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Achieving federal employee accountability: 1 man's take

The civil service system takes a lot of hits from critics. Many in Texas and the rest of the country say it does little but provide a level of protection that allows too many poor performers to remain on the job when they should be let go.

That sentiment is so strong in some circles -- even within the ranks of federal employees themselves -- that it has led to calls to reform, or even end, the merit-based civil service system; perhaps replacing it with one that allows "at-will" firings. But there are good reasons why the law is structured for protecting the rights of federal employees.

For prominent TSA whistleblower, it's all about integrity

In our last entry, we turned the spotlight on internal strife that seems prevalent at the Transportation Security Administration. There are major concerns being raised about whether a culture exists within the agency that fosters an attitude of management retaliation against employees who speak out about problems.

If you happen to read that post and then peruse The New York Times article that inspired it, you will come across the name Robert J. MacLean. He perhaps epitomizes what illegal retaliatory action and what personal integrity looks like.

TSA issues: Add employee rights violations to the list

The Transportation Security Administration has taken some hits in the news in recent weeks. Travelers facing long lines at security checkpoints at U.S. airports have some choice words for TSA screening policies. The agency has also been the target of extra scrutiny in the wake of the deadly terror attacks in Belgium late last month.

What many here in Texas and the rest of the country may be less aware of is that there is a good deal of internal turmoil stemming from allegations of workplace retaliation against employees. The accusations include claims that many workers have suffered undue reassignments, demotions, investigations or were fired after reporting senior managers for apparent lapses or misconduct.

Who can file a whistleblower appeal with the MSPB?

Attorneys in Texas and the rest of the country with experience in fighting for the rights of federal employee whistleblowers know that the record of successes under the law is something of a mixed bag.

A stronger focus under the Obama administration has resulted in some improvements for workers seeking protections offered by the law. But, as we have noted on other occasions, there are still some limits to what protections are available. Free speech isn't always a safe defense if national security is believed to be threatened. And there's no trial by jury authorized by the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act.

Do whistleblower protection laws allow suits against individuals?

The thing about law is that it can have loopholes. Lawmakers don't necessarily intend for them to exist. Sometimes they are created unexpectedly when one law that deals with an issue says one thing and a second law that deals with the same issue says something slightly different. Valid questions get raised and courts in Texas and other parts of the country are asked to deliver answers.

One example of this in play can be seen in two of the key federal laws that are aimed at protecting whistleblowers from being wrongly fired from their jobs. We are referring to the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection acts.

Limits on fed worker administrative leaves now before Congress

Texas readers will surely agree that there are times when administrative leaves make some sense and times when they don't. As we noted in a previous post, sometimes the realities of the federal budget or lack thereof require agencies to employ administrative furloughs as a strategy to limit the possibility of adverse employment actions.

However, as a few recent reports have noted and critics have picked up on, some agency managers appear to have abused their power to use administrative leaves to the detriment of the rights of federal workers and the pocketbooks of taxpayers. As a result, both chambers of Congress are now considering legislation to curb the activity.

Cancer survivors deserve accommodations

A diagnosis of cancer is never a pleasant surprise. That said, just because someone is diagnosed with one of the many forms of the disease doesn't necessarily mean they have been given a death sentence. The American Cancer Society observes that the survival rate among cancer patients is a great deal higher than it used to be just 30 years ago -- as much as 49 percent higher.

What that means in most cases is that employee cancer survivors in Texas and the rest of the country not only will return to work, but that they will want to. And if employers, including the federal government, fail to provide appropriate accommodations to make that happen, they may need to be pressed to do the right thing. An attorney can help.

Another push to give TSA workers some bargaining rights

It might not be widely known among the general population of Texas and the rest of the U.S. that employees of the Transportation Security Administration don't have quite the same rights as workers of most other federal agencies.

For example, even though some 70 percent of TSA employees are have union representation through the American Federation of Government Employees, they don't have the same bargaining rights as employees with other federal agencies. They also don't have the same rights as other workers to due process in appealing employee disputes to the Merit Systems Protection Board.

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