Some work to carry out President Trump’s three recent executive orders on discipline, performance and bargaining is underway but much more lies ahead, OPM has said in a series of memos to agencies providing guidance on implementing the orders.
The three orders in sum seek to speed up and strengthen management’s hand in the disciplinary process; restrict official time, office space and equipment use by unions; limit the scope of bargaining; and encourage agencies to seek outside intervention, file complaints against unions and impose management’s bargaining proposals as policy under certain circumstances.
All three are under court challenge by federal unions, with an initial hearing set for July 25 on a request that the court temporarily block the orders. Numerous members of Congress—most, but not all of them Democrats—meanwhile have asked the administration to rescind the orders.
In its guidance, OPM said that the orders stand for the proposition that agencies “should recognize and reward good performers, while unacceptable performers should be separated if they do not improve. Misconduct should be dealt with promptly in the federal workforce.”
It stressed provisions of the orders stating that in general, agencies should: limit the written notice of adverse action for performance to 30 days; issue decisions on proposed removals for misconduct within 15 days of the end of the employee reply period; and use procedures primarily designed for misconduct cases, which place a lower burden of proof on management, in performance cases as well.
One of the orders required OPM to review existing civil service regulations and to start the process of changing them if they are contrary to the goals of the orders. “OPM has started this review process and will propose regulatory changes as appropriate,” one of the memos said, adding that agencies will be required to revise their own procedures to comply within 45 days of any final rules from OPM.
Further, agencies are to immediately start carrying out those principles in any areas where new OPM rules are not needed, and are to renegotiate “on the earliest practical date permitted by law” any contracts with contrary terms. Separately, several agencies already have informed unions that as of certain dates they will no longer have free use of office space and office equipment, per one of the orders.
OPM also has been told to better educate federal supervisors about “how to hold employees accountable for unacceptable performance or misconduct under any new rules issued by OPM,” one of the memos said. It added that the process will not begin until any new rules are issued, but in the meantime agencies are to follow existing policy to ensure that managers and HR staff “are appropriately trained on current rules.”