Fedweek

The rules were designed to give management greater discretion in carrying out disciplinary actions. Image: DCStockPhotography/Shutterstock.com

OPM has formally revoked rules it had issued in late 2020 to carry out the executive orders that had formed the backbone of the Trump White House’s approach to federal personnel, orders that President Biden overturned within days of taking office.

Biden’s action further told OPM to erase those rules and OPM soon afterward barred agencies from carrying them out while it went through the formal process needed. OPM’s notice in the November 10 Federal Register completes a process that started with a formal notice earlier this year of its intent to take the 2020 rules off the books.

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The Trump orders and the rules OPM had issued to carry them out were designed to give management greater discretion in carrying out disciplinary actions by discouraging them from providing employees with anything more than the minimum protections guaranteed by law.

In its new notice, OPM said that revoking those rules will “facilitate the ability of agencies to deliver on their mission and provide the best possible service to the American people.”

The notice revokes rules that had: told agencies they need not follow principles of progressive discipline and need not take the same action in a given case that they took in a prior similar case; discouraged the use of tables of penalties; stressed that a penalty decision should take into account all past misconduct; said that a suspension “should not be a substitute for removal in circumstances in which removal would be appropriate”; limited the period for an employee to respond to a notice of proposed discipline to the 30 days minimum in the law; required agencies to remind supervisors several times of the impending end of an employee’s probationary period; and barred agencies from entering settlements that would require agencies to remove certain information from an employee’s official personnel folder.

Also revoked were rules that had told agencies they need not take any steps beyond the minimum requirement that they assist employees in improving performance deemed unacceptable before they are subject to disciplinary action, and that assistance provided before a formal notice of unacceptable performance can count toward that obligation.

In its final action, OPM noted that in response to its notice of proposed rule-making in January, federal unions submitted comments in support of revoking those policies but that some management associations had argued for keeping certain of the provisions. However, the changes were adopted as OPM initially proposed in January.

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