House OGR Advances Bill Lengthening Probationary Period, Shortening Disciplinary Appeals Process

The U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee last week passed a bill that could mean significant changes to both the disciplinary appeals process and to the probationary period for federal employees.

The Modern Employment Reform, Improvement, and Transformation (MERIT) Act “would shorten the disciplinary appeals process for most federal employees” and “allows agency heads to propose an adverse action and give employees a chance to respond within seven-to-21 days,” according to a write-up of the bill from Federal News Radio’s Nicole Ogrysko. Ogrysko also notes that, “Employees can appeal a firing to the MSPB, but only within the first seven days.”

The bill would “also extend probationary periods for most newly hired federal employees and senior executives from one year to two,” an issue that has long represented a priority for federal managers groups. However, the measure’s inclusion in the controversial legislation is likely to complicate the process of gathering support, since, as Ogrysko notes, “the House has already passed a standalone bill that would extend the probationary period for most employees.”

Among the MERIT Act’s other changes, per Federal News Radio:

  • Prohibit employees from using the negotiated grievance process to appeal a disciplinary action or reduction-in-force (RIF).
  • Change the procedures for notifying and appealing a furlough.
  • Reduce the annuity for a federal employee ultimately convicted of a felony and fired from the civil service.
  • Authorize agencies to recoup bonuses or performance awards paid to employees and executives.

Thus far, the bill seems unlikely to garner significant bipartisan support, with OGR Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-MD) saying the bill is merely a “compilation of all the anti-federal workforce bills that have been introduced in this Congress.”

The bill currently has 55 cosponsors and companion legislation has recently been introduced in the Senate by Sen. David Perdue (R-GA). An overview of the legislation’s effects from FedSmith can be found here.

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