Today, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee held a business meeting and reported out several bills, including two impacting federal workers:
- H.R. 4171, legislation to amend title 5, United States Code, to extend the authority to conduct telework travel expenses test programs – This bill would extend the authority for the Patent and Trademark Office to conduct its telework travel expense program until December 31, 2020.
- H.R. 4182, the Ensuring a Qualified Civil Service (EQUALS) Act of 2017 – This bill 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.
NTEU sent a letter to the Committee expressing its views on the bills. NTEU supports H.R. 4171, which was introduced by Representatives Greg Gianforte (R-MT) and Gerry Connolly (D-VA). The bill was reported out by the Committee by voice vote.
However, NTEU expressed our strong opposition to H.R. 4182, introduced by Representative James Comer (R-KY), given the limited due process rights afforded to 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 members 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 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.