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Federal Employees News Digest : Sep 2, 2013
Phil Piemonte, Managing Editor E-mail: email@example.com What's Inside44 SEPTEMBER 2, 2013 • VOL. 63, NO. 7 Decision blocks appeal rights for feds in 'sensitive' jobs The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit last month issued a rul- ing which, if it stands, will result in hun- dreds of thousands of federal employees effectively being stripped of their appeal rights under civil service law when jobs are labeled "sensitive." The decision came in Kaplan v. Conyers, a case involving two Defense Department employees who were indefi- nitely suspended and demoted, respec- tively, when they were found ineligible to occupy "noncritical sensitive" positions. The circuit court ruled that employ- ees who occupy sensitive positions are not eligible to appeal their cases to the Merit Systems Protection Board, because MSPB "cannot review the merits of DOD national security determinations con- cerning eligibility of an employee to occupy a sensitive position that impli- cates national security." Major setback "This is an unprecedented setback for government accountability and oversight," Stephen M. Kohn, executive director of the National Whistleblower Center, said in a statement. "The appeals court has permitted executive agencies to blacklist or fire employees who, by law, are covered under the Civil Service Reform Act." "That law was designed to protect fed- eral employees who report 'waste, fraud and abuse' through lawful channels and was also designed to ensure that the fed- eral workforce was free from discrimina- tion, unlawful patronage and retaliatory actions," continued Kohn. "Instead, agen- cies such as the Department of Defense can simply claim that an employee occu- pies a 'sensitive' position, strip them of their civil service rights and fire them without regard to civil service protec- tions." Others weigh in Another leading whistleblower advoca- cy group, the Government Accountability Project, noted that the ruling in the case is in line with a rule proposed by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Office of Personnel Management that would permit agencies to designate virtually any federal government job as sensitive for reasons of national security. The group said that such a rule would be open to abuse. "If an agency fires an employee, it must defend its actions under a host of laws, including the Civil Service Reform Act; the Whistleblower Protection Act; and [equal employment opportunity] laws banning race, sex, religious, age or hand- icap discrimination," said GAP Legal Director Tom Devine. "If [an agency] says the worker is 'ineligible for a sensi- tive job,' all those rights turn into a soap bubble. The worker is defenseless. As in a Kafka novel, the employee is not even entitled to know why." "Last year Congress unanimously passed the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act due to hostile Federal Circuit activism creating judicial loop- It's all about timing First, a word about being a government worker and having a federal job. The good news---or bad news---depends on when and where you have that job. Example: In my teens, for gross miscon- duct, I was shipped off from downtown D.C. to live with an uncle and aunt in a very, very, rural isolated town in western Kentucky. Major culture shock. The local school had grades 1 through 12. My graduating class, the biggest in many years, was 17 kids. Oh, and there was a recession on. Work was hard to come by. Upon graduation, the boys faced military service (I went into the Army at age 17 and one month). Some of the girls stayed around, but most people, male and female, headed for Indianapolis, St. Louis, Louisville or Nashville. Where there were jobs. At our 20th school reunion---after I spent 20 years back in D.C.---nobody asked any- body what they did, what their job was. Nobody. The question was: "Where are you now?" Unlike D.C.---where your job, your title, your access, is everything---my class- mates could care less about what you did. They wanted to know where you were, who you married, that sort of thing. All of the "kids" knew I had come from and gone back to Washington. When one asked how I was doing, I told him I was with the Post. (As in The Washington Post news- paper.) He didn't bat an eye that I worked a INSIGHT BY MIKE CAUSEY continued on page 2 For more news...see Federal Daily at www.FederalDaily.com • Debt ceiling fight looms 4 • GAO report reveals lax oversight 4 • In Brief 5 • Informed Investor 7 • Federal Benefits Q&A 8 continued on page 3
Aug 26, 2013
Sep 9, 2013