OPM has finalized, with few changes from the version proposed a year ago, a broad-ranging set of rules that will give management greater discretion in carrying out disciplinary actions.
The rules carry out numerous provisions of one of the three 2018 Trump administration executive orders to strengthen management’s hand in the federal workplace; the other two involve bargaining policies and procedures.
The final version, in the October 16 Federal Register and effective after 30 days, is largely unchanged from the initial proposal last September. In sum, the rules say that agencies are to provide only the minimum protections guaranteed in law when taking disciplinary actions, in both performance- and conduct-related cases (see related stories).
In addition, the rules:
* Generally limit the period for an employee to respond to a notice of proposed discipline to the 30 days minimum required by law and generally require agencies to issue a final decision within 15 days of that.
* Carry out a 2017 law requiring disciplinary actions against management officials who are found—by the agency head or by an outside authority—to be guilty of whistleblower reprisal. For a first offense penalties can range from a suspension of as little as three days to firing; for a second, firing is required. The officials would have 14 days to reply to the proposed action, which will take effect by default if the agency determines that the response is “insufficient” to disprove retaliation.
* Require agencies to collect and send to OPM for general publication data on annual numbers and types of disciplinary actions taken against employees, including probationary employees, ranging from reprimands to removals.
* Bar agencies from entering settlements with employees who challenge disciplinary actions in which the agency agrees to remove certain conduct- or performance-related information from an official personnel file.
* Require that supervisors be reminded of the pending end of a probationary period for a subordinate three months in advance, and again one month in advance. Supervisors are to make affirmative determinations during the probationary period whether to keep employees or remove them while they still have only minimal appeal rights.