Proposed rules from OPM would limit opportunities for employees to improve before being subject to discipline for alleged poor performance, saying that policies that have built up over time have “made it difficult for agencies to take actions against unacceptable performers and to have those actions upheld.”

Civil service law requires that performance evaluation systems provide for “assisting employees in improving unacceptable performance” and for taking disciplinary actions ranging up to removal only after giving them such assistance.


The proposed rules state that other than the minimum requirements of law, “there is no specific requirement regarding the nature of any assistance provided during an opportunity period . . . The proposed rule also states that no additional performance improvement period or similar informal period to demonstrate acceptable performance to meet the required performance standards shall be provided prior to or in addition to the opportunity period under this part.”

Under the rules, “any and all performance assistance measures taken during the performance appraisal period to assist employees, not just those taken during the formal opportunity period” would go to show that the agency met its obligation to give the employee a chance to improve.

Once an agency has met that obligation, it could undertake discipline up to firing “if the employee’s performance during or following the opportunity to demonstrate acceptable performance is unacceptable in one or more of the critical elements for which the employee was afforded an opportunity to demonstrate acceptable performance.”