Agencies Move for Greater Firing Authority

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EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy has recently made several statements in favor of increased firing authority for herself and other agency heads. McCarthy first floated the idea when appearing before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, saying that she would “welcome” legislation that would allow her to quickly remove employees and bypass or speed through the administrative process for removing employees under current civil service laws. These comments were met with criticism from the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), the union representing many employees across the federal government. The AFGE’s EPA Council president, Karen Kellen, wrote in an open letter to McCarthy that the government does “not need to make it easier to fire employees.”

McCarthy’s statements come around the same time that President Obama signed into law the Veterans' Access to Care through Choice, Accountability and Transparency Act (H.R. 3230). The bill, while providing the beleaguered agency with billions of dollars to hire more staffers and build more facilities, also includes provisions that allow the VA Secretary to immediately fire poor-performing employees with no pay while they appeal their cases. While the bill in general has received support, these provisions have been met with fierce opposition from groups such as the Senior Executive Association (SEA), which believes that the new process rolls back existing civil service protections and is not practical, especially due to the requirements for removals to be appealed within one week and rulings by the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) to be handed down within three weeks.

The twin pushes by the EPA and the VA to more quickly dismiss employees reflects a broader shift within the government. With every scandal—the most recent being the controversy over telework at the PTO—the public becomes more and more frustrated with what they see as a lack of discipline in federal employment. As this frustration gets relayed to Congressmen, agencies are more frequently being called before congressional committee hearings. After each scandal or hearing, changes are to be made and so that the Administration can say someone was held accountable. All too often, those being held up as accountable are hard-working federal managers. As referenced in the EPA story, the AFGE and other government employee unions are strongly opposing many of these measures. However, managers in the federal government do not enjoy the protections of union representation. If the provisions inherent in the VA reform bill were to be enacted at agencies across the federal government, managers would lose many of the civil service protections that they currently have.

As evidenced by the stories above, today’s federal environment is becoming more and more hostile to employees. For federal managers, the best way to protect your career is with a professional liability insurance policy from FEDS. PLI provides you with legal representation in the event of civil lawsuits, congressional investigations, administrative actions, and disciplinary or removal proposals. With civil service protections under attack, having an attorney looking after your personal interests, and not the agency’s is invaluable. Because the government has determined that federal managers are at a higher risk of civil and administrative actions, all managers are eligible for up to a half reimbursement of their PLI cost, paid by the agency. To learn more about FEDS and our PLI program, visit today.

For more information on your specific exposures now, how professional liability insurance protects, or how the FEDS program differs from other insurance programs, please visit the FEDS website and choose the Executive and Managers tab. For more articles like this one, read "Yesterday's Headlines, Today's Coverage" in the bottom left corner on the FEDS homepage.

Posted in Manager Matters

Tags: professional liability insurance, professional liability insurance for feds, federal firing authority


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