The Effect of President Trump’s Recent Executive Orders on Federal Workers

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Executive orders issued from the President of the United States have the force of law and are binding on federal agencies. In some instances, they can have a significant effect on the labor rights of federal employees. President Trump recently issued three executive orders which have an adverse effect on federal workers.

The Executive Orders and What They Do

On May 25, 2018, President Trump signed Executive Orders # 13836, 13837, and 13839. These executive orders diminish the rights of federal workers in several ways, including:

  • Banning federal employees from having access to grievance procedures when they are fired or suffer other adverse employment actions;
  • Limiting any employment improvement plan to 30 days;
  • Setting time limits on collective bargaining agreement negotiations;
  • Restricting what issues are subject to collective bargaining agreements;
  • Limiting employees to only 25 percent of their work time to engage in union activities;
  • Reexamining existing collective bargaining agreements to find ways to reduce costs; and
  • Preventing government agencies from changing personnel records as part of any settlement negotiations concerning an adverse employment action or an administrative challenge.

One major effect of this last point is to drastically hinder the ability of agencies to settle employment disputes. Many conflicts between employers and employees revolve around the content of a worker’s personnel file. When there are negative personnel records (whether true or not), they can have significant consequences for the employee’s future professional career by harming the employee’s ability to obtain a promotion, transfer, pay raise or new job. Therefore, the ability to remove or amend certain parts of a personnel file is often a key issue in settlement negotiations.

And it’s not just the employee who gets hurt by this change. Employers may be more than willing to change the content of a worker’s personnel file to avoid a lawsuit or reduce a monetary settlement. But now that neither party has this bargaining chip, the result could be longer settlement negotiations or full-on lawsuits that would have otherwise been resolved quickly through the settlement process.

What Happens Now?

In response to these executive orders, a number of unions that represent federal workers have sued President Trump and relevant government agencies and officers. In three lawsuits, the unions allege, among other things, that the executive orders are improper because they exceed constitutional and statutory mandates. For example, the unions contend that the executive orders contradict collective bargaining rights provided by the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 (CSRA) and attempt to rewrite the law.

The three cases have been consolidated into a single case, with motions for summary judgment filed by the various parties involved. Oral arguments were held in late July, but no ruling was immediately issued. Instead, Judge Jackson, who presides over the consolidated cases, said she would take the motions “under advisement.” This means she would issue a ruling in the near future after taking more time to examine the case.

Summing It Up

  • In May 2018, President Trump signed three executive orders that reduce the collective bargaining rights of federal workers as well as make it easier for them to be fired.
  • Several federal worker unions have challenged the legality of these executive orders, with the court expected to issue a decision within the coming months.

For More Information

If you feel that you’ve been unlawfully treated at work but think that Executive Orders #13836, 13837 or 13839 might affect your ability to resolve your workplace issue, please contact us for a no-cost online review of your case.

But if you’re not ready for that step yet, check out the Practice Areas page of our website to learn more about your employment issue.