The disciplinary policy provisions of three Trump administration executive orders appear to be “intended to serve no purpose other than to encourage agencies to take such actions,” the NTEU union has said in objecting to an OPM plan to write those policies into the federal personnel rules.
“Adverse personnel actions should be a last resort, not a primary tool for human resources management. Yet that is the overall, unfounded theme of these proposed regulations: that more federal employees need to be fired more quickly,” the union said in formal comments to OPM’s rule-making proposal.
For the most part, the disciplinary provisions were not affected by a court injunction against many parts of the order that since has been lifted, but OPM had formally proposed rules until recently. Separately, OPM has since sent several sets of guidance to agencies similarly urging agencies to move quickly when considering and carrying out disciplinary actions and to use the maximum amount of discretion available to them when choosing a penalty—by streamlining their processes and rejecting the use of tables of penalties or a commitment to using progressive discipline.
NTEU said that to the extent that the disciplinary provisions of the Civil Service Reform Act have not worked—a justification OPM cited for changing the rules—it has been a failure of management and that any changes should be made through the legislative process, not administrative rule-making.
The union raised such objections to provisions including requirements that managers be notified when a probationary period is about to expire and give the employee stronger appeal rights; restrictions on opportunities for employees to show improvement before being disciplined on performance grounds; instructions that agencies may not remove certain information from employees’ personnel files as part of settlement agreements; and discretion to choose up to the maximum penalty regardless of the employee’s disciplinary record or what was done in prior similar situations.