Federal agencies have until April 30, 2020, to notify the Office of Personnel Management that they have made changes to their employee discipline and dismissal procedures to make it easier to address poorly performing employees, OPM told agency leaders in a Sept. 25 memo.

“Today’s guidance will help federal employees, managers and agencies deliver mission outcomes,” said Director Dale Cabaniss in a statement.

“Overly burdensome dismissal policies and procedures only harm the overwhelming majority of feds that are dedicated to public service and work hard every day to the benefit of the American taxpayer. They deserve colleagues that are just as dedicated to civil service as they are. It improves morale, unit cohesion and public trust.”

Agencies are required to remove steps and procedures that lengthen the time to address poor performance and misconduct and are not required by statute or federal regulation, according to the Office of Management and Budget’s April 2017 memorandum for “Reforming the Federal Government and Reducing the Federal Civilian Workforce.”

Leaders must also review their policies to find unnecessary barriers to addressing poor performance and provide supervisors with rules and guidance about employee performance improvement plans.

“To the extent that compliance with a requirement is hindered or impacted by the existence of a current collective bargaining agreement, agencies should indicate the date by which they expect to be able to comply or otherwise complete the required action,” the memo states.

The news comes on the same day that a federal appeals court ruled against federal employee unions’ legal challenge to three executive orders calling for the renegotiation of bargaining contracts and for agencies to make it easier to get rid of underperforming feds.

As the injunction on the orders will be lifted one week from the decision, employee unions can expect agency leadership to call for the renegotiation of collective bargaining agreements to fall in line with these employee discipline requirements in the near future.

Easing the discipline of federal employees has proven controversial, as federal employee unions have argued that streamlining appeals procedures may result in an increase of politically motivated actions against employees and a violation of their due process rights.

The memorandum also comes just over a week after OPM proposed a new rule that would reduce the amount of time employees have to change their poor performance and encourage agencies to place new employees on a probationary period, where they would not have the same appeals rights as other civil servants.

Jessie Bur covers federal IT and management.

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