House Votes to Double Probationary Period for New Feds

The House has passed a bill that would double the length of the probationary period for new federal employees.

The House of Representatives has advanced legislation that would extend the probationary period for new federal employees from one year to two.

The Ensuring A Qualified Civil Service (EQUALS) Act (H.R. 4182) was introduced by Congressman James Comer (R-KY) who said the bill is necessary to help ensure the probationary period is used as intended and also ensure equal treatment throughout the federal workforce.

“It is an honor to see my first bill pass the House of Representatives today,” said Congressman Comer. “The EQUALS Act is good for the federal workforce and the American people whom they serve. I was proud to lead the effort to pass this commonsense government reform legislation in the House and I look forward to continuing my work to make our federal government more effective, responsive and accountable.”

About the EQUALS Act

Comer says doubling the probationary period for new federal employees will allow managers sufficient time to assess whether or not prospective employees are qualified for public service before becoming permanent federal employees and also gives employees time to receive training and demonstrate proficiency in their roles before their manager makes a determination about their fitness for federal service.

The legislation would require that managers be notified one year, six months, three months and 30 days before the end of an employee’s probationary period to ensure the probationary period is being used as intended. Additionally, agencies are required to certify that an employee has successfully completed the probationary period, and provide justification for that decision.

Should a manager decide an employee is not a good fit for the federal workforce, it is much easier to fire him or her during the probationary period as opposed to after that time has passed. Once converted to career status, an employee is covered by significant legal protections that enable him appealing removal from federal service.

A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report found in 2015 that the removal process for poorly performing employees can take six months to a year, and sometimes can take a longer time to complete the process.

Union Reaction

At least one union is opposed to the notion of the EQUALS Act becoming law.

The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), the largest federal employee union, says the bill would punish good workers.

“This bill does nothing to address any issues surrounding employee performance evaluations or management’s ability to properly evaluate employees during the probation period. What it does is penalize good employees who are doing good work,” said AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr.

He added that one year is plenty of time to evaluate an employee’s performance and said that if a manager is having difficulty assessing an employee’s performance in that time period, more training is required for the manager as opposed to extending the probationary period.

The bill next goes to the Senate for consideration.

About the Author

Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of He has over 20 years of combined experience in media and government services, having worked at two government contracting firms and an online news and web development company prior to his current role at FedSmith.