The Agency Conducting Your Background Checks May Change

If you live in Washington there are frequent jokes about things moving at the pace of government. Another adage is that to the extent things do change, there’s a good chance they’re changing back to the way they were done in years prior (government doesn’t so much reinvent itself as it merely resurrects itself).

The Department of Defense is pursuing this logic as it pushes through a plan to take over background investigations from … (for more, click here).

Supreme Court Reaffirms Where Federal Employees Can Appeal Mixed Case Claims

Five years ago in Kloeckner vs. Solis, the Supreme Court defined a “mixed case” as a federal employee appealing a serious adverse employment action and lodging a federal antidiscrimination law claim at the same time. At the time, it ruled that “mixed cases” must be appealed to the federal district court level.

Last month, the Supreme Court further clarified where “mixed cases” must be adjudicated when it heard arguments in Perry vs. Merit Systems Protection Board. In a 7-2 decision, the Court determined that … (for more, click here).

S.585: Dr. Chris Kirkpatrick Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017

S. 585 provides additional protections to Federal employees who are retaliated against for disclosing waste, fraud, and abuse in the Federal government. Specifically, the legislation increases protections for federal employees, increases awareness of federal whistleblower protections, and increases accountability and requires discipline for supervisors who retaliate against whistleblowers.

The bill provides enhanced protections and expedites investigations of instances in which probationary federal employees are fired for whistleblowing; enacts reforms to ensure that managers who retaliate against whistleblowers are held accountable; provides the Office of Special Counsel with adequate access to information from federal agencies to allow for complete investigations and better protect whistleblowers; ensures that all federal employees are informed of their rights as whistleblowers and provides training to managers on protections; and establishes measures to hold VA employees that improperly access the medical records of their fellow VA employees accountable. (for more, click here).

For an analysis of the bill after it was passed by the Senate but before reconciliation, click here.

Legislation Would Extend Probationary Period for New Feds to Two Years

Legislation has been introduced in the House that would extend the probationary period for newly hired federal employees from one year to two.

 Known as the Ensuring A Qualified Civil Service (EQUALS) Act (H.R. 4182), the bill is sponsored by Congressman James Comer (R-KY). He says the bill is needed to help a common problem faced by federal managers: They do not have enough time to assess whether or not prospective employees are qualified for federal service before they become permanent members of the federal workforce.
 The current one year probationary period allows… (for more, click here)

White House Wants to Increase Federal Employee Buyout Payments

The Trump administration has asked Congress to increase the amount agencies can offer employees for early retirement from $25,000 to $40,000 as it gears up for major workforce reductions in some agencies.

An Office of Management and Budget spokesperson confirmed that the Defense Department made the request to Congress last month. In the fiscal 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, Congress approved a one-year pilot program allowing for a maximum $40,000 buyout for civilian defense employees through the Voluntary Separation Incentive Payment program.

The annual defense authorization bill for fiscal 2018 (H.R.2810) is slated to receive a floor vote in the House later this week. The bill currently would extend last year’s pilot program until 2021, but it does not appear to expand it to all agencies. For more, click here.

Proposed Regs for Administrative Leave Restrictions

With the signing of the Administrative Leave Act of 2016, enacted under section 1138 of the National Defense Authorization Act on December 24, 2016, Congress passed legislation restricting the use of administrative leave for federal employees.

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has now proposed new regulations implementing the requirements of the Administrative Leave Act. Comments on the regulations are due before August 14, 2017.

For more:

New Human Capital Framework

OPM has issued a new rule in 5 CFR 250 intended to align human capital management practices to broader agency strategic planning activities, and better align human capital activities with an agency’s mission and strategic goals. This will enable agency leadership to better leverage the workforce to achieve results. In addition, the final regulation will allow agencies to gather additional information from employee surveys. The rule is effective April 11, 3017.

5 CFR 250 1216 (Federal Register, Vol. 81, No. 238, 12/12/16)

Regulatory Change for OF 306

OPM has issued a final rule, effective January 3rd, 2017, that prohibits an agency from making specific inquiries concerning an applicant’s criminal or adverse credit background of the sort asked on the OF306,”Declaration of Federal Employment” in its “Background Information” section, or in other forms used to determine suitability or conduct background investigations for Federal employment, until a hiring agency has made a conditional offer of employment to the applicant. The compliance date for the final rule will be March 31st, 2017.

Changes in Federal Probationary Periods

Legislation resulted in a change to probationary period that applies only to employees who are appointed to permanent positions in the competitive service in DoD.

“The probationary period for many new civilian employees hired by the Defense Department on or after Nov. 26, 2015, has changed from one year to two years, the acting deputy assistant secretary of defense for civilian personnel policy said.”

However, Congress is considering extending it to all civilian employees, which as with all things Congressional may or may not happen and probably would not happen quickly.

“The House of Representatives’ Oversight and Government Reform Committee, the Government Managers Coalition (GMC) and the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association (NARFE) have asked the committee to consider extending the probationary period covering new federal employees. The committee is expected to consider the proposal in its next scheduled session on January 12, 2016.”