Legislation Introduced to Bolster Rights of Federal Employees Serving in Sensitive Positions

February 2, 2016 12:37 PM
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Two Members of Congress have introduced legislation that is intended to protect certain due process rights of federal employees serving in security sensitive positions.

Reps. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) and Rob Wittman (R-VA) introduced legislation (H.R. 4418) that would overturn a 2013 federal court decision (Kaplan v. Conyers and MSPB), a case which limited review of federal agency decisions on an employee’s eligibility to hold a sensitive position even when it does not involve access to classified information.

For more on the original decision, see Court Limits Federal Employee Appeal Rights in Security Cases.

Norton and Wittman said their bill is essential because the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the Kaplan case, leaving legislation as the only remedy.

According to Norton:

The many federal employees affected by the Kaplan decision do not have what the public thinks of as security clearances and did not have jobs in the security sector. Yet, their due process rights have been severely eroded by an unprecedented court decision that undermines Title 5, section 7701 of the Civil Service Act, which ensures the due process rights of federal workers required by the United States Constitution.

Allowing terminations to take place without any sort of independent review opens the door for retaliations by agency heads and will dissuade potential whistleblowers from stepping forward out of fear of losing their jobs. If we want to continue to get the best candidates serving in the federal government, we must ensure that their most basic constitutional rights are protected – at least to have an independent body review the decision of an agency official. Otherwise, a single official can terminate or demote an employee for any or no reason.

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About the Author

Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of FedSmith.com. He enjoys writing about current topics that affect the federal workforce.