Bill to Extend Probationary Period Advances, May Stall

The House has passed a bill (HR-4182) to double to two years the standard probationary period for federal employees government-wide, although the near-unanimous opposition by Democrats there leaves the measure’s future uncertain as it moves to the Senate.

The bill would apply a two-year period for those hired starting one year after enactment; that would include current employees advancing for the first time into a supervisory or managerial position or into the SES, who must serve an additional probation to evaluate their performance at that level. Further, a probationary period would not start until required initial training was completed.

The vote was 213-204, with only two Democrats supporting (and 18 Republicans opposed). In the Senate, a 60-vote majority would be needed if the bill would be brought to floor voting under regular procedures, meaning it would need backing of eight of the 48 Democrats or Democratic-leaning independents there. An objection by even one senator would prevent the chamber from considering the bill under a shortcut procedure that does not require a recorded vote.

During its voting, the House agreed to a Republican amendment that would require that supervisors be notified of when a subordinate’s probationary period is to end at one year, six months and three months in advance. But it rejected amendments by Democrats to keep a one-year probationary period for alumni of national service programs such as the Peace Corps, as well as one to keep probationary policy as it is and instead order a GAO report on the impact of the existing two-year probationary requirement at DoD.