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H.R. 4182 (115th): EQUALS Act of 2017

H.R. 4182 extends the probationary period for appointments to the competitive service and initial appointments as supervisors and managers from one year to two years after the completion of required training and licensing. The bill also extends the probationary period for initial Senior Executive Service career appointments from one year to two years. In addition, agencies would be required to notify supervisors 30 days before the scheduled completion of a probationary period and certify the successful completion of a probationary period.

Under the bill, individuals in the competitive service must both (1) complete a probationary or trial period, and (2) complete two years of current continuous employment in the same or similar positions, in order to be covered by adverse action procedures for misconduct. Additionally under the bill, individuals in the competitive service and excepted service are not entitled to appeal a removal or reduction in grade based on unacceptable performance to the Merit Systems Protection Board until they have completed the requirements.

All provisions of the legislation would take effect one year after enactment and would apply only to individuals whose service begins after the bill takes effect.

Background Under current law, new hires in the competitive service and initial appointments of managers generally require a probationary period of one year before such appointments become final. The probationary period provides new appointees time to understand the requirements of the position and undergo proper assessment before becoming a career employee. Once an appointment is final, the employee is covered by significant legal protections under the merit system.

Probationary employees may be removed during the probationary period for unsatisfactory performance or conduct. This occurs under a more expedient process—only requiring the employing agency to provide a written notice of termination.

A 2015 GAO Report found that the formal process for removing finalized appointees can take six months to a year. Additionally, the report found that a one-year probationary period was insufficient to observe and assess employees, particularly in complex positions. This legislation would provide a longer probationary period to ensure that individuals who are not suited for Federal service are removed before their final appointment.

Last updated Nov 27, 2017. Source: Republican Policy Committee

The summary below was written by the Congressional Research Service, which is a nonpartisan division of the Library of Congress, and was published on Oct 31, 2017.

Ensuring a Qualified Civil Service Act of 2017 or the EQUALS Act of 2017

This bill requires the probationary period before an appointment in the competitive civil service or an initial appointment as a supervisor or manager becomes final to last for two years. The two-year probationary period applies to any position that requires formal training or a license, and any other position not requiring formal training or a license.

Each agency must ensure that: (1) an announcement of a vacant position and an offer of appointment clearly state the terms and conditions of the probationary period, (2) an individual who is required to complete a probationary period receives timely notice of requirements to successfully complete the probationary period, (3) a supervisor or manager of an individual who is required to complete the probationary period receives notification not less than 30 days before the end of the probationary period, and (4) certification of such successful completion is made.

The bill increases from one to two years: (1) the probationary period after which an individual's appointment as a career appointee in the Senior Executive Service becomes final, and (2) the continuous employment requirement for coverage under adverse action procedures for misconduct.