The U.S. Department of Education had the lowest rate of separation for cause.

The Americans for Limited Government Foundation released a report written by Natalia Castro that finds rampant abuse and inefficiency within the U.S. Civil Service. 

In order to limit the government and drain the swamp, managers in the federal government must be able to fire poor performing employees on an expedited basis. Right now, the current system protects bad employees. What was supposed to be a merit system has turned into an entitlement system for insulated, unaccountable federal employees. To drain the swamp, we have to be able to fire the swamp,” Rick Manning, President of the Americans for Limited Government Foundation, said.

Castro outlined the history of positive reforms that prevented employees from being hired and fired on a partisan basis. However, the increased influence of unions gave employees extraordinary protection.

“In order for the American people to trust the effectiveness of the bureaucracy, protections were put in place to eliminate partisanship. Unfortunately, empowering unions has also meant disempowering leadership and creating an ineffective process for removing poor performers,” Castro writes.

It’s challenging, if not impossible, to fire an ineffective employee, Castro found. For instance:

  • The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports that it takes an average of 170 to 370 days to remove poor performing employees.
  • The Office of Personnel Management’s FedScope reveals that the public sector maintains a separations rate of 3.37 percent while the private sector, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics JOLTs Survey has a separation rate of 17.27 percent.
  • FedScope also reveals that the public sector termination for cause rate is 0.53 percent meaning that federal employees have a 99.47 percent chance of never being fired for cause.
  • The U.S. Department of Education in FY 2018 had the lowest termination rate for cause at 0.14 percent when only ten employees of over 3,900 were fired for cause. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security had the highest rate for cause at 1.04 percent when 1,810 employees out of a workforce of roughly 229,000 (2017 number) were fired.

Castro also provided examples of abuse within the civil service, for example:

A May 2016 Office of the Inspector General (OIG) investigation into a Dallas GS-13 EPA employee detailed a 10-year battle to remove the employee. The report explains, “In March 2006, the OIG Dallas Field Office was informed that a GS-13 EPA Enforcement Officer was cited by the Dallas Police Department for the improper use of emergency lights on his personal vehicle while also being a registered sex offender… The EPA employee also possessed a makeshift badge, which accompanied his administrative EPA Enforcement Officer credentials, which were displayed by the employee to the police officer. This led the police officer to believe that the employee was an EPA law enforcement officer. The EPA employee also used emergency lights affixed to his personal vehicle at an accident scene.”

The OIG investigation continued to uncover that the EPA employee had created at least 20 similar “EPA enforcement badges” and a bulletproof vest. This was the second time the employee had to be counseled by EPA officials for using emergency lights on his personal vehicle.

Unfortunately, the U.S. Attorney’s office still declined to prosecute the employee, instead moving him to an administrative position within the office.

It was not until August 2013 when the employee was arrested again for violating his parole that he was indefinitely suspended and, in January 2014, terminated. But that was only until the decision was overturned on appeal and the EPA was forced to re-hire the employee. The employee continued working for the agency until January 2015, a full year after the employee’s initial termination, when a settlement was reached. The employee agreed to resign in exchange for an undisclosed consideration.

Castro cited H.R. 559, the Modern Employment Reform, Innovation, and Transformation Act of 2017, (MERIT Act) sponsored by Congressman Barry Loudermilk (R-GA) as a solution for reform within all federal departments. If passed the bill would: 

  • Increase agency management’s power to remove poor employees;
  • Expedite timelines; 7 – 21 days’ notice of action; simple presentation of cause with employees given opportunity to respond;
  • Cap appeal decision time at 30 days, after which the dismissal is upheld, unless declared otherwise;
  • Require that if the 30-day deadline is not met the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) must report to Congress and the oversight committees in the House and Senate and explain non-compliance; and
  • Uphold whistleblower protections.

Read the entire report.

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