NTEU asks court to set deadline on DHS personnel rules

The National Treasury Employees Union has asked a federal court to order the Homeland Security Department to report on plans for its performance-based personnel system no later than Jan. 24, 2009 — the date on which DHS’ authority to implement a new personnel system expires.

NTEU’s request was a response to a “defendant’s status report” that DHS filed Jan. 16 with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in litigation over the system’s labor-relations regulations. The status report declared that “as of this time, the agencies have made no decision as to whether to revise or abandon these regulations.”

The DHS filing also notes that the recently passed Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2008, which funds DHS, bars the department from using any appropriated funds for the system, called the Human Capital Operations Plan, until any pending litigation is resolved.

NTEU is the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit, filed in 2005, when DHS published its final regulations to implement new labor-relations rules as part of the larger overhaul of its personnel system authorized by Congress when it created the department in 2002.

Last year, the U.S. District Court of Appeals for D.C. uphold a lower-court decision that the system, then known as Max-HR, would illegally curtail collective bargaining rights for employees. The lower court has retained jurisdiction in the case to consider any new labor-relations regulations that the department might devise.

Colleen Kelley, NTEU president, said if DHS doesn’t issue new regulations by Jan. 24, 2009 — which marks the end of the agency’s authority to act under the law that created DHS — the court should dismiss the lawsuit.

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