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Can the government purge disloyal employees?

If you work long enough in the federal government, you’re going to work under an administration with which you disagree. That’s to be expected. The nation’s moods often swing back and forth, and our elections give the nation a lever for change.

What you shouldn’t expect, though, is for an administration to remove career employees simply because they do not share the prevailing political views. Yet, recent reports suggest the current administration may be taking such actions, purging employees it brands “disloyal.”

Heres what the law says about political discrimination

Passed in 1978, the Civil Service Reform Act (CSRA) outlaws various forms of employment discrimination. These include:

  • Termination
  • Disciplinary actions
  • Reassignment
  • Demotions
  • Docked pay
  • Other “significant” changes in working conditions or job duties

These actions are illegal when they target protected employees due to their political affiliations. The law also limits the use of these actions for political purposes. Employers aren’t supposed to “coerce” you to participate in political activities that aren’t part of your job. Nor are they supposed to retaliate against you if you choose not to participate.

These protections dont apply to everyone

It’s important to note that the CSRA doesn’t cover everyone. It doesn’t cover political appointees. Some agencies—such as the FBI, CIA and General Accounting Office—aren’t covered. And other workers might be excepted because their positions:

  • Are involved in confidential policy decisions
  • Have been excluded by the President when the exclusion “is necessary and warranted by conditions of good administration”

In most other cases, it doesn’t matter what political views you hold. You’re supposed to be judged based on the performance of your duties, not on your personal beliefs.

The rule of law

Administrations come and go. Career employees may easily work under three or four or more administrations. You need a job, and the nation benefits from your skill and experience.

No matter if the political pendulum swings to the left or the right, you’re supposed to receive your lawful protections. If your employer’s actions break the law, you deserve a chance to assert your rights.

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