Federal Judge Consolidates Lawsuits on Workforce Executive Orders, Schedules Hearing

By Sebastian Duda / Shutterstock.com

A federal judge announced Monday that she is consolidating three different legal challenges brought against President Trump’s recent workforce executive orders, and has scheduled a hearing date of July 25.

Since the enactment of three controversial executive orders aimed at making it easier to fire federal employees and reducing the influence of federal employee unions, the American Federation of Government Employees; the National Treasury Employees Union; and the Federal Workers Alliance, a coalition of 13 smaller unions, all have sued the Trump administration challenging the edicts. AFGE and NTEU both have filed injunctions to prevent the orders from being implemented until after their court challenges have been resolved.

In an order issued June 18, U.S. District Court Judge for the District of Columbia Ketanji Brown Jackson consolidated all three cases, citing their similarity in facts and legal questions. She also agreed to “expedited briefing” of the case, meaning the court will skip traditional preliminary phases of the case and proceed directly to discussion of the merits, with a motion hearing scheduled for July 25.

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In a statement Tuesday, NTEU National President Tony Reardon applauded Jackson’s decision.

“NTEU looks forward to presenting our strong legal arguments that these executive orders run roughshod over the Civil Service Reform Act,” he said. “This is not just about federal employees. The American public should be alarmed that the administration is flouting existing law in such a way that it would make it harder to resolve disputes fairly and efficiently in the workplace.”

The orders, signed last month, instruct agencies to streamline the firing process by standardizing performance improvement plans at 30 days in most cases and exempting firings and other adverse personnel actions from grievance procedures. They also seek to accelerate collective bargaining agreement negotiations by setting time limits on the process and restricting which topics are eligible for bargaining. And agencies are instructed to cap employees’ use of official time at 25 percent of their work hours and restrict the activities allowed under the practice.

Federal employee unions argue that the measures exceed the president’s constitutional authority by effectively seeking to rewrite several provisions of the 1978 Civil Service Reform Act, including the requirement for agencies to negotiate in good faith with federal employee unions and efforts to restrict how employees can use official time.

Under the expedited review process, the unions are expected to withdraw their requests for preliminary injunctions, and in their place submit motions for a summary judgment in their favor. Those motions are due June 25, while the administration’s response will be due July 16.

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