As the Trump administration enters its 11th hour, disputes over federal personnel policies that have marked its tenure are continuing, with employee organizations still watchful for what might happen at virtually the last moment.
Just within recent days, the AFGE union has filed complaints against several agencies that recently have imposed workplace policies (on their own) on matters that previously had been covered by contracts.
Unions also are objecting to a vote last week by the EEOC to change a longstanding policy of always allowing federal employees who are union officials to use official time—paid working hours—to represent employees in equal employment opportunity cases. Under the new policy, official time for that purpose is to be negotiable at each agency.
Also being watched are potential steps to carry out the executive order that could switch potentially tens of thousands of competitive service positions into a new excepted service Schedule F. That order meanwhile would revoke bargaining and appeal rights and eliminate the requirement for competition in hiring, making those career positions essentially the same in those ways as political appointees.
That has raised concerns about potential widespread firings of current employees and their replacement at the last minute with persons favored by the Trump administration. While the Biden administration in theory could use the same powers to remove those people and rehire those who had been displaced—or persons of its own choosing—the situation could quickly grow complex and legally fraught.
The order told agencies to present lists of positions that could be converted to OPM by next Tuesday (January 19), the day before Inauguration Day. Several agencies, including OMB and OPM itself, reportedly have completed such lists but so far there has been no sign of employees actually being converted.
OPM also recently issued proposed rules to raise the value of performance ratings in RIF retention over veterans preference and length of service but the comment period will not end until Friday, leaving OPM little time to issue final rules showing that it considered those comments.
Those rules arose out of a set of three executive orders from May 2018 that President-elect Biden is expected to cancel quickly after taking office, along with the separate order on Schedule F. However, once policies are put into rules—as happened late in 2020 with rules carrying out policies under those orders giving management a stronger hand in disciplinary actions—a new rule-making process would be needed to revoke them.