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Court: Injunction Blocking Workforce Executive Orders Will Remain in Place

The Trump administration had urged judges to allow the orders targeting federal unions to be implemented immediately, rather than waiting for any union appeals.

A federal appellate court ruled Wednesday that an injunction blocking the key provisions of three controversial executive orders will remain in place as federal employee unions consider avenues to appeal a July ruling against them.

Last month, a three-judge panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit overturned a 2018 District Court decision blocking the implementation of President Trump’s workforce orders, finding that federal employee unions must first seek redress through the Federal Labor Relations Authority’s administrative review process. The appeals court did not weigh in on the merits of the case.

The three executive orders, signed in May 2018, sought to shorten the length of performance improvement plans to 30 days, exempt adverse personnel actions from grievance proceedings, streamline collective bargaining negotiations, and significantly reduce the number of work hours union members can spend on official time. In August 2018, U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson found that those orders, taken together, effectively “eviscerated” federal employees’ collective bargaining rights.

The unions in the case had 45 days to file a request for a rehearing by all 11 judges on the D.C. Circuit Court or appeal to the Supreme Court. But the Justice Department filed a motion last month requesting that the injunction be lifted immediately.

The three-judge panel on Wednesday issued a short decision denying that motion. Judges Thomas Griffith and Sri Srinivasan voted against the Trump administration’s request, while Judge A. Raymond Randolph would have granted the motion.

In a filing supporting the motion, the Justice Department argued that federal agencies would suffer irreparable harm by having to wait until appeals in the case were exhausted. They cited several ongoing collective bargaining negotiations that they said would be negatively impacted if officials cannot implement the orders.

But federal employee unions dismissed this argument, accusing the administration of being “dissatisfied” with the existing collective bargaining scheme, not harmed by it.

In a statement Wednesday, National Treasury Employees Union President Tony Reardon applauded the decision not to lift the injunction immediately.

“We are pleased that the federal court’s injunction of major provisions in the president’s executive orders trampling the rights of federal employees will remain in place under the U.S. Court of Appeals order issued today,” Reardon said. “We opposed the administration’s effort to prematurely lift the injunction because the government offered no basis for the appellate court to deviate from its normal process. NTEU looks forward to seeking a rehearing of last month’s three-judge panel decision.”

Federal unions have until the end of August to issue a request for a rehearing of the case, although the court rarely grants such motions.