WASHINGTON – On Monday, Representatives Andre Carson of Indiana, Eleanor Holmes Norton of Washington, D.C., and Rob Wittman of Virginia introduced new legislation to clarify and protect specific due process rights of federal employees.
If passed, the bill will restore an independent review of agency decisions to remove workers from their job on the grounds of national security. These due process rights were stripped away in 2013 by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Kaplan v. Conyers and MSPB, and currently it affects at least 200,000 Defense Department employees.
“Thank you to Congressman Carson, Congresswoman Norton, and Congressman Wittman for standing with public servants by introducing bipartisan legislation that restores the due process right to an independent review including an appeal before the Merit Systems Protection Board when employees are found ineligible to occupy a noncritical nonsensitive position,” said American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. “At a time where Congress and the administration continue to lob attacks at the federal workers who keep our country running, it’s great to see members of Congress step up and protect our rights and our jobs,” he added.
AFGE represents 700,000 federal and D.C. workers – more than 75,000 of whom work at the Department of Defense.
“Far too many federal employees designated in ‘noncritical sensitive positions’ have been caught up in a misguided court decision that allows their supervisor to fire them on national security grounds, gutting their constitutionally-protected right to due process,” Norton said. “Allowing terminations to take place without independent reviews opens the door for retaliatory firings, dissuading public servants from speaking up about mismanagement or other whistleblower issues. These federal employees, like others, should have the right to appeal their terminations to an independent body.”
“Due process is one of the most essential protections of our Constitutional government,” Wittman said. “However, many of the men and women in our federal workforce don’t have that guarantee. The Supreme Court’s Kaplan decision undermines section 7701 of the Civil Service Act and the right federal workers have to due process under the United States Constitution. The Kaplan decision means that federal employees who are demoted or suspended from noncritical service positions have no right to independent review of the agency decision. That empowers agencies, but undermines individual workers. Without that additional level of accountability, agencies are free to punish would-be whistleblowers and take retaliatory action against employees who are simply trying to do their jobs. This bill protects the individual, Constitutional rights of federal workers and continues to hold agencies accountable for the action they take against employees.”
“Many federal employees were affected by the Kaplan decision,” Carson said. “These workers’ rights were hindered by the unprecedented court decision that undermined Title 5, Section 7701 of the Civil Service Act, which ensures the due process rights of federal workers required by the U.S. Constitution. I am proud to support this bill and hope to see Congress pass it this session.”
“We fully support this great piece of legislation by members of Congress who know the value of our federal workers, and we hope that many more members join them in getting this passed,” said Cox.