps to differentiate between a successful performer and one who is not successful, then your next discussion about your performance evaluation would be a good time to raise these issues, if an opportunity to talk with your supervisor about it does not arise before then.

I’m sorry that my answer cannot be more definitive, but I hope my comments are helpful.

Wayne Coleman is a federal pay expert available to help your agency avoid premium pay claims through on-site training. Contact him for more information.

© 2016 Wayne Coleman. All rights reserved. This article may not be reproduced without express written consent from Wayne Coleman.

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About the Author

Wayne Coleman’s career at various Federal agencies spanned about 32 years.  Since his retirement he has consulted on, written about, and provided training on overtime and premium pay, on the principles of FLSA coverage and exemption, and on related federal compensation issues.  He can be reached at wayneslyhouse@comcast.net.

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