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An Agency may take action based on performance in two ways – as a performance issue under 5 CFR Part 432 or a conduct issue under 5 C.F.R. Part 752. Before taking a performance action under 5 CFR Part 432, the Agency must allow the Federal employee a reasonable opportunity to improve his or her performance. This period, commonly known as a “PIP”, is also known as an improvement period, opportunity period, or other similar names.

There are, generally, four stages of a PIP. They are: 1) Notice of unsatisfactory performance; 2) Notice of Opportunity Period issued; 3) the formal PIP; and 4) the outcome of the PIP.

First, the Agency must inform a federal employee that there has been an observable and observed decline in performance to an unsatisfactory level. This decline can be in one or more Critical Job Elements (CJE or CE).

Next, the Agency must give the Federal employee notice of the opportunity period. The notice must inform the Fed employee of the specific CJE or CE he/she is failing, specifically what must be done to improve the performance to a satisfactory level, how that improvement will be measured and observed, what assistance management will provide, and the consequences if the Federal employee does not improve his/her performance during a PIP.

The third step is that PIP itself. Though the length and scope of the PIP varies from job to job, and depends in large part on how many CJE’s or CE’s the Federal employee allegedly failed. The rule of thumb is that the PIP must afford the employee a “reasonable opportunity to improve”. This is an objective standard, and what is reasonable for one employee or job may not be reasonable for another employee or job.

Finally, if the Federal Employee successfully navigates the PIP, they will be issued some sort of clearance letter or written indication at the conclusion of the PIP. If the Fed employee does not bring his/her performance to a satisfactory level, then the Agency may remove or demote the employee.

Going through a PIP can be a stressful process. The Law Office of Eric L. Pines, PLLC, offers Federal employees a one-on-one consultation to provide tips and pointers on how to successfully navigate a PIP.

Contact the Law Offices of Eric L. Pines, PLLC if you would like a PIP review. If your Agency is taking action against you because of an alleged decline in your performance, be sure to contact an MSPB lawyer today.

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Eric L. Pines is a nationally recognized federal employment lawyer, mediator, and attorney business coach. He represents federal employees and acts as in-house counsel for over fifty thousand federal employees through his work as a federal employee labor union representative.

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