By Deborah Hopkins and William Wiley, May 17, 2017

If you’ve read anything we’ve ever written in this Newsletter, then you probably know we get lots of questions from readers and we use this forum as a place to post our answers. Here’s a relatively quick one that some of you might find helpful.

Good Afternoon FELTG Team:

I’m hoping you can answer a question that I’m getting conflicting answers on. A Pathway Employee (hired under Excepted Service) finishes two years and converts to a competitive position with no break in service, into the same position and grade. Would you consider this employee as having served a probationary period and therefore now has full appeal rights, or would you consider him a probationary employee with limited appeal rights after the conversion to competitive service?

My case law research shows me that this employee is no longer probationary (limited appeal rights). What do you think?

And here’s our response:

Thanks for the email, Loyal Reader.

Without doing any research (we’d have to charge you for that!), our understanding is that employees in these sorts of positions serve a “trial” period.” Effectively the same thing as a “probationary period,” but for some reason, it has a different name.

Secondly, and this is the point that confuses so many people, is that employees get MSPB/adverse-action appeal rights TWO different ways:

  1. If they have completed a probationary period, OR
  2. If they have current continuous employment of at least one year in the competitive service or two years in the excepted service. Van Wersch v. HHS, 197 F.3d 1144 (Fed. Cir. 1999)

The employee in your situation satisfies the two years in the excepted service test. Therefore, it is immaterial whether he is placed into a “probationary period.” That’s why the better practice is NOT to play games with using a new probationary period. He got rights when he was converted.

Keep in mind that the “OR” above is a typo in the law and was always supposed to be an “AND.” In fact, that’s how OPM regs interpreted it until Van Wersch was issued. That’s why so many people get confused on this point.

Hope this helps!

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