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Merit board decision undercuts federal career intern program

By Federal Diary columnist Joe Davidson

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.

By Federal Diary columnist Joe Davidson  | November 5, 2010; 12:52 PM ET
Categories:  Agencies and Departments, Workplace Issues  
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The NTEU and AFGE have attempted to convey to the public that the unions were the the prime movers behind my case (Dean v. OPM). The unions attempt to show they initiated the case and won is not only misleading; it is not true. My case was based upon the Veterans Employment Opportunity Act (VEOA). The Board specifically noted in the decision that the federal court case NTEU has filed concerning merit selection is not connected. The Board specifically stated it was a VEOA case. NTEU and AFGE are not disabled veterans, they cannot file a VEOA Appeal, only a veteran can file a VEOA case. The unions filed a friend of the court brief, that is all. I attempted to contact NTEU when I initiated the Appeal to see if the Union wished to join me. NTEU did not return my telephone calls or answer my email. NTEU and AFGE did nothing until it appeared to them they could high-jack the credit after I did the work.David Dean

Posted by: ddean1 | November 6, 2010 9:50 PM | Report abuse

To Mr. Dean, congratulations for calling out the union attempt to hijack your case. Not surprising at all. As a retired Federal employee with 30 years in the HR business, I was quite concerned that OPM did not stop this gross violation of veteran's preference. Hopefully, this will put an end to this abuse. I applaud your courage for standing up, most employees are too scared to stand up for their rights, rightly so because of likely retribution by their bosses with a likely possibility of ruining their careers. Thanks

Posted by: yoo_magyahoocom | November 8, 2010 8:59 PM | Report abuse

The typical Vet welfare system strikes again. This is not what our country is based on giving people jobs because of who they I should get a job I am not qualified for and couldnt get without preference. These jobs should not be a "thank you" to vets. Anybody that has worked in the federal govt for anytime, like myself, sees some of the bad, bad hires this law brings into important roles in our country.

There are so many things wrong with the process from the way Vets are classified to this whole joke of an idea that vets are qualified and dont get jobs just because of preference. If your qualified why do you need preference. Many will disagree and I know its law, but that doesnt mean its not a bad law that doesnt serve the country.

Posted by: doke1 | November 12, 2010 11:24 AM | Report abuse

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