Legislation Introduced to Make Federal Employees ‘At-Will’ Employees

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By on July 22, 2017 in Human Resources, Pay & Benefits with 0 Comments

Cartoon illustration of an employee with a box of his belongings heading for a door labeled 'exit'

Legislation was recently introduced to make federal workers “at-will” employees, meaning they could be removed or suspended from their jobs, without notice or right to appeal.

The Promote Accountability and Government Efficiency Act (H.R. 3257) was introduced by Congressman Todd Rokita (R-IN). Some of the key points of the bill include the following:

  • Allow federal employees to be removed or suspended “without notice or right to appeal, from service by the head of the agency at which such employee is employed for good cause, bad cause, or no cause at all.”
  • Allow agency heads to immediately suspend federal employees for misconduct or poor performance “if the head determines that the misconduct or performance of the employee warrants such suspension.”
  • The bill would place a limitation on appeal rights.
  • Annual pay raises would be prohibited if an employee did not receive at least a score of 4 or 5 out of 5 (or an equivalent rating with respect to a performance appraisal system that does provide for such a scoring system) on his or her latest performance review under the performance appraisal system.
  • Employees would be denied their CSRS or FERS annuities if convicted of a felony.
  • An agency may transfer an individual occupying a Senior Executive Service position who is not an at-will employee to a position within the General Schedule.
  • Official time would not be authorized for an employee serving as an exclusive representative when negotiating a collective bargaining agreement, and employees would be prohibited from using government property in carrying out any activities relating to the internal business of a labor organization.

It was announced earlier this year that Rokita would be introducing such legislation. Unions and federal employee interest groups were quick to denounce the prospect of such legislation at that time. (See Should Federal Employees Be ‘At Will’ Employees?)

Rokita introduced similar legislation in a previous session of Congress, but it ultimately failed to advance. He said at that time:

Americans are tired of seeing federal employees from the Internal Revenue Service, Veterans Affairs, General Services Administration, and many other agencies maintain employment, at the taxpayers’ expense, after engaging in misconduct, receiving consistent poor performance reviews, and abusing the appeals process. Even more, taxpayers should not have to pay for employees who don’t answer letters, return phone calls, or solve problems that often times are created by the bureaucrats themselves. This bill is a step toward holding federal employees accountable to ensure that citizens are receiving the best service possible.

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

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