A House Committee advanced legislation this week increasing the probationary period for federal workers to at least two years.
H.R. 4182, the inappropriately named "Ensuring a Qualified Civil Service (EQUALS) Act of 2017," would extend the probationary period for employees from one year to at least two years and possibly beyond. With respect to any position that requires formal training or a license, the two-year time period would begin after the required formal training is completed or license is achieved. This could have a significant impact to new attorneys entering service at EPA, as well as other professional where a license is required.
NTEU sent this letter to the Committee expressing its views on this and another bill. The letter expresses NTEU's strong opposition to H.R. 4182 given the limited due process rights afforded to probationary employees and limited representational abilities of a labor organization during the probationary period.
Furthermore, the bill’s definition of “formal training” is unclear. There are a number of employees who undergo long periods of significant training that occur at multiple points in time and where the employee is already executing the actual job in between training sessions. We are greatly concerned that the language in this bill could translate into 3 or 4 year—or even indefinite- probationary periods for some employees.
Several congressional Representatives spoke in opposition to the bill and in support of federal workers, including Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-MD), Representative Matt Cartwright (D-PA), and Representative Gerry Connolly, the latter offering an amendment to replace the bill’s language with a Government Accountability Office review and report on the relatively new two-year probationary period now in place across the Department of Defense.
The amendment was defeated by voice vote and the bill passed by a party line vote of 19-17. NTEU will continue to fight to ensure employee due process rights and for the federal government to continue to offer programs improving the work/life balance of its workers.