By Ann Boehm, March 13, 2019

I love The Wizard of Oz  (spoiler alert – this article will be discussing key moments in this movie, so if you have not seen it, I suggest you do so before reading more). In my youth, it came on television once a year. There were no options to watch it like we have now – no DVDs, Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Prime. I waited for it and could not wait to watch it. When I was very young, I was afraid to watch it alone – the witch was very scary. I was so proud when I could finally watch it by myself.

I love when the movie goes from black and white to color. That’s when Dorothy acquires the ruby slippers right off the feet of the deceased Wicked Witch of the East, and the ruby slippers become the key part of the movie. I was so excited when I saw the actual ruby slippers at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History in Washington, DC. Although they are just shoes with red sequins on them, they are somehow still magical.

So you know the deal. Dorothy, Toto, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion follow the yellow brick road in order to get Dorothy to the Wizard of Oz and eventually back home to Kansas. Along the way, they keep getting harassed by the Wicked Witch of the West, who is pretty ticked off about Dorothy’s house landing on her sister and Dorothy’s acquisition of the ruby slippers. She asks the Scarecrow to “play” with fire, puts everyone to sleep with poisonous poppies, writes threats in the sky (on her broom, of course), and is always lurking. The witch even has terrifying flying monkeys. And she locks Dorothy in this awful tower with an hourglass to count down the time to Dorothy’s eventual doom. Dorothy’s friends rescue her and melt the witch, and then the Wizard of Oz is ready to take Dorothy to Kansas in a hot air balloon. Toto messes that up, and Dorothy is in a crisis. That’s when Glinda the Good Witch drops this bombshell – “you’ve always had the power” to go home. It’s all about the shoes! \

Gee, Glinda. Seriously, you put us through these terrible trials and knew all along the shoes had the power.

Ann – why are you talking about the ruby slippers and this movie?  Get to the point. 

Okay. Executive Order 13839 issued by President Trump on May 25, 2018, is just like the ruby slippers.

Huh? Isn’t it enjoined? What the heck do you mean?

Three Executive Orders were issued on May 25, and only some parts of the orders are enjoined. The employee discipline aspects of Executive Order 13839 are certainly not enjoined. The provisions in the Executive Order give you the power that has always been there and even reinstate some things that had been there and were taken away for a while by the Merit Systems Protection Board.

For those of you who feel like efforts to take care of problem employees have been met with opposition similar to the fire, poisonous poppies, flying monkeys, and hourglass tower, I am here to tell you that you’ve had the power all along – you are wearing the ruby slippers. You don’t have to be scared of the wicked witch any longer.

Okay, Ann.  Explain please.

Executive Order 13839 says that adverse actions should be completed during the 30-day statutory notice period. That means no long extensions. Proposal, reply, decision, suspended or maybe even gone – all done in 30 days. In fact, it further specifies that agencies should issue decisions on proposed removals “within 15 [business] days of the end of the employee reply period following a notice of proposed removal.” The statutory reply period is seven days – just seven!  You should have been following this timeline all along, but you did not know you had the power.  You needed the ruby slippers. The President (the head of the Executive Branch – your boss) is telling you to handle these cases quickly.

Then there’s the matter of suspensions versus removal.  Executive Order 13839 makes it clear that “[s]uspension should not be a substitute for removal in circumstances in which removal would be appropriate.” Further, this Executive Order also says progressive discipline is not required if the misconduct warrants a strong penalty. This is where the Executive Order ruby slippers get things back to where they used to be.

So what does it mean? GET RID OF BAD EMPLOYEES!  Use the ruby slippers!

And then there are the performance matters. How many of you thought Performance Improvement Plans (PIPs) had to be 60-90 days long? Nope. Thirty days is plenty. That’s what the MSPB has said for almost 40 years, and it’s what we here at FELTG teach.  Executive Order 13839 says “no agency shall” give an employee “more than a 30-day period to demonstrate acceptable performance,” unless a union contract requires longer. Thirty days for a PIP, folks. You always had this power. You just did not know it. [Editor’s note: at FELTG we have moved away from using the misleading acronym PIP and instead we use the more legally accurate term Demonstration Period, or DP. The law requires the employee be given an opportunity to show she can demonstrate acceptable performance, and not improve her performance.]

Now join me and say, “I will take care of problem employees.”  Click your heels three times.  You have the power, and you always did.

And that’s the Good News this month. Please send me any good news you have to share:  [email protected].

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