Rollout of DHS personnel system delayed for two weeks

By Karen Rutzick

The Homeland Security Department agreed to comply Friday with a judge's request to delay the implementation of new personnel rules from Aug. 1 to Aug. 15.

The schedule change comes after Judge Rosemary Collyer of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia asked the department for additional time so that she could rule on the merits of the case, rather than on a temporary injunction to halt the process until the case could be decided later.

Mark Roth, general counsel for the American Federation of Government Employees, one of the five unions who brought the issue to court, said the delay is "in everyone's best interest because on Aug. 15 we'll have a final decision."

Collyer heard more than two hours of argument Thursday on the unions' motion and the department's response. Some of the arguments centered on whether the law creating DHS, which legislators say was designed to give the department greater flexibility to respond to terrorist attacks, gave enough weight to collective bargaining rights.

Collyer now has a month to decide on the legality of the DHS system. NTEU lawyer Gregory O'Duden said he does not expect the judge to ask for further arguments on the case.

According to O'Duden, Collyer has an extensive labor relations background, including time served at the National Labor Relations Board.