Government affairs

Legislative Updates

House passes EQUALS Act

Today, the House of Representatives voted in a mostly party-line vote—213 to 204—to pass H.R. 4182, the Ensuring a Qualified Civil Service (EQUALS) Act, introduced by Rep. James Comer (R-KY).

The bill aims to change the probationary period for federal employees who currently serve a one-year probationary period to two years, and to undercut due-process rights, whistleblower protections, and the very civil service protections designed to protect federal employees against unjust managerial rulings.

The key difference between probationary employees and career federal employees is that it is much easier for an agency to fire employees on probationary periods than those having career status. By extending the period, agencies would have twice as long to consider an employee’s performance and decide whether to allow the employee to progress in their career or to be terminated before then.

“Almost no private-sector company I know of would have a two-year probationary period,” said Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA), ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Government Operations Subcommittee, “because they know it would make it hard to recruit talented employees.”

Connolly submitted an amendment that instead called for the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to study agencies that have already extended probationary periods. The amendment failed, as did a separate provision that would have exempted alumni from the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps and other national community service programs from a two-year probationary period.

If it becomes law, the bill would grossly affect employees’ (including veterans preference eligible letter carriers) eligibility to appeal any adverse actions to the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB). Eligibility to appeal to the MSPB would require two years of continuous service under this bill, as opposed to one year required under current law.

NALC President Fredric Rolando sent a letter to members of the House opposing H.R. 4182. The legislation, Rolando wrote, “will provide no substantive improvements to employee performance evaluations. It will not guarantee a halt in poor performance. It will, however, make it more difficult to employ American veterans. It will weaken the recruitment and retention of federal workers and diminish the overall pool of talented employees.”

Reps. Jim Cooper (D-TN) and Henry Cuellar (D-TX) joined the majority of Republicans in support of the bill, while 18 Republicans joined Democrats in opposing the measure: Reps. Mike Bost (R-IL), Tom Cole (R-OK), Barbara Comstock (R-VA), Paul Cook (R-CA), Ryan Costello (R-PA), Jeff Denham (R-CA), Dan Donovan (R-NY), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Walter Jones (R-NC), John Katko (R-NY), Peter King (R-NY), Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ), David McKinley (R-WV), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Mike Simpson (R-ID), Christopher Smith (R-NJ), Pat Tiberi (R-OH), and Fred Upton (R-MI).

The legislation now proceeds to the Senate for consideration.

If your House representative voted against the bill, thank them for standing up for letter carriers and all federal employees.

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