By Michael Rhoads, December 15, 2020

The Trump administration is looking to make sweeping changes to federal employment by introducing a new schedule which could, if fully implemented, convert career conditional employees to at-will employees.  In the Executive Order, the administration cited a need to give “a greater degree of appointment flexibility with respect to these employees than is afforded by the existing competitive service process.” The process for implementing Schedule F as outlined in the EO requires agencies to submit a review of the positions to be covered by Schedule F within 90 days of the order or Jan. 19, 2021.

While it is not widely known how agencies are moving forward with this process, it has been reported by Real Clear Politics that The Office of Management and Budget has identified 425 positions – 88% of their workforce – to be reclassified to Schedule F.  The Washington Post reported, through an anonymous source, OPM may be rushing to move some of its budget and personnel offices to Schedule F “to be test cases for the controversial policy.”

The first challenges to impede the EO have been legal and legislative. The National Treasury Employees Union filed a lawsuit naming the president and Michael Rigas as defendants.  The NTEU claims in the lawsuit: “The president’s sweeping order fails to make a meaningful showing that shifting large numbers of federal employees into a new excepted service category so that they can be fired more quickly and without cause is necessary or supported by good administration principles.”

On the legislative side, Democrats are looking to block implementation of Schedule F through the budgetary process. Language has been included in the NDAA which would block or nullify funds meant to implement Schedule F. There has also been language proposed to ensure employees affected by any changes due to Schedule F would automatically restore employment to those removed, fire anyone who was hired under it, and give back pay to anyone who was fired.

In a GovExec Daily Podcast, Erich Wagner explained the timing of when Schedule F is implemented will determine how much work the Biden Administration will need to do to undo Schedule F, if they choose to do so.

If legislators can pass the NDAA with language to nullify Schedule F, we should not see much trouble for federal employees.

We understand the bad press government employees receive related to the complexity of hiring and firing delinquent employees.  We focus on how to rehabilitate problem employees, but also how to terminate those who are beyond help. Although this system is by no means perfect, it does allow career employees some relief from political pressure and allows them to do their job in a manner which serves the good of the American public as a whole.

In this holiday season, I am happy to know there are a dedicated men and women who are working hard every day to make my life better and provide for the common good. Enjoy your holidays, and remember, we’re all in this together. [email protected]

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