By Deborah Hopkins, July 17, 2019

Yes, you read that title correctly. Despite what you hear and read in the media and from politicians who don’t know our business, We Don’t Need Civil Service Reform. The system is not broken. We just need federal supervisors to use the tools the law has made available for the past 40 years. And we just need advisors to counsel the supervisors about how the system works, and to support them through the process.

Here are a few things it’s important to know:

  • Holding employees accountable is not as difficult as you think it is.
  • Holding employees accountable is not as time-consuming as you think it is.
  • Holding employees accountable does not take as much evidence as you think it does.

In a three-part series of articles this summer, I will explain each of the above statements in detail, starting with the first.

Holding employees accountable is not as difficult as you think it is.

In our FELTG training classes, we present the conduct and performance accountability tools in checklist order. The checklists are easy to follow, make it easy to confirm you have the evidence you need, and make it easy to verify that you aren’t missing an important legal requirement and as a result jeopardizing your case. We spend time in our seminars going through each step, citing to relevant statutes, regulations, case law, and best practices, to be sure the process and requirements are absolutely clear, and to help ensure your case is defensible.

In DISCIPLINE cases, the checklist looks like this:

  1. Is there a reasonable rule in place?
  2. Did the employee have notice of the rule?
  3. Do you have proof the employee violated the rule?
  4. Can you defend your penalty?
  5. Did you provide the employee due process?

Do NOT jump to step 4 and choose a penalty if you don’t have steps 1-3 covered. If you do you will lose your case. It really IS that simple.

In PERFORMANCE cases, the checklist looks like this:

  1. Has the employee been issued a performance plan with legally sufficient critical elements identified?
  2. Has the employee been given a warm-up period to get used to the performance standards?
  3. Can you articulate why the employee is performing at an unacceptable level on at least one critical element?
  4. Did you give the employee an opportunity to demonstrate acceptable performance?
  5. Did you provide the employee legally-required assistance during the demonstration period?
  6. Do you have documentation the employee did not perform acceptably during the demonstration period?
  7. If the employee was not successful during the demonstration period, did you provide the employee due process?

Same thing here, don’t jump to step 4 and initiate a demonstration period (what we used to call a PIP) if you haven’t met the requirements of steps 1-3 first. If you do you will lose your case. It really IS that simple.

Let me say it again. It really is that simple.

You’ll have to come to our classes to get the full details on how to implement these checklists, and what is required for each step, but I promise it will be well worth your time. Do not believe what you read or hear in the media about how it is too difficult to deal with problem employees. Do not buy into the idea that civil service protections need to be stripped away to make the government a more efficient place. Do not look at the one case where a bad employee got her job back because of a procedural issue and think that you have no chance of getting your own action to stick; if you are on the management side, the odds are strongly in your favor that you will win your case.

Join us next time for Part II, where we discuss how holding employees accountable is not as time-consuming as you think it is. In fact, if you’ve got a problem employee, there’s a good chance you can have them off your payroll before the end of the summer. Stay tuned. Hopkins@FELTG.com

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