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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.

Now, though, some Washington observers are beginning to question whether the current system – as Abraham Lincoln would say – "can long endure." The concern comes as the new Republican controlled Congress gets underway.

As we noted in one recent post, one shot fired in this effort came when the house voted to reinstate the so-called Holman Rule. The tool, first adopted in 1876, makes it possible for Congress to slash an individual employee's pay to just $1 through an amendment to a spending bill. Everyone agrees the rule makes employees vulnerable to political forces.

In addition to Holman, a number of bills have been introduced to cut general spending such that workforce reductions would follow. One, called the "Promote Accountability and Government Efficiency Act," sets things up so workers hired in the future will be hired on an at-will basis.

The language of the current measure defines at-will this way: “Such an employee may be removed or suspended, without notice or right to appeal, from service by the head of the agency at which such employee is employed for good cause, bad cause, or no cause at all.” (Bold added).

To be clear, this is only proposed legislation. It might not be enacted. For now, workers under administrative or criminal scrutiny have due process rights that deserve the protection available by working with skilled legal counsel.

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