Legislation Would Make It Easier to Fire Federal Employees

Recently introduced legislation would make it easier to fire federal employees for performance reasons by making them at-will employees.

Congressman Chip Roy (R-TX) has introduced legislation that would make federal employees at-will employees and take away their appeal rights.

The Public Service Reform Act (H.R. 8550) ultimately would make it much easier to fire federal employees. Under the terms of the legislation, executive branch civilian federal employees could face any adverse action, including removal, provided it is not a prohibited personnel practice such as racial discrimination. The bill would also remove the multiple avenues currently in place to appeal the adverse action.

Rationale for Making Federal Employees At-Will

So what is the reasoning behind the bill? It’s to make it easier for agencies to remove underperforming federal employees. Roy says this would strengthen the federal workforce to better serve the American people. He also notes that the bill would provide justice to federal employees who are victims of discrimination or whistleblower retaliation.

“My bill would make all federal bureaucrats at-will employees — just like private sector workers — and claw back the inordinate protections some federal employees grossly abuse while helping legitimate whistleblowers and victims of discrimination get the justice they deserve. This would empower federal agencies to swiftly address misconduct and remove underperforming employees, creating a workforce that once again serves the American people,” said Roy.

He added, “Most career civil servants do their jobs faithfully day in and day out, but there are still too many federal employees actively undermining America through their blatant contempt for our nation, the rule of law, and the American people. That is because policies meant to insulate the government from politics have instead created a dense web of red tape that rewards laziness and noncompliance and enables hostile partisans to entrench themselves within federal agencies. Former President Trump is absolutely right about this: there needs to be a reckoning, and bureaucrats actually need to be fireable.”

Actions Taken by President Trump to Streamline Federal Employee Removal Procedures

Roy is no doubt referring to some of the actions under the Trump administration to make it easier to remove federal employees for performance reasons. Among them were a group of Executive Orders aimed at putting more restrictions on federal employee unions and making changes designed to make it easier to fire federal employees for performance reasons.

One of the actions taken by former President Trump near the end of his first term in office was establishing Schedule F via executive order. Federal employees who would have been impacted by the change would not have been subject to the usual appeals processes that most federal employees currently have.

The Executive Order explained the rationale for the change as follows:

…I find that conditions of good administration make necessary an exception to the competitive hiring rules and examinations for career positions in the Federal service of a confidential, policy-determining, policy-making, or policy-advocating character….Placing these positions in the excepted service will mitigate undue limitations on their selection. This action will also give agencies greater ability and discretion to assess critical qualities in applicants to fill these positions, such as work ethic, judgment, and ability to meet the particular needs of the agency.

President Biden rescinded the Schedule F Executive Order almost immediately upon taking office.

Other Bills Addressing Firing Federal Employees for Performance Reasons

Earlier this year, Congressman Jody Hice (R-GA) introduced similar legislation to Roy’s that would have restored President Trump’s four Executive Orders relating to federal human resources. Schedule F was one of those, but two of the others involved federal employee unions and labor relations and would have instituted new collective bargaining rules and put more restrictions on the use of official time.

Legislation was also recently introduced by Democrats in the Senate as a proactive attempt to prevent Schedule F from happening again under a future administration.

Under the current Congress and White House, the Senate legislation has a better chance of becoming law than either of the Republican bills which realistically will not go anywhere in the current session of Congress. However, the bills reflect the different philosophies between Democrats and Republicans when it comes to federal human resources and could foretell what may lie in store for the federal workforce under future presidential administrations or sessions of Congress.

About the Author

Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of FedSmith.com. He has over 20 years of combined experience in media and government services, having worked at two government contracting firms and an online news and web development company prior to his current role at FedSmith.