White House to Weaken Protections for Civil Servants through “Schedule F” Classification

On October 21, President Trump issued an Executive Order on Creating Schedule F in the Excepted Service, a move that elicited wide criticisms from federal employee organizations. The executive order would create a new classification of federal employee, Schedule F, and defines this class of employee as those in “positions of a confidential, policy-determining, policy-making, or policy-advocating character that are not normally subject to change as a result of a Presidential transition.” Furthermore, heads of executive agencies would be given the power to determine which Federal positions are covered by Schedule F upon approval by the White House Office of Personnel Management (OPM). These changes would effectively allow a Presidential Administration to more easily hire and fire Schedule F employees as if they were political appointees and prohibits Schedule F employees from participating in practices prohibited for the exempted service such as collective bargaining.

Federal employee associations have denounced the executive order as a danger to the independent nature of federal service. The National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association (NARFE) released a statement that the executive order “threatens the centuries-long integrity of nonpartisan professionals by forming a broad exception to the competitive civil service. The new exception demolishes the rule that civil servants are hired and fired based on merit, not political affiliation.”

The executive order gives heads of executive agencies ninety days to compile a list of positions subject to reclassification under Schedule F (a deadline that ends on January 19, the day before Inauguration Day). Members of Congress are reportedly looking into legislative options for reversing the order. In addition, as the rule could potentially be reversed by a change in Presidential administration, COSSA will continue to monitor the implementation of this executive order through the rest of the current presidential term.

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Posted in Issue 21 (October 27), Update, Volume 39 (2020)

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