Strengthening Safeguards for Federal Employment

By on February 4, 2014 in Current Events, Human Resources with 3 Comments

President Obama recently issued a memorandum intended to strengthen safeguards for federal job applicants. It specifically targets individuals who are out of work or who have run into financial troubles through no fault of their own.

Legislation has been introduced in the past which touches on this subject, albeit taking the opposite approach. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) introduced legislation in 2011 which would fire current federal employees with seriously delinquent federal tax debt as well as prevent hiring new employees with seriously delinquent taxes. The legislation was reintroduced in 2013 but ultimately failed to pass.

While the memo does not specifically address tax delinquency, one can assume the scenarios outlined in the memo could include employees in those situations.

The president’s full memo follows below.

Presidential Memorandum — Enhancing Safeguards to Prevent the Undue Denial of Federal Employment Opportunities to the Unemployed and Those Facing Financial Difficulty Through no Fault of Their Own

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release
January 31, 2014

MEMORANDUM FOR THE HEADS OF EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENTS AND AGENCIES

SUBJECT: Enhancing Safeguards to Prevent the Undue Denial of Federal Employment Opportunities to the Unemployed and Those Facing Financial Difficulty Through No Fault of Their Own

The Federal Government is America’s largest employer. While seeking to employ a talented and productive workforce, it has a responsibility to lead by example. Although executive departments and agencies (agencies) generally can, and do, take job applicants’ employment history and other factors into account when making hiring decisions, it is the policy of my Administration that applicants should not face undue obstacles to Federal employment because they are unemployed or face financial difficulties. The Government must continue to take steps to ensure the fair treatment of applicants, as well as incumbent Federal employees, who face financial difficulties through no fault of their own and make good faith efforts to meet those obligations. Therefore, I hereby direct as follows:

Section 1. Individuals Who Are Unemployed or Facing Financial Difficulty. (a) Agencies shall not make an unfavorable determination with respect to the suitability, fitness, or qualifications of an applicant for Federal employment because that applicant:

(i) is or was unemployed; or

(ii) has experienced or is experiencing financial difficulty through no fault of the applicant, if the applicant has undertaken a good-faith effort to meet his or her financial obligations.

(b) Consistent with existing law, agencies shall not remove, suspend, or demote a current Federal employee if the basis of the action is that the employee has experienced, or is experiencing, financial difficulty through no fault of the employee, and the employee has undertaken a good-faith effort to meet his or her financial obligations.

(c) Agencies shall review their recruiting and hiring practices to determine whether such processes intentionally or inadvertently place applicants at an undue disadvantage because of the factors set forth in subsection (a) of this section and report the results to the Director of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) within 90 days of the date of this memorandum.

Taking into account the results, the Director of OPM shall issue guidance to Chief Human Capital Officers to assist agencies with implementation of this memorandum.

Sec. 2. General Provisions. (a) Nothing in this memorandum shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:

(i) the authority granted by law to a department or agency, or the head thereof;

(ii) the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals;

(iii) the authority granted by law, Executive Order, or regulation to a department or agency, or the head thereof, to determine eligibility for access to classified information or to occupy a sensitive position; or

(iv) the authority granted by law or Executive Order to a department or agency, or the head thereof, to take adverse actions against Federal employees for their failure to comply with any law, rule, or regulation imposing upon them an obligation to satisfy in good faith their just financial obligations, including Federal, State, or local taxes.

(b) This memorandum shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.

(c) This memorandum is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

(d) The Director of OPM is authorized and directed to publish this memorandum in the Federal Register.

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About the Author

Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of FedSmith.com. He enjoys writing about current topics that affect the federal workforce. Ian also has a background in web development and does the technical work for the FedSmith.com web site and its sibling sites.

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