Date: August 2, 2013
House Passes H.R. 2879,
the Stop Government Abuse Act
On August 1, 2013, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 2879, the Stop Government Abuse Act, by a vote of 239 to 176 under a closed rule that prohibited any amendments. The bill would limit Federal employee bonuses and awards, expand disciplinary action against Senior Executives, and increase individuals’ rights to record conversations with Federal employees.
The bill represented a compilation of three separate bills that the House considered under suspension of the rules, but did not vote upon, on July 31, 2013: H.R. 1541, the Common Sense in Compensation Act; H.R. 2579, the Government Employee Accountability Act; and H.R. 2711, the Citizen Empowerment Act. The bill now moves to the Senate for further action.
Following are provisions of interest to SSA:
Limit on Federal Employee Bonuses and Awards
- Would limit, during any fiscal year in which sequestration is in force, Federal employee bonuses to no more than five percent of an employee’s salary. Bonus payment waivers would be permissible for employees for whom the limitation would violate a collective bargaining agreement, unless the agreement is renewed on or after enactment.
- Would also limit, during any fiscal year in which sequestration is in force, performance awards to no more than 33 percent of eligible employees in a Federal agency. An agency may waive this requirement with approval by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), but would be required to report to Congress the percentage of employees receiving awards and each award amount.
Disciplinary Action Against Senior Executives
- Would require OPM to prescribe regulations that place an SES employee on investigative leave for misconduct, neglect of duty, misappropriation of funds, or malfeasance. The agency may place the employee on investigative leave without pay if it determines that the SES member’s conduct is flagrant or intentional.
- Would require the agency to review the case of the SES employee at the end of the investigative leave period of 45 days and submit a report of the review to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee no later than five days after the end of the 45-day period. At the end of the investigative leave period, the agency would remove, suspend (without pay), or reinstate the employee.
- The agency may extend the period of administrative leave to no more than 90 days, with the requirement to review and report on the investigation at the end of each 45-day period.
- In general, would entitle the SES employee placed on investigative leave to the following: 30 days advance written notice with reasons explaining the action; a reasonable time, but no fewer than seven days, to respond to the proposed action; attorney or non-attorney representation; and a written agency decision at the earliest practicable date. Agencies may provide for a hearing, via regulations, in lieu of, or in addition to, the employee’s opportunity to respond to the notice of action.
- SES employees may appeal decisions with the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB). Records relating to the investigative leave process would be maintained by the agency and furnished to the MSPB and the employee upon their requests.
- Would authorize an agency head to remove an SES employee for serious neglect of duty, misappropriation of funds, or malfeasance, notwithstanding any other provision of law. For removal, the agency would determine that the employee knowingly acted in a manner that endangers the interest of the agency’s mission, consider the removal to be necessary and advisable, and determine any other provisions of law applying to removal would not be administratively efficient.
- Would require that the SES employee be notified of the reasons for removal and provide such employee 30 days after notification to make the case for reinstatement to duty with supporting information. Upon submission of such statement, the agency head would provide a written response with the option to reinstate the employee. Would require the agency head to notify Congress whenever an SES employee is removed and the reasons for the action.
- Would prohibit delegation of authority of the agency head with regard to the removal of SES employees.
- Would allow removed SES employees to seek or accept employment with any other Federal department or agency if declared eligible by OPM.
- Would entitle the SES employee facing removal to appeal with the MSPB. Records relating to the removal process would be maintained by the agency and furnished to the MSPB and the employee upon their requests.
- Would allow for termination or suspension for more than 14 days without pay for SES employees for misappropriation of funds. Would also allow the agency to waive the 30-day advance notice of removal or suspension without pay if an agency has reasonable cause to believe an SES employee has committed a crime that could lead to imprisonment or if the employee conduct was determined to be flagrant or intentional.
Individual’s Right to Record Conversations
- Would constitute participation by an Executive agency employee in an in-person or telephonic interaction with an individual as employee consent to have the interaction recorded by the participating individual.
- Would require, for individuals who are the focus of enforcement actions conducted by Executive agency employees, a notice of an individual’s right to record such interactions. The notice would be included with any written material from the Executive agency to the individual concerning actions that could result in fines, forfeiture of property, or various penalties and collections to such individuals or businesses of such individuals. Such notice of rights would also apply to representatives of an individual.
- Would provide for disciplinary actions to employees that fail to comply with the provisions of this bill.
- Would require Executive agencies, within 180 days after enactment, to post prominently on their web sites information explaining the right of individuals to record interactions with employees, in accordance with guidance issued from the Office of Management and Budget within 90 days of enactment.
- Would become effective upon enactment, unless otherwise stated.