Federal agencies were instructed Thursday to reverse civil service workforce management provisions they previously implemented under executive orders President Donald Trump signed in May as part of his campaign to drain the Washington swamp.
Trump’s three executive orders made it easier to discipline or fire federal employees and curtail some union privileges May 25. But D.C. District Court Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson gutted key parts of Trump’s orders in an August 24 decision.
“OPM will fully comply with Judge Jackson’s order and encourages other agencies to consult with their offices of human resources and general counsel to determine proper compliance measures based on the order,” U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Director Jeff Pon said in a memo.
“OPM will work with the U.S. Department of Justice [DOJ] to evaluate next steps in this litigation and will provide additional guidance to agencies as appropriate,” Pon said.
Among the changes Trump ordered was streamlining the review process for poorly performing employees from 120 days to 30 days. The orders included new standards to ensure bad federal workers could be terminated once the process is over.
The executive orders also curtailed a major union privilege by limiting the usage of a policy known as “official time.” The policy is determined through government union contracts but essentially allows federal employees who are union officials to work on union business instead of their actual jobs while drawing their regular civil service salary and benefits.
The American Federation of Government Employees and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees were among the unions that brought the legal challenge against the administration. The unions celebrated the ruling while calling the executive orders an illegal assault on the legal rights of workers.
The Federal Labor Relations Authority was determined in the decision not to have the authority to limit union rights in such a way. The Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute (FSLMRS) established the independent agency to govern labor relations between the federal government and its employees.
The court ruling concluded that the executive order limits collective bargaining rights established under the FSLMRS.
The orders did place restrictions on contract talks such as limiting the time it takes to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement to six months and requiring written proposals during negotiations.
The Government Executive Media Group found in a poll June 8 that 51 percent of federal workers support or strongly support making it easier to remove poorly performing employees. The poll also found that only 24 percent oppose the executive orders, with another 24 percent saying they were neutral or didn’t know about the changes.
A DOJ spokesman expressed disappointment in the decision Monday and said officials are reviewing their options when asked by LifeZette whether Jackson’s decision will be appealed.