House Committee Approves Bills to Double Federal Worker Probationary Period, Target Tax Delinquent Employees


The House Federal Workforce Subcommittee yesterday approved two bills that could have a significant impact on the federal workforce if passed into law.

The first measure, H.R. 1470, would double the probationary period for new federal hires to two years from the current one-year period. This means that new hires would have to endure an additional year of at-will employment, having little recourse in the event that their manager decides to let them go. According to the bill’s sponsor, subcommittee chairman Dennis Ross (R-FL), the bill is intended to give federal managers more time to identify underperforming federal employees. NFFE National President William R. Dougan could not disagree more.

“This is just the latest in a series of attempts to weaken and disempower the rank-and-file federal employee,” Dougan said. “If it supposedly takes a full two years for a supervisor to make a decision on an employee’s performance, maybe it’s the supervisor who needs to learn how to do their job.”

In spite of the poor policy credentials of the bill, the version that ultimately passed through committee was much more restrained than Ross’s original legislation. Before being watered down by committee Democrats, the bill would also have placed federal employees who were promoted or transferred into a new position under mandatory two year probation as well. This meant that all hardworking federal employees who moved up the ranks would be considered a probationary employee for most of their career.

“Chairman Ross and those that supported his bill just want to strip employees of their protections in the workplace – that is what this bill is about,” said NFFE Legislative Director Randy Erwin. “They have created this narrative that federal employees as a whole are poor performers, but there just isn’t any evidence to suggest that is true. This bill is about intimidating federal employees, not weeding out poor performers. They want federal workers to be an at-will employee who can be fired without cause. That way, federal workers will be less inclined to join the union, or file a grievance, or demand fairness in the workplace. We applaud Democrats on the committee for taking that provision out of the bill. We are going to fight hard to make sure that this legislation is never passed in law.”

Also on Wednesday, the committee approved yet another bill unfairly targeting the federal workforce. H.R. 828, the Federal Employee Tax Accountability Act, would fire any federal employee that is seriously delinquent on their taxes. Sponsored by Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), H.R. 828 conveniently omits members of Congress from losing their jobs for tax delinquency, constituting a blatant double standard. Though no one supports or promotes tax delinquency, it is common for people facing fiscal hardships in these economic times to fall behind. Recognizing this reality, the ranking Democratic member of the committee Stephen Lynch (D-MA) amended the bill to give tax delinquent employees 60 days to right their fiscal ship and demonstrate a payment plan.

Both bills will now advance to the full House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform for consideration in the coming weeks and months.