Probationary Period for New Federal Employees

The probationary period (or trial period) is the final stage of the assessment process under which an agency may observe the knowledge, abilities and skills of a candidate for employment and make a final selection decision in light of those observations. During the probationary an agency is responsible for assessing a candidate for a finalized appointment in the federal civil service, and deciding either to continue or terminate the candidate’s employment.

Thus, even though an individual has been hired, he or she is effectively in a “job tryout” status, typically of one year (in the Defense Department, two years) in competitive service positions, and two years in excepted service positions.

Appeal Rights in a Probationary Period

Probationary employees have limited appeal rights as compared to employees with finalized appointments. However, those who successfully completed a probationary period in the past under other than a temporary appointment may be entitled to the same rights afforded to employees with finalized appointments.

Such rights may include having: an action taken against them only for such cause as will promote the efficiency of the service; at least 30 days’ advance written notice of the reasons for the proposed action; a reasonable time, but not less than seven days, to answer orally and in writing and to furnish affidavits or other documentary evidence; the right to be represented by an attorney or other representative; a written decision, and the specific reasons for the action, at the earliest practicable date; and the right to appeal the action to the Merit Systems Protection Board.

Note: Those newly appointed to supervisory, managerial and senior executive positions must serve an additional probationary period in which their performance in those duties is assessed; those deemed not successful have full appeal rights already accumulated. They generally would be returned to a position comparable to the one they left, not removed.