Executive Orders Make It Easier to Fire and Overhaul Official Time

by | May 30, 2018

Last Updated November 22, 2022


Three executive orders were signed by President Trump that aims to reduce the time it takes to fire poor performing employees and overhaul federal employee union rights, including official time. Trump made a promise in his State of the Union address in which he sought to empower cabinet secretaries with the authority to award good federal employees and remove poor performers more quickly.

“Today, the president is fulfilling his promise to promote a more efficient government by reforming our civil service rules,” Andrew Bremberg, assistant to the president and the Director of the Domestic Policy Council. “These executive orders will make it easier to remove poor performing employees and ensure that taxpayer dollars are more efficiently used.”

Remove Poor Performers

One of the executive orders aims to make it easier for agencies to fire poor performing employees and makes it harder for those employees to hide adverse employee information when seeking reemployment at another agency.

The Government Accountability Office found it takes between 6 months and a year, on average, to remove federal employees flagged for misconduct, plus an average of 8 more months to resolve appeals.

Bremberg said, “Every year, the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey has consistently shown that less than 1/3 of feds believe the poor performers are adequately addressed by the agency.”

This executive order requires agencies report disciplinary actions records and management of poor performers to the Office of Personnel Management. Data from OPM shows a federal employee is 44x less likely to be fired than a private sector worker.

Official Time Cuts

The second executive order will significantly reduce the amount of time that feds can be paid for union work on the clock. Federal employees won’t be able to spend any more than 25% of their work hours on through official time.

This order also calls on agencies to renegotiate contracts with labor unions and reduce official time by almost 2/3. The White House says more than 470 Veterans Affairs Department employees, including 47 full-time nurses, spend 100% of their work hours on union-related business.

Renegotiated Labor Contracts

The last executive order would reduce the labor contract bargaining window between government and unions. It orders OPM to establish a new Labor Relations Working Group which would oversee the terms of renegotiated contracts. It also requires federal union contracts be posted to an online database, with the goal of promoting transparency.

Is this a Good or Bad Thing?


OPM Director Jeff Pon said these new orders will make it more efficient to remove those not doing their jobs while protecting those that do. “By holding poor performers accountable, reforming the use of taxpayer-funded union time, and focusing negotiations on issues that matter, we are advancing our efforts to elevate the federal workplace. The clear majority of our employees are dedicated public servants who are dedicated to their missions and service to the American people. It is essential that we honor their commitment, and these measures reflect just that,” Pon said.

Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.) supports these orders. “These reforms will improve accountability and productivity in the federal workforce, and I applaud the Trump administration for taking action to restore the public interest as the top priority of government operations,” Johnson said.

Sen, James Lankford (R-Okla.), chairman of the Regulatory Affairs and Federal Management Subcommittee said these orders would reign in employee unions influence over government operations. “These executive orders strive to make the federal government more efficient, not only for the taxpayer but for our great federal workers. We have thousands of federal workers who work very hard for the nation; it’s important that their work is not frustrated by the poor performance of a small few,” he said.


J. David Cox, president of the American Federation of Government Employees, said that these orders chip away at federal employee rights. “This is president Trump taking retribution on an apolitical civil service workforce.”

National Treasury Employees Union president Tony Reardon called these orders “an assault on federal employees”. “Rather than promote efficiency in the federal sector, the administration is demanding feds lose their ability to challenge unfair, arbitrary, and discriminatory firings and other actions. This would begin the process of dismantling the Merit System that governs our civil service,” Reardon said.

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