By William Wiley, November 29, 2016

Dear President-Elect Trump:

We have so much advice for you here at FELTG. You see, we’ve been messing around with the civil service for nearly 40 years. We’ve figured out a few things because we’ve seen a few things. Here’s another little mess for you to think about cleaning up, after you get that wall going and all those “bad” people deported.

At the heart of a civil service system are built-in protections to prevent managerial overlords from unfairly harming hard-working career federal employees. Put simply, if a civil servant believes that he has been treated unfairly, he should be able to complain to someone with oversight authority who will consider the facts and decide whether the employee has been treated unfairly.

The most serious unfair treatment involves a manager taking away the salary of an employee. Here are the options that an employee has today if she believes that a manager has unfairly taken away part of her salary:

  1. If she believes that the manager was motivated to take away her salary because of her RACE/SEX/AGE/etc., she can file with the US EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION.
  2. If she believes that the manager was motivated to take away her salary because of her UNION ACTIVITY, she can file with the FEDERAL LABOR RELATIONS AUTHORITY.
  3. If she believes that the manager was motivated to take away her salary because of her WHISTLEBLOWING ACTIVITY, she can file with the US OFFICE OF SPECIAL COUNSEL.
  4. If she believes that the manager was motivated to take away her salary because of her RIGHTS UNDER A UNION CONTRACT, she can file with an ARBITRATOR.
  5. If she believes that the manager was motivated to take away her salary because of her UNION ACTIVITY, she can file with the FEDERAL LABOR RELATIONS AUTHORITY.
  6. If she believes that the manager was motivated to take away her salary because of her STATUS AS A VETERAN, she can file with the US DEPARTMENT OF LABOR.
  7. If she believes that the manager was motivated to take away her salary in violation of her DUE PROCESS RIGHTS, she can file with the US MERIT SYSTEMS PROTECTION BAORD.
  8. If she believes that the manager has erroneously set her salary low in violation of her RIGHT TO PROPER COMPENSATION, she can file with the US OFFICE OF PERSONNEL MANAGEMENT

Of course, there are some minor tweaks to these employee rights. For example, the union must approve the employee’s invocation of arbitration to resolve a grievance, and there are dollar limits in place for other appeal rights. Still, the bottom line is that there are eight separate independent civil service oversight agencies, each with its own staff, official seal, and unique procedures, that have the responsibility of resolving issues of fairness that arise between a civil servant and his employing agency.

You want more craziness? Most of these oversight agencies are limited as to what they resolve when an employee complains about unfair treatment. They cannot resolve any general mistreatment issues, only issues within their jurisdiction. For example, if an employee complains to EEOC about mistreatment, even if EEOC concludes that the union contract has been violated, it is without the authority to provide the employee any relief. If an employee complains to FLRA about mistreatment, even if FLRA concludes that the employee has been mistreated because of whistleblowing, it is without the authority to provide the employee any relief.

I’m not finished with the craziness. The general view when there are several possible oversight processes is that the employee gets one bite at the apple. Wherever you file first determines which agency and what procedures will control the employee’s complaint. However, if you think about it, an especially creative employee seeking redress of a single personnel action conceivably could complain about parts of the action to all eight oversight entities simultaneously.  I once explained that to a Congressman who responded, “If they’re that smart, they deserve to win their appeal.”

I can’t really argue with the logic of that layperson’s conclusion.

Look, Donald (may I call you Donald?).  The word is that you want to do away with over-regulation, that you want to “drain the swamp” of unnecessary government. We know that you have pipe lines, health care, and trade pacts on your list of to-dos. Well, here’s another one. Now that you see the problem, the solution should be clear. Replace this quagmire with a system that:

  • Makes it drop-dead easy for managers to hold civil servants accountable, and
  • Makes it drop-dead easy for civil servants’ rights to be upheld.

If our little training company can figure this stuff out, so can your administration. Wiley@FELTG.com

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