Legal Reference

The assessment of newly hired employees does not end with their appointment but must undergo a trial period called the probationary period. The purpose of this period is to provide the government with an opportunity to evaluate the individual’s conduct and performance on the job to determine if an appointment should become final. Note: For “excepted service” positions, the law does not require a probationary period per se, but it nonetheless provides that an agency may terminate an employee’s appointment during the first two years with no advance notice and no right of appeal.

Except in rare instances where agencies have been given permission to change its length (usually to make it longer), the probationary period for federal employees lasts one year. During this time, employees are subject to firing with very limited appeal rights. If an agency decides to remove a probationer for performance or conduct, the agency’s only obligation is to notify the probationer in writing of the agency’s conclusions regarding the probationer’s inadequacies—no advance notice is required—and the effective date of the removal.

Anything beyond these limited entitlements is at the discretion of the agency. Probationary employees may appeal a termination based on political affiliation or marital status, and they may appeal a termination based on conditions arising before employment on the grounds that the termination was not in accordance with regulations. Employees and annuitants may appeal OPM decisions affecting entitlements under the retirement systems.

Applicants for employment may appeal certain actions such as OPM suitability determinations and OPM employment practices.