Yoho tackles the permanent government
The 2017 Federal Employees Accountability Act, introduced by Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Fla., would limit the time federal employees have to appeal a negative personnel action and restrict the number of appeals they could file to just one. Employees would not receive any pay or benefits throughout the appeal process. The measure would enable agency heads to immediately fire employees, move them to a lower General Schedule grade or reduce their pay.
Employees would have seven days to appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board a firing, suspension or other action. MSPB would then have 45 days to issue a ruling on the appeal. If the board did not act in that timeframe, then the agency’s decision would stand.
“It hurts the morale in the agency when they know they have a bad player and they see them getting transferred laterally” rather than fired, Yoho told Government Executive when he introduced similar legislation last year. The current system has ushered in a culture of “protectionism,” he added.
The congressman said “in the real world,” private sector employees would be fired immediately in cases in which federal workers are merely suspended.
Due process for most of the federal workforce now requires that agencies notify employees within 30 days of an adverse action (including removal), and provide them with seven days to respond and an opportunity to defend themselves. The average initial MSPB appeal takes about 90 days. Employees are also currently able to further appeal to MSPB’s central board, as well as federal court.
Civil servants have been given multiple layers of job protection over the years to help insulate them from political pressure. In some important ways, it has been successful, allowing the federal government to be able to rely upon experienced, highly trained stafers to carry out day-to-day functions with minimal disruption.
But those protections have also helped insulate incompetent, if not outright corrupt, employees from discipline (and keeping them on the payroll).
Yoho's bill is a way to put some rationality back into the civil service. It's not perfect legislation (there are concerns it could harm whistleblowers who are frequently punished for making public an agency's negligence and corruption). But it is a step in the right direction.