What's the Future of the Public Service Sector? Examining Recent Developments in Federal Workplaces

In October of 2020, then-U.S. President Donald J. Trump signed an executive order that made it easier to fire federal employees. The move set off widespread discussions about the public service sector and its employee protections. Upon his election, now-President Joe Biden signed an executive order of his own rescinding President Trump's.

However, discussions about what exactly it means to work in the public service sector as a federal employee are still ongoing. Today, we're going to evaluate the sanctity of federal positions and their safety going forward.

If you are a federal employee who experiences illegal behavior or actions in the workplace, we can help with your employment litigation dispute. Contact us online or via phone at (202) 350-3881 to schedule a consultation with our team.

What's the Story Behind the 2020 Executive Order?

In late October 2020, the Trump Administration issued an executive order that effectively made it easier for the government to fire federal employees. Importantly, the order also allowed government hiring managers to consider political affiliations when hiring public service workers.

The order assigned government employees such as lawyers and scientists, who are traditionally supposed to act as apolitical public servants, with a new category - "Schedule F" - that effectively removed their civil service protections.

The Trump Administration stated that it believed "poor performers" among public servants were too difficult to remove from employment prior to the order. The order, ostensibly, was supposed to allow hiring managers to recruit individuals they felt were more aligned to positions, hold poor performers accountable, and make it easier to maintain a higher level of service among federal employees.

It wasn't the first time the Trump Administration passed such an order. In May of 2018, President Trump passed three executive orders aimed at reducing the time necessary to fire federal employees and attempting to overhaul rights for the federal employee's union, including cuts to official time.

Supporters stated that the bills represented "common sense" efforts to help ensure government employees performed at a high level. However, the orders received widespread criticism from unions and federal employment specialists alike, who stated that the orders allowed managers to introduce political agendas into positions that were supposed to be apolitical. Critics also warned that making it easier to fire federal employees could result in higher turnover rates at government offices, making it more difficult to keep operations running smoothly and increasing the chance of office politics negatively impacting federal workspaces.

What's the Story Here for Current Federal Employees?

Although many critics opposed the specifications of President Trump's executive orders, debates concerning how easy (or hard) it should be to fire federal employees are far from new.

For decades, individuals have argued that unions provide poor performers at the federal level with too much protection. Even individuals critical of Trump's orders have considered the need for a designation such as Trump's "Schedule F" that makes it easier to remove public servants.

The point of contention is how an administration can make it easier to fire federal employees without introducing concerns of political agendas being a key factor. To that end, introducing an apolitical way to assess the performance of government employees is exceedingly challenging.

What's important for federal employees reading this blog to take away is that the debate over the protections public servants receive is far from over. Supporters of the "Schedule F" order among the Republican party are ramping up to attempt to reintroduce it as a bill, and it's unlikely to be the last such effort of its kind.

At The Law Firm of John P. Mahoney, Esq., Attorneys at Law, PLLC, we help federal employees navigate employment litigation disputes. Contact us online or via phone at (202) 350-3881 to schedule a consultation with our team.