The nation’s President-elect created a brand around the words, “You’re fired!” Now, it seems like his administration is poised to make that phrase more familiar to federal employees.
Proponents of the President-elect’s plans generally believe that the cumbersome process required to fire a federal employee actually makes the task impossible, and federal employees in general are overpaid and too numerous. There is already a plan under the new administration to put a hiring freeze in place (though only in certain agencies, since there are also plans to increase immigration enforcement agents and military personnel).
Those on the opposite side of the fence say that increasing overall accountability is good, but they worry that the new administration may erode employee rights and create an atmosphere where one’s job security in the civil service may depend on one’s politics.
So what does the new administration likely mean for the average federal employee?
The answer to that question may depend partially on what agency you’re in. If you work for the Environmental Protection Agency or the Education Department, you may find your job in more danger from sweeping changes that affect the whole agency rather than the object of individual scrutiny.
However, the potential is there for just about anyone to be targeted for removal. Management-level employees may be most at risk, because they’re seen as the most overpaid and most expendable.
There’s also reason to worry that employees could eventually be deprived of their ability to fully appeal disciplinary measures. The Obama administration had refused to enforce a bipartisan bill that did just that to executive-level employees at the Department of Veterans Affairs. That set the tone to prevent similar things from happening to lower-level VA employees and other federal workers government-wide. That situation could change rapidly now.
Federal employees may also eventually face longer probationary periods and the loss of paid leave while under investigation for a disciplinary action, which can last for months or years.
If agencies are pressed into reducing their workforce rapidly, employees who are older or suffering from disabilities could find themselves targeted for removal through performance-based actions or misconduct allegations that are a cover for discrimination. Employees who make too much use of their disability leave could also face retaliation.
If you feel that you’re the target of an attack on your rights as an employee, consider getting legal representation as early as possible.
Source: Chicago Tribune, “Trump, Republicans plan to target benefits and job security for federal workers,” Lisa Rein, Nov. 21, 2016