D.C. Courts:

Implementation of Personnel Policies Requires Further Attention From the Courts' Leadership

GGD-00-75BR: Published: Apr 12, 2000. Publicly Released: Apr 12, 2000.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the personnel management policies and practices of the District of Columbia Courts, focusing on whether: (1) D.C. Courts' applicable policies for six basic personnel activities or functions--performance evaluation, competitive and noncompetitive promotions, corrective actions, training, classification, and equal employment opportunity (EEO) policies--were consistent with commonly accepted personnel management principles; and (2) D.C. Courts generally adhered to its policies when implementing the six personnel activities or functions.

GAO noted that: (1) D.C. Courts' policies for the six personnel activities or functions were generally consistent with commonly accepted personnel management principles; (2) however, D.C. Courts did not always adhere to and communicate those policies; (3) while employees are to receive written performance evaluations on their yearly anniversary dates with D.C. Courts, relatively few received written evaluations near their anniversary dates in 1998; (4) although D.C. Courts have acted to improve compliance, the compliance rate for 1999 indicates that D.C. Courts still has a distance to go to timely comply with its stated policy of providing employees with written evaluations on their yearly anniversary dates; (5) while D.C. Courts collect and retain documents in connection with competitive promotions, the policy manual does not identify what documents should be collected and retained for the purpose of proving the process was fair; (6) while a position review is to be conducted when a promotion results from reorganization, GAO found that such reviews often did not occur due to a lack of coordination between D.C. Courts' Executive Office and Personnel Division; (7) while employees were to be informed of their right to review materials that formed the basis for corrective action, they were not routinely informed of that right; (8) while court policy calls for systematic classification surveys on a periodic basis, such surveys have not been conducted for a considerable time; (9) however, D.C. Courts has announced plans to conduct systematic surveys yearly; (10) apart from adhering to policies, certain court practices could be improved as evidenced by D.C. Courts' own work, the results from GAO's questionnaire, and GAO's comparison of D.C. Courts' practices to certain federal guidelines; and (11) these practices involve training, EEO, and the reporting of potential fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: To ensure that personnel policies are more effectively documented, communicated, and implemented, the Joint Committee on Judicial Administration should direct the Executive Officer, D.C. Courts, to work with employees to identify and implement ways to strengthen employees' confidence in D.C. Courts' EEO efforts and internal processes for addressing complaints and appeals.

    Agency Affected: District of Columbia: Joint Committee on Judicial Administration

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: EEO training on eliminating bias and on sexual harassment was given to the Courts' employees in April and September of 2000 and April and May of 2001, and is offered on a continuing basis. The Courts have also put up posters that are intended to increase the visibility of the EEO function and communicate the Courts' commitment to equal employment opportunity. In April and September of 2000 and April and May of 2001, the Courts' got all their supervisors to take EEO courses on eliminating bias in the workplace.

    Recommendation: To ensure that personnel policies are more effectively documented, communicated, and implemented, the Joint Committee on Judicial Administration should direct the Executive Officer, D.C. Courts, to: (1) enhance EEO communications with employees by displaying posters about D.C. Courts' EEO program and complaint procedures and informing employees who enter the complaint process of their rights and responsibilities in writing; (2) develop a manual to better document procedures necessary for supporting the EEO program and complaint process; and (3) make more analytical use of data collected for EEO purposes, such as by performing analyses of applicant and hiring data together.

    Agency Affected: District of Columbia: Joint Committee on Judicial Administration

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Courts' EEO guidebook has been completed. The Employee Mediation Program has also been implemented. In December 2000, the EEO Counselor implemented the Courts' plan to produce posters to be placed throughout the Courts to remind employees of their EEO protections and the complaint process. Also, the EEO Counselor has already implemented GAO's recommendation to provide EEO complainants with a written list of their rights and responsibilities.

    Recommendation: To ensure that personnel policies are more effectively documented, communicated, and implemented, the Joint Committee on Judicial Administration should direct the Executive Officer, D.C. Courts, to explore as proposed whether training curriculums and requirements can be appropriately established for court positions.

    Agency Affected: District of Columbia: Joint Committee on Judicial Administration

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Courts have established training curricula for specific court positions.

    Recommendation: To ensure that personnel policies are more effectively documented, communicated, and implemented, the Joint Committee on Judicial Administration should direct the Executive Officer, D.C. Courts, to develop formal written policies and procedures that identify what documents to collect and retain for D.C. Courts' competitive promotion process.

    Agency Affected: District of Columbia: Joint Committee on Judicial Administration

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Courts have fully implemented formal written policies and procedures to identify the documents that should be collected and retained during the competitive promotion process.

    Recommendation: To ensure that personnel policies are more effectively documented, communicated, and implemented, the Joint Committee on Judicial Administration should direct the Executive Officer, D.C. Courts, to ensure that employees are informed of their right to review the basis for corrective actions that may be taken against them.

    Agency Affected: District of Columbia: Joint Committee on Judicial Administration

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In addition to emphasizing this point in training sessions, corrective actions reviewed by the Courts' Human Resources Division are returned to supervisors if statements notifying employees of right to review materials are not included in correspondence.

    Recommendation: To ensure that personnel policies are more effectively documented, communicated, and implemented, the Joint Committee on Judicial Administration should direct the Executive Officer, D.C. Courts, to hold appropriate managers and supervisors accountable for implementing D.C. Courts' policies, such as providing employees with periodic feedback on their performance, including: (1) annual written evaluations; (2) undertaking and documenting required positive reviews; and (3) doing periodic classification surveys that are generalizable. One way in which to hold appropriate managers and supervisors accountable is by evaluating their performance of how well they implement policies, which D.C. Courts plan to do starting in fiscal year 2000 in connection with the policy of providing employees annual written evaluations.

    Agency Affected: District of Columbia: Joint Committee on Judicial Administration

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The D.C. Courts implemented a new performance management program effective July 1, 2004. To enhance accountability of Court Executives, the D.C. Courts have also implemented a Court Executive Service, modeled in principle on the Federal Senior Executive Service. The Courts have taken steps to hold managers and supervisors accountable for implementing the Courts' performance evaluation policy by including compliance with the policy as a job requirement or element of job performance. The Courts have distributed new job elements and standards to supervisory personnel, which evaluate whether the manager conducted performance evaluations within two weeks of each eligible employees anniversary date. As of January 2000, the Courts' Human Resources office assigned a personnel specialist to monitor compliance with the Courts' performance evaluation policy.

    Recommendation: To ensure that personnel policies are more effectively documented, communicated, and implemented, the Joint Committee on Judicial Administration should direct the Executive Officer, D.C. Courts, to ensure that the actions being taken result in employees being adequately informed regarding the reporting of waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement.

    Agency Affected: District of Columbia: Joint Committee on Judicial Administration

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In the summer of 2004, the Courts required all employees to attend ethics awareness training. The Courts have since incorporated into mandatory courtwide ethics training the need for employees to report waste, fraud, and mismanagement to the Courts' ethics officer. In addition to the mandatory training, as of November 2005, Court employees were informed on how and where to report waste, fraud, and mismanagement through (1) information incorporated in the Courts' orientation program, (2) information in the draft of the new employee orientation handbook, and (3) a posting on the Courts' intranet site.

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