Two Federal Workforce Bills Introduced

Last week, two bills were introduced that affect the federal workforce.

Binary codeRepresentative Gary Palmer (R-AL) introduced House Resolution (HR) 5300, which exempts from federal employee labor-management collective bargaining agreements any negotiation on the actions of the agency head to restrict or prohibit access to an agency web site. A bill similar to HR 5300 was introduced last year by Representative Palmer. At that time, NTEU opposed the bill, stating that it was unnecessary. The bill amends Title 44 of the United States Code (U.S.C.) by granting agency heads sole and exclusive authority in the information technology (IT) arena. NTEU believes that the language is overly broad and could eliminate collective bargaining on any IT issues. While NTEU members understand the importance of a safe and secure federal IT environment, federal employees should not be facing the possibility of being unable to be contacted in the event their children’s school closes or their childcare provider suddenly needs to change their planned arrangements for the day. Current Title 44 provisions already prescribe detailed agency head responsibility to “ensure that all personnel are held accountable for complying with the agency-wide information security program.” [44 U.S.C. 3554 (a) (7)]. NTEU continues to oppose the bill.

U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board 1883 (seal)
U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board seal

Representative Holmes Norton (D-DC), Representative Rob Wittman (R-VA), and Representative Andre Carson (D-IN) introduced HR 5355, which seeks to clarify and protect certain due process rights of federal employees serving in sensitive positions. HR 5355 contains language developed by NTEU that essentially reverses a Federal Circuit Court decision that ruled that the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) could not review decisions made by an agency concerning the eligibility of employees to occupy sensitive positions. NTEU has worked to change this decision since it was reported in August 2014. The Kaplan v. Conyers decision could leave many “sensitive position” employees with little ability to ensure that adverse actions taken against them are legally appropriate. The Holmes Norton bill restores the MSPB’s authority to review an agency’s determination that an employee is ineligible for a sensitive position. NTEU supports passage of this bill.

I will keep you informed of any developments on these bills.