Fedweek

OPM intends to act in August to repeal a wide-ranging set of rules it issued last fall to carry out Trump administration federal workplace disciplinary policies that remain on the books even though President Biden has revoked the underlying authority for them.

Reversing direction on the rules will “empower agencies to rebuild the career federal workforce and protect the civil service rights of their employees,” OPM said in a new summary of proposed rule-making by that agency and others.

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Rules published last November put into practice many key elements a 2018 executive order telling agencies to use their maximum discretion in setting a disciplinary penalty, for example that they were not to commit to using progressive discipline or tables of penalties; and that they were to provide only the protections to employees that civil service law demands, for example committing only to the minimum requirement for helping an employee improve before taking discipline for poor performance and allowing only the minimum period for an employee to respond to a notice of proposed discipline.

President Biden revoked that order, along with two limiting unions in various ways, as one of his first actions after taking office. While the union-related provisions had not been turned into formal regulations by the end of the Trump term the disciplinary policies had, requiring a new rule-making process to repeal them.

OPM in March told agencies to stop any policies they had put in place to comply with the orders and to commit to new bargaining on any provisions reflecting those policies that had been put into contracts. That guidance also anticipated that new rule making would be used repeal the rules on disciplinary practices but did not specify when that would begin.

The new notice does not specifically mention repealing one part of those rules, which resulted from a 2017 change in law separate from the Trump orders. That requires disciplinary actions against management officials who are found to have retaliated against whistleblowers, including mandatory firing for a second offense.

OPM earlier signaled that it intends to leave in place a separate order Trump issued last year downplaying the role of educational credentials in federal job qualification standards. That order was not among those Biden revoked and OPM last month told agencies to continue working to put those policies in place, although adding that the Trump order remains under review.

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