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Federal Employment and Labor Law Blog

What impact do elections have on federal employee turnover?


Elections can have a significant impact on federal workplaces. Obviously, the federal hiring freeze ordered by President Trump directly impacts federal employees. But in a broader sense, a change in administration typically comes with an increase in employee turnover - namely the first year the new president is in office.

A recent article in the Harvard Business Review discusses this phenomenon, using data collected from the Office of Personnel Management.

Freeze could send more than shivers through federal workforce

The recent change in government isn't unusual. That doesn't mean it is without its wrinkles. While President Trump's executive order freezing hiring is something anyone could expect, the level of confusion resulting is more unsettling. While some agencies reportedly are exempt, the order's lack of detail is ginning up confusion for workers in those same agencies and others across the country.

Attorneys with depth of experience in protecting federal worker rights and welfare understand how sudden administrative moves can ripple through the fabric of institutions. In this instance, the freeze order includes instruction for the Offices of Management and Budget and the Personnel Management to, "Recommend a long-term plan to reduce the size of the Federal Government's workforce through attrition." 

What's the right forum for my wrongful termination appeal?

Due process is a bedrock principle of our legal system. For federal workers in Texas and across the country, it is also a foundational element of employment; providing civil servants with avenues to protect themselves against actions that might result in wrongful dismissal.

The legal theory used to support a government worker's right to due process is one that might be a little mysterious for some readers. Its roots trace directly to the Constitution and its guarantee that government can't deprive an individual of life, liberty or property without due process. In 1985, the U.S. Supreme Court found that in some cases civil service laws and established government hiring practices make it possible to say that property rights extend to jobs.

Is federal employee resistance wise in the Trump universe?

The Uniform Code of Military Justice in the United States makes clear that a service person's duty is to "obey any lawful general order or regulation." Failing to do so can mean a court-martial and dire consequences. The key word in that bit of code is "lawful." Many legal observers would argue that if a service person is obliged to follow a lawful order, he or she has an equal obligation to disregard an unlawful order. They might also argue that the same rule applies to civilian federal employees in Texas and elsewhere in the system.

The issue, however, is that it is not up to the individual to decide what is or is not a lawful order. You might question if an order is lawful when it is issued, but a final determination about whether it is or not may require a trip through the court system. That can take a long time. In the meantime, a conscientious employee refusing to follow an order could be facing discipline or discharge. There are avenues available for protecting employee rights, but they, too, are complex and can take a long time.

What's a consequential injury?

Workers' compensation is not meant to be difficult. The premise is simple. A worker, government or private, hurt on the job, is entitled to the medical treatment and time needed to make as full a recovery as possible. You would think that denials would be few and far between, but they are common.

Appeals of denials are often needed and obtaining the best outcome of your case typically centers on providing incontrovertible evidence regarding how a workplace accident happened and why your doctor is calling for specific treatment. Knowing what evidence is called for and how to best present it is something that comes with experience – the kind developed by attorneys through practice.

Is it the end of civil service due process, as we know it?

Attorneys with deep experience dealing with the complicated systems of federal employment know that it's no bed of roses. Government workers in Texas or any other state face a veritable quagmire of procedural steps when management initiates action based on allegations of misconduct or underperformance.

The decades-old civil service system is supposed to make sure employees facing disciplinary action enjoy due process. It protects them against the whims of an ever-changing cast of characters on the political stage. It may be a challenge to navigate, but most would agree the protection afforded is worth it.

OPM disability benefits for federal employees


  • Are you a federal employee who is suffering from a disability?
  • Is your disability preventing you from doing your job?

If you answered "yes" to both of these questions, then you may be eligible for disability benefits under the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) or the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS).

Obtaining benefits is not always an easy process, and legitimate claims are sometimes denied. But when approved, benefits can provide much-needed support to people who are dealing with a variety of disabilities.

Don't let scare tactics prevent you from protecting your rights

Being mistreated on the job or living in fear that you will get fired out of retaliation for exercising your rights can be incredibly stressful. In addition to the emotional devastation of being harassed or discriminated against, you can also be dealing with the anxiety of being out of a job and unable to care for yourself and your family.

Unfortunately, there are employers all across the country who permit -- and even encourage -- these workplace environments that are based on fear and intimidation to exist. Doing so helps them avoid taking responsibility for various rights violations.

Congressional staff are overwhelmingly white. Is change possible?

According to the Washington Post, years of private studies have demonstrated that, while Congress itself is becoming more diverse in response to citizen activism, their staff is not. Workers in congressional offices, from chiefs of staff and top advisors to aides, pages and administrative personnel, continue to be overwhelmingly white.

How big the problem may be is, unfortunately, unclear. Congressional offices don't have to report the demographics of their staff to the public. Thanks to the work of groups including the Congressional Black Associates and the Congressional Hispanic Staff Association, we have some information on the degree of the disparities. In 2010, for example the CHSA found only 35 out of 498 total congressional staffers were Latino, and nobody thinks the situation has improved since then.

Revived Congressional rule sends chill through federal ranks

Some supporters call it a minor adjustment that simply restores constitutional powers of the purse Congress. Other supporters say it could prove to be a positive step toward curbing rising federal bureaucracy. Opponents warn it threatens efforts to protect the rights of federal workers against the political whims of elected officials.

What we are talking about is the revival of the Holman Rule. You may never have heard of it. First instituted 140 years ago, the tool allows any member of Congress to propose legislative action to target a particular federal agency, or even a specific federal worker, with funding cuts.

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