NTEU files motion to end internship program

Employee union claims agencies have abused their privileges and OPM has done nothing to stop them. NTEU says the Federal Career Internship Program flies in the ...

By Jason Miller
Executive Editor
Federal News Radio

The National Treasury Employees Union is asking the federal court to end the Federal Career Intern Program (FCIP).

NTEU national president Colleen Kelley says the program undercuts the principles at the core of merit-based hiring in the federal sector.

“As it has been misused by federal agencies, the FCIP is far from the program it was intended to be,” says Kelley in a release.

Kelley testified Thursday before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee about NTEU’s concerns with the program.

In an interview with Federal News Radio in March, Kelley says the program is abused and misused by agencies.

“It was intended for limited and focused internships and instead it’s turned into a hiring method agencies are using to hire,” Kelley says. “The IRS, the Federal Deposit Investment Corporation, the Homeland Security Department and the Customs and Border Protection are just some of the agencies misusing the program.”

She says it restricts the hiring pool and the opportunities for current employees.

Kelley told lawmakers yesterday that CBP planned on hiring 11,000 new employees, most of which through FCIP.

NTEU says FCIP, which was implemented on an interim basis in 2000 and made a permanent hiring authority by the Office of Personnel Management in 2005, was intended to create a limited-use, special hiring authority designed to provide formally-structured, two-year training and development internships.

The employee union states that because OPM placed almost no restrictions on the program, agencies have expanded it far beyond anything in its original intent to become in many cases their primary method of hiring.

Through it, agencies can bypass public job postings and impose on new employees what is, in effect, a two-year probationary period, rather than the standard one-year period, NTEU says.

Kelley says the Merit System Protection Board has identified problems with FCIP over the years, including in September 2005. MSPB “found that agencies relied on limited tools to recruit applicants to the program, used weak pre-hire assessment tools and failed to use the internship as a trial period to correct weak assessment tools. Others did not provide training and development activities to career interns as required.”

NTEU is requesting the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to make a summary judgment to suspend the FCIP.

NTEU also filed a complaint about FCIP in 2007. A court also in July ruled against OPM’s jurisdictional objections to NTEU’s suit against the FCIP.

There are no findings, rationales or policy considerations to justify “such a dramatic departure from competitive service hiring,” Kelley says. “To the contrary, the final (OPM) regulation simply reiterates the bare outline of the program contained in the original executive order and then authorizes agencies to develop their own programs and except any GS-5, 7, or 9 position from the competitive service.”

An e-mail to OPM seeking comment on NTEU’s motion was not immediately returned.

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