Last year, Congress passed the Elijah E. Cummings Federal Employee Antidiscrimination Act. In January, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) proposed the rule it would use to uphold the law. Now, at the beginning of February, the comments period for the proposed rule is coming to a close. If the rule moves untouched into the federal workplace, what should workers expect?
As the Federal Times reports, the rule implements a new law that aims to inform federal employees of their rights. It also mandates that federal agencies report the actions they take to enforce those rights.
Seven ways the proposed rule could improve transparency
Lawmakers passed the Elijah E. Cummings Federal Employee Antidiscrimination Act to better hold federal agencies accountable for discrimination and whistleblower retaliation. While it does not grant employees any new rights, the law helps ensure they understand the rights they already have. The OPM’s proposed rule translates this law and its aims into several parts:
- Mandated whistleblower protection and antidiscrimination training for all employees, managers and supervisors
- 90-day deadline for new employees to learn about their rights as federal employees
- Whistleblower protection and antidiscrimination refresher training every two years
- Mandated reporting of all finalized cases of intentional discrimination and retaliation
- 120-day deadline for agencies to report all actions taken in response to cases of discrimination and retaliation
- Specific guidelines for reporting that demand agencies post accessibility-formatted links from their public-facing websites
- Agency tracking of all discrimination and retaliation cases from filing to resolution
The definition of a “finalized” case is important here. According to the OPM, a finalized cases has exhausted all potential appeals, the agency has chosen not to appeal by its deadline or a court has made a final judgment.
Will greater transparency lead to better protection?
The new law and rule are important because federal employees continue to face discrimination and retaliation in the workplace. Employees who are better informed are better able to respond appropriately. Agencies and employees that face greater accountability should be more highly motivated to avoid illegal behaviors.
Of course, only time will reveal how much the new law and rule may help. The comments period for the proposed rule closes February 4th. The OPM will then draft its final rule, and that will go into effect no sooner than 30 days after its publication.