House Passes Legislation Extending Probationary Periods

The House passed legislation increasing the probationary period for federal workers to at least two years.

Seal of the U.S. House of Representatives
Seal of the U.S. House of Representatives

Today, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 4182, the Ensuring a Qualified Civil Service (EQUALS) Act of 2017, introduced by Representative James Comer (R-KY), which 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. The measure passed by a vote of 213- 204.

NTEU sent a letter to the House expressing its opposition to the bill. NTEU’s objections stem from the limited due process rights afforded to employees and limited representational abilities of a labor organization during the probationary period. Furthermore, despite the limited protections employees would have during their probationary period, extending the probationary period to two years has a chilling effect on employees exercising their protections against discrimination, sexual harassment, and whistleblower retaliation, effectively eliminating them. In addition, 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. Given the bill’s unclear and undefined language, the bill could translate into 3 or 4 year—or even indefinite—probationary periods for some employees.

Representative Gerry Connolly (D-VA)
Representative Gerry Connolly (D-VA)

Several members spoke in opposition to the bill and in overall support of federal workers, including Representatives Gerald Connolly (D-VA), Brenda Lawrence (D-MI), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA), Jamie Raskin (D-MD), and Alcee Hastings (D-FL). Representative Connolly offered an amendment to replace the bill’s language with a Government Accountability Office review that would report on the relatively new two-year probationary period now in place across the Department of Defense, but it was defeated.

NTEU will continue to fight to ensure employee due process rights with our Senate allies.

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