Federal Government’s Proposal Seeks to Streamline HR Practices

Lisa Nagele-Piazza, J.D., SHRM-SCP By Lisa Nagele-Piazza, J.D., SHRM-SCP September 19, 2019
Federal Government’s Proposal Seeks to Streamline HR Practices

A proposed federal rule would make it easier for government agencies to demote or fire poor-performing employees. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) proposal also would revise regulations that govern new federal employees' probationary periods and agency data collection on adverse employment actions.

The OPM aims to make these procedures more efficient. "The federal personnel system needs to keep pace with changing workplace needs and return to its root principles," the agency said.

The proposal was published in the Federal Register Sept. 17, and interested parties have until Oct. 17 to submit comments. [Update: A final rule was published in The Federal Register on Oct. 16, 2020 and took effect 30 days later.] 

We've rounded up articles and resources from SHRM Online and other trusted media outlets on the news.

'Opportunity to Demonstrate Acceptable Performance'

The proposed rule aligns with President Donald Trump's goal to remove poor performers from federal jobs and is based on a series of executive orders Trump signed in 2018. Under the proposed rule, federal agencies would not be allowed to give poor-performing employees additional time to improve their performance beyond the first 30-day "opportunity to demonstrate acceptable performance" that is required by law.

(Federal Times)

Reminding Supervisors When Probationary Periods End

Federal employees are usually hired on a probationary basis for their first year of employment and can more easily be fired during that time. The proposal would require agencies to notify supervisors when workers have 90 days left for their probationary period and again when they have 30 days left. Supervisors would have to "make an affirmative decision regarding the employee's fitness for continued employment or otherwise take appropriate action" before the period expires, according to the OPM. Probationary periods, "as the final step in the hiring process of new employees, should be used to the greatest extent possible to assess how well they are performing the duties of their jobs, and instances of poor performance and misconduct should be dealt with promptly," the OPM said.

(Bloomberg Law)

Collecting Data on Adverse Employment Actions

The proposed regulations also restate OPM guidance from July 2018 on how agencies should collect annual data about adverse employment actions and submit it to the OPM for publication in the aggregate. "To enhance public accountability of agencies, OPM will collect and, consistent with applicable law, publish the information received from agencies aggregated at a level necessary to protect personal privacy," the federal HR agency said.

(Government Executive)

[SHRM members-only online discussion platform: SHRM Connect]

Some Parts of Executive Orders Are in Limbo

Parts of Trump's executive orders were struck down by a federal judge in August 2018. However, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit reversed the ruling in July, finding that the lower court didn't have jurisdiction over the disputed topic. But the appeals court's ruling didn't revive the executive orders. Rather, the orders will remain on hold while the unions that challenged them seek a ruling by the full appeals court. The OPM acknowledged the legal battle in its proposal: "OPM has and will continue to comply fully with the injunction and will not issue regulations implementing the invalidated parts of the executive order as long as the judicial injunction is in place."

(SHRM Online)

Plans to Overhaul Federal Hiring

The executive orders are part of a plan to transform federal HR practices and processes, which in addition to overhauling performance management, include making hiring easier and faster, reskilling federal workers whose jobs may be eliminated or changed by automation, and adopting updated technologies.

(SHRM Online)



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