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Do some federal workers have reason to fear the president-elect?

Change is something federal workers face all the time. Every four years –perhaps every eight – a new president takes office. Come this January, not only is the White House changing out of the Democratic hands, it is shifting to the hands of a Republican noted for being inscrutable.

Change can be unsettling for anyone, but a change of administration of government can be particularly unnerving. While there is a lot of uncertainty, there is one thing that federal workers can be sure of. The law that established the civil service system is still the law. Also, federal workers, regardless of where they happen to serve, have the right to protect themselves if they suffer negative job actions.

The person at the head of the incoming administration has a reputation of making waves wherever he goes. Whether it involves business, politics or entertainment, he is not afraid to stir the pot if he feels it might work to his advantage.

Late last week, the transition team for the president-elect, who has called global warming a hoax, sent a questionnaire to the Energy Department. Among the items requested were the names of specific employees – either regular or contracted – who participated in certain meetings related to the issue of global warming. In its wisdom, the agency said no. Agency leaders said they would provide the incoming administration with any publicly available information, but not the names of any individuals.

That, combined with protections provided by law and adjudicated by the Merit Systems Protection Board should be enough to quell concerns that employees might face termination. However, some experts say it's still possible for such employees to suffer some retaliatory action. They could be shunned and find their views ignored on critical issues. Contract workers might find themselves out of a job at the end of their contract term.

If nothing else, the questionnaire may give some workers – especially those in senior executive positions – reason to be prepared by knowing what their rights are.

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