FEDERAL GOVERNMENT IS NO PLACE FOR AT-WILL EMPLOYEES - September 12, 2017
Federal Government is No Place for At-Will Employees
For more than 100 years, the Federal Managers Association (FMA) has advocated excellence in public service and supported efforts to promote management and invest in the federal workforce. After all, the federal workforce is charged with providing the congressionally-mandated services Americans rely on daily.
Consider what federal managers do each day. We ensure the safety of prescription medications and the food you eat. We care for our nation’s brave veterans. The federal government is also the largest employer of veterans, by a wide margin. Federal managers stand shoulder-to-shoulder to arm, equip and support America’s uniformed military at the shipyards, depots, bases, and overseas in combat zones. We make sure seniors and the disabled receive their social security payments and taxpayers receive tax returns as well, to name just a few of the indispensable services the federal government provides.
This is why we circle the wagons when federal employees are maligned, particularly by Members of Congress, who are our de facto board of directors. As the government’s board of directors, Congress establishes a vision from the top down that impacts everyone else in the organization. So it is deeply discouraging when members seek to advance legislation that is so misguided regarding feds. The Promote Accountability and Government Efficiency (PAGE) Act (H.R. 3257) was recently reintroduced and if enacted, it would make the federal workforce “at-will” employees, allowing them to be terminated or suspended without notice or a chance to appeal. It would destroy due process and squarely return the federal government to the spoils system of the 1800s.
What is even more concerning is the actual text of the bill. The bill explicitly states any federal employee could be fired for good cause, no cause, or bad cause. FMA agrees the workforce should be held accountable – that’s one of the reasons we support performance incentives. However, this language does not hold employees accountable – rather it eliminates causation for termination altogether. Federal employees, including managers, should be subject to suspension and termination for poor performance and misconduct. Yet, suspension or termination for “no cause” is unwise at best. This would expose federal employees to political whims and open the door to abuse. But the worst of it is every federal employee could be fired for “bad cause.” What does that mean? “The sky is blue, so you’re fired.” It would almost be funny if it was not legislative language. Simply put, it is not leadership and it gives an impression that the federal workforce as a whole cannot be trusted. If this legislation was actually enacted, the end result would be the best and brightest employees would seek other employment and work somewhere they feel valued.
The reality is this legislation has little chance of being signed into law. That said, FMA is vehemently opposed to it and will advocate against it with all of our resources. FMA is proud to work with legislators on both sides of the aisle on productive, good government initiatives that increase employee engagement, and the efficiency and effectiveness of the workforce. Congress needs to support the federal workforce. Federal employees are taxpayers, too, and seek to ensure the American public receives the value and government it pays for. Federal managers, and all federal employees, take the same oath Congress does – to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. Mean-spirited legislation that eradicates due process and tears at the federal workforce has no place in America.
To read more on this issue as well as other articles FMA has authored for FEDmanager, please click here.