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H.R. 4182, Ensuring a Qualified Civil Service (EQUALS) Act of 2017

Floor Situation

On Thursday, November 30, 2017, the House will consider H.R. 4182, the Ensuring a Qualified Civil Service Act of 2017, under a structured rule. The bill was introduced on October 31, 2017 by Rep. James Comer (R-KY) and was referred to the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform which ordered the bill to be reported favorably by a vote of 19-17 on November 2, 2017.


Summary

H.R. 4182 extends the probationary period for appointments to the competitive service and initial appointments as supervisors and managers to two years after the completion of required training and licensing. The bill also extends the probationary period for initial Senior Executive Service career appointments to two years. In addition, agencies would be required to notify supervisors 30 days before the scheduled completion of a probationary period and certify the successful completion of a probationary period.  

Under the bill, individuals in the competitive service must both (1) complete a probationary or trial period, and (2) complete two years of current continuous employment in the same or similar positions, in order to be covered by adverse action procedures for misconduct. Preference eligible individuals in the excepted service must complete two years of current continuous service in the same or similar positions. Non-preference eligible individuals must complete a probationary period and complete two years of current continuous service in the same or similar positions, except a temporary appointment that is two years or less. Additionally, under the bill, individuals in the competitive service and excepted service are not entitled to appeal a removal or reduction in grade based on unacceptable performance to the Merit Systems Protection Board until they have completed the requirements.

All provisions of the legislation would take effect one year after enactment and would apply only to individuals whose service begins after the bill takes effect.


Background

Under current law, new hires in the competitive service and initial appointments of managers generally require a probationary period of one year before such appointments become final[1]. The probationary period provides new appointees time to understand the requirements of the position and undergo proper assessment before becoming a career employee. Once an appointment is final, the employee is covered by significant legal protections under the merit system[2].  

Probationary employees may be removed during the probationary period for unsatisfactory performance or conduct. This occurs under a more expedient process—only requiring the employing agency to provide a written notice of termination.

A 2015 GAO Report found that the formal process for removing finalized appointees can take six months to a year.[3] Additionally, the report found that a one-year probationary period was insufficient to observe and assess employees, particularly in complex positions.[4] This legislation would provide a longer probationary period to ensure that individuals who are not suited for Federal service are removed before their final appointment.


Amendments

  1. Rep. Hastings (D-FL) – This amendment exempts alumni of the PeaceCorps, AmeriCorps, and other national service programs under the Corporation for National and Community Service from the two year probationary period.
  2. Rep. Johnson (D-GA) – This amendment requires that an individual in probationary period receive written performance feedback every 180 days during such probationary period that includes notification of whether such individual is making satisfactory or unsatisfactory progress towards meeting any requirements for which notice is required under paragraph (2).
  3. Rep. Gianforte (R-MT) – This amendment provides additional notification to supervisor with 1 year, 6 months, 3 months and 30 days of remaining probationary period.
  4. Rep. Connolly (D-VA) – This amendment strikes the provisions of the bill and replaces it with a study and report by the Comptroller General of the United States. The study and report will be on those agencies that have lengthened the employee probationary period from 1 to 2 years, and any impact of an existing 2 year probationary period at the agency.  

Cost

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that implementing the legislation would have no significant budgetary effect.


Staff Contact

For questions about amendments or further information on the bill, contact Dominique Yantko with the House Republican Policy Committee by email or at 3-1555.


[1] See House Report 115-415.
[2] Id.
[3] GAO Report, 15-191.
[4] Id. 

115th Congress