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MERIT Act Passes Key Committee in the House

Rep. Loudermilk (R-GA) issued the following statement after his bill, the Modern Employment Reform, Improvement, and Transformation (MERIT) Act, passed the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform:

“Recent surveys show that over three-fourths of Americans are either angry or frustrated with the federal government, and an overwhelming majority of our citizens do not believe that the government works for their benefit. This is why, even before being elected to Congress, I have advocated for a more effective and efficient federal government that will restore America’s confidence in our government.

“Working for the United States federal government is an honor and a privilege, and most federal employees value the opportunity and work hard to serve the American people. However, some federal employees have learned they can use the system to protect their jobs regardless of their poor performance or bad behavior. These employees cast a negative light on the government and are a burden to those who work hard every day to help the American people.

“The MERIT Act is a huge step to creating a more efficient and effective government that works for the people, streamlining the process and lessening the time it takes to dismiss poor performing or negligent employees. It shouldn’t take over a year to remove a bad employee, as under the current system.

“I am encouraged that the Oversight and Government Reform Committee has passed MERIT, and now we can work on getting it passed in the House of Representatives.”

Summary of H.R. 559:

• Permits agencies to remove a senior executive from the civil service for performance reasons, rather than merely demoting the individual to a non-Senior Executive Service (SES) position

• Affects the retirement benefits of employees who are removed based on a felony conviction based on actions taken in furtherance of official duties

• Repeals the special process for taking action against poor performers, which is unnecessarily time-consuming, and streamlines the process for removal or suspension of poor performers and bad actors

• Addresses concerns about arbitrators overruling Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) precedent by prohibiting grievances based on adverse personnel actions. Employees will be able to appeal these actions exclusively to the MSPB

• Prohibits appeals to MSPB based on short-term furloughs, consistent with current short-term suspension rules

• Prohibits appeals of emergency furloughs, defined as furloughs resulting from a lapse of appropriations

• Authorizes the Office of Personnel Management to reduce the procedural burden on agencies when taking furlough actions, particularly those resulting from budgetary constraints

• Authorizes agencies to order repayment of bonuses and awards when performance or conduct issues are discovered and it is determined the bonus or award would not have been paid had these issues been known at the time

• Ensures adequate time to evaluate a new employee to determine whether he or she should be retained by extending the probationary period for competitive service appointments and SES members from one year to two years