This is a sponsored column by attorneys John Berry and Kimberly Berry of Berry & Berry, PLLC, an employment and labor law firm located in Plaza America that specializes in federal employee, security clearance, retirement and private sector employee matters.
By John H. Berry
Many of our clients who are federal employees have been facing difficulties as a result of the hiring freeze enacted by the President in January. While the initial hiring freeze has been rescinded (in part), there are many restrictions still in place. These restrictions have affected our federal employment practice since we often argue for or resolve cases involving changes, transfers, desk audits and promotions. This article covers the latest on the federal employee hiring freeze and where it presently stands.
The federal hiring freeze began on Jan. 23, shortly after the inauguration of the President, and covered most hiring actions for federal employees. This had the unfortunate result of causing many federal employees to take on additional jobs that were previously handled by other employees (who had left) but with no increase in compensation. In many federal agencies, it appears that federal employees are unable to perform their basic work functions given the lack of staffing. The ban was eventually lifted, for the most part, on April 12. Additionally, there has also been a lack of staffing at the appointee levels as the current administration has only appointed one third of the amount of appointees that the previous administration had in place at the same point in time.
Where We Are Now
While the original federal hiring freeze has been lifted for most agencies, some individual agencies have decided to leave the ban in place in order to reduce their number of employees. The somewhat understated goal is to reduce the size of the federal workplace. For example, despite the lifting of the ban, the EPA and Department of State currently still have varying restrictions on hiring new personnel as of right now. Other agencies have not openly continued the hiring freeze but have only been hiring on a limited basis.
In addition, since the lifting of the initial freeze, guidance has been issued intending to restrict hiring of federal employees. Other agencies, like the Department of Defense that lifted the hiring freeze, issued requirements that hiring officials comply with the intent of the OMB memorandum of April 12, which focuses on reducing the numbers of employees for agencies. In getting back to normal, following the freeze, there has also been a significant backlog of background and clearance investigations from dozens of federal departments that need employees. This will slow down the onboarding process for these employees.
We suspect that hiring will eventually increase and the policies will be liberalized somewhat, because even agencies looking to reduce their size and scope have to perform basic functions. We have run across a number of federal supervisors and other employees who have become overburdened to the point that they may leave federal government altogether because they have no assistance and are performing multiple jobs. This will eventually lead to increased hiring. It will also likely take a year in order for the federal government to get back to where it was in staffing and productivity before the change in administrations and the enactment of the hiring freeze.
If you need assistance with a federal employment issue, please contact our office at 703-668-0070 or at www.berrylegal.com to schedule a consultation. Please also like and visit us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/BerryBerryPllc.