New Biden Rule Seeks to Shield Federal Workers From Trump-Era Firings

The Biden administration proposed a new rule on Friday to undo a Trump-era executive order that would have made it easier to fire federal workers.

The White House’s Office of Personnel Management (OPM), which recruits, manages, and manages the benefits of federal employees, is proposing that civil service workers will retain their employee protections even if they are reassigned to a position with different or fewer protections. These employees, exempting political appointees, have the right to appeal any reassignment or firing. The vast majority of federal employees are not political appointees, and those being moved to such a status would retain their protections under the new rules.

“The proposed rule honors our 2.2 million career civil servants, helping to ensure they can carry out their duties without fear of political reprisal,” said OPM Director Kiran Ahuja in a statement.

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Late in former President Donald Trump’s time in office, he issued “Schedule F,” which was meant to make it easier to remove “poor performers” staffed in various agencies. At the time, they cited a 2015 Government Accountability Office report that found it could take up to a full year to fire a federal employee.

The order never went into effect, and President Joe Biden rescinded it early in his term.

Proposed Rule

The OPM’s 77-page proposal states that regulations in the past 140 years have sought to protect federal employees from “political influence” in hiring and firing, rules established “to further good government.”

This is in stark contrast to the previous “patronage” system where a change in administration “often triggered the widespread removal of federal employees to provide jobs for the supporter of the new president, his party, and party leaders,” the proposal explained. By contrast, hiring employees on the basis of merit reduced corruption.

Career civil servants are meant to help the government “function optimally across presidents and their administrations,” the proposal reads, and there are “appropriate vehicles” to remove employees who refuse “to implement lawful direction from leadership” without such a patronage system.

When an employee is suspended for 14 days or less, the suspension is not appealable, but the employee is still entitled to a notice, an opportunity to respond, representation by an attorney, and a written decision. Removals, demotions, longer suspensions, reductions in pay or grade,  and furloughs, each require more “rigorous” procedures and can be appealed in court.

The updated rule would require agencies to document their basis for moving an employee, and obtain certification from the agency’s chief human capital officer that the documentation is sufficient, submitting it to the OPM for review.

Employees whose statuses are changed to that of a political appointee would need to have written notice 30 days in advance, and the notice must inform the employee they retain their worker protections.

The proposal will now be subject to a 60-day public comment period beginning Sept. 18.

Trump’s Plans

While campaigning to run for reelection in 2024, President Trump has voiced support for firing some federal employees.

“We need to make it much easier to fire rogue bureaucrats who are deliberately undermining democracy or, at a minimum, just want to keep their jobs,” he said at a July event hosted by America First Policy Institute (AFPI), a think tank whose members include former Trump staffers.

“They want to hold onto their jobs. Congress should pass historic reforms empowering the president to ensure that any bureaucrat who is corrupt, incompetent, or unnecessary for the job can be told—did you ever hear this—‘You’re fired, get out, you’re fired.’ [You] have to do it. Deep state. Washington will be an entirely different place.”

AFPI had published a report in May 2021 about how the “merit-based” hiring process meant to curb the corrupt patronage system ended up morphing into a “difficult and time consuming” process that made it hard to “remove problematic employees.”

The Merit Systems Protection Board, which reviews federal employee appeals, has noted in surveys and reports over the decades that supervisors are reluctant to go through the lengthy process to attempt to remove an underperforming employee, and lack confidence their decisions will hold.

James Sherk, who authored the AFPI report, criticized the Biden administration’s rule proposal.

“The Biden Administration is trying to protect the swamp by making it harder to fire senior career bureaucrats for poor performance or misconduct. Only in Washington do people believe the bureaucracy needs to be held less accountable. Fortunately, what the Biden Administration is doing a future administration can undo,” he told The Epoch Times.

The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, published in January 2023 a “Project 2025” policy proposal that also supported making federal employees easier to remove.

The nearly 1,000-page proposal, which is the ninth edition, includes a plan to “dismantle the deep state, not the government,” pushing for a reinstating of Schedule F.

Original News Source Link – Epoch Times

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