Merit board decision undercuts federal career intern program
A Merit Systems Protection Board decision significantly undercuts the Federal Career Intern Program, which organized labor has long claimed violated the statutory preference given veterans seeking U.S. government employment.
In two cases brought by veterans, one against the Office of Personnel Management and the other against the Veteran Affairs Department, MSPB found "a violation of appellants' veterans' preference rights."
The decision is an important victory for federal employee unions and has serious implications for a program widely used by some agencies to fill vacancies.
"Untold numbers of veterans are potentially being shut out of job opportunities for which they would have preference, because the agencies are filling the positions under FCIP without public notice," the decision said.
Positions in the "excepted service," which includes the intern program, do not have to be publicly advertised, as is the case with jobs in the "competitive service."
The program's name can be misleading. It does not bring students into government for a short try-out period, as "intern" implies. Union leaders complain that some agencies have used it for most of their hires, circumventing competitive hiring procedures in the process.
The National Treasury Employees Union said in a statement that employees hired under the program should be converted to the competitive service without loss of pay and benefits.
In the VA case, Larry Evans charged the department with violating his veterans' preference when it used the intern program to fill all nine openings for veterans' service representatives in its Columbia, S.C. facility. In support of Evans, NTEU and the American Federation of Government Employees said the positions should not have been placed in the excepted service.
MSPB ruled that Evans "is entitled to reconstruction of the hiring process" to determine if he "would have been selected for the position he sought."
In the OPM case, David Dean charged his right to compete for federal jobs was violated because the intern program is not required to publicly post vacancies.
"Dean argues that OPM has failed to justify placement of positions filled under FCIP in the excepted service; that this improper placement allows agencies to avoid the statutory requirement that notice of competitive-service vacancies be made to the public; and that as a result, his veterans' preference rights have been systematically violated," MSPB said, adding, "we agree."
An OPM spokesman said it is reviewing the decision. The VA had no immediate comment.
Federal Diary columnist Joe Davidson
| November 5, 2010; 12:52 PM ET
Categories: Agencies and Departments, Workplace Issues
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