President Trump’s grand experiment seeking to undo the concept of a merit-based federal civil service is over. On January 22, 2021, the White House announced that President Biden revoked several Executive Orders issued during the previous four years, including the one creating Schedule F. The White House Statement affirmed that, among other things, President Biden’s action would accomplish the following:
- Restores collective bargaining power and worker protections by revoking Trump Executive Orders 13836, 13837, and 13839. It goes further to direct agencies to bargain over permissible, non-mandatory subjects of bargaining when contracts are up for negotiation so that workers have a greater voice in their working conditions.
- Eliminates Schedule F, which undermines the foundations of the civil service. Its existence threatens the critical protections of career employees and provides a pathway to burrow political appointees into the civil service.
- Promotes a $15 minimum wage. The Executive Order directs the Office of Personnel Management to develop recommendations to pay more federal employees at least $15 per hour.
Each of the Executive Orders to be revoked has been a problem for federal employees and their representatives. Executive Order 13836 limited the subjects for collective bargaining and limited unions’ ability to negotiate for their members. Executive Order 13837 limited the official time union members and representatives could expend on union and representational matters.
Executive Order 13839 was particularly disruptive, limiting the procedures available to employees who received proposed discipline. One provision of EO 13839 was especially punitive, directing agencies not to “agree to erase, remove, alter, or withhold … any information about a civilian employee’s Official Personnel Folder and Employee Performance File as part of … resolving a formal or informal complaint by the employee or settling an administrative challenge to an adverse personnel action.” The result of this provision was to virtually eliminate any attempts by agencies and employees to resolve a dispute by, for example, removing a termination notice from the employee’s file and replacing it with a resignation. The lack of this discretion meant that agencies or employees who preferred an inexpensive and mutually agreeable resolution were forced to either withdraw or continue litigating the matter, which would end up costing one party or the other, or both, much more than necessary.
The White House statement notes that withdrawal of these Executive Orders “will help ensure the federal government is a model employer and restore protections to career civil servants who are so essential to this country.”
And not a moment too soon.