It was back in 2014 that Congress and the president saw fit to take action to try to fix what was widely acknowledged as a broken accountability system in the Department of Veterans Affairs.
While hailed at the time as something needed to clean up a scandal-ridden agency, there were those, including us, who noted the bill established a precedent that was worthy of concern. And recent new action in Congress suggests those words of caution were indeed prophetic.
Early this month, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee gave initial approval to what’s called the Senior Executive Service Accountability Act. According to the website GovTrack.us, the vote on H.R. 4358 sent the measure on to the full chamber with a recommendation that it be considered further.
What the bill would do is give agency heads across the government power to more easily remove or demote those in the Senior Executive Service ranks. Specifically, SES employees being targeted for either removal or discipline would have just five days advance notice of pending action. Appeals to the Merit Systems Protection Board of any action would have to be filed within seven days. Probationary periods would also be doubled.
Not surprisingly, the Senior Executives Association which represents SES officials is blasting the legislation as a Republican majority effort to carve out “paths to summarily terminate career senior executives” by eroding existing due process standards.
The bill echoes some of the language of the earlier VA measure and supporters say that law enjoyed bipartisan support. But opponents say the VA action was agency-specific and that the changes made weren’t intended to become a new standard.
The bill still has a few major hurdles to clear to become law. In the meantime, if you are a currently a federal employee in Texas or anywhere else in the U.S. seeking to protect your rights under federal labor law, you would do well to speak with an attorney with knowledge and skill in this area.