The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) recently released guidance to federal agencies regarding how agencies treat federal employees. Essentially, the guidance encourages federal agencies to take a stricter approach when disciplining federal employees and act to “remove those who fail to preform or to uphold the public’s trust.”
What does this mean?
The guidance could result in a deviation from the use of the table of penalties and result in unexpectedly harsh consequences. The OPM appears to encourage deviation, stating many agencies have used the tables as a crutch instead of a tool to help guide independent decision making on the appropriate consequence for each infraction.
What should federal employees know about the OPM’s guidance?
In addition to a deviation from the table of penalties, the OPM’s guidance also encourages:
- Limits union action. The OPM states federal agencies should not agree to union proposals that require the use of a table of penalties.
- Reasonableness. The guidance also states federal managers should apply penalties that are reasonably consistent for employees in similar situations doing similar jobs.
- Review of past behavior. The OPM also states agencies should review past behavior, including all previous instances of misconduct, when determining the best course of discipline.
The guidance could result in a fairer set of disciplinary tools or could lead to confusion and an abuse of power. Federal employees that find themselves involved in an employee investigation or potential disciplinary action are wise to protect their interests. An attorney experienced in the unique area of federal labor law can review the situation and discuss your options.