Trump Issues Executive Order Making Some Civil Servants Easier To Hire And Fire
Removal of workplace protections would stifle internal debate and allow administration to seed bureaucracy with political loyalists, critics say. Trump Issues Executive Order Making Some Civil Servants Easier To Hire And Fire
The Trump administration is taking steps it says will make it easier to hire and manage civil servants in policy-making positions, but which critics say will undercut key job protections for federal workers.
An executive order issued late Wednesday by President Trump would exempt some positions across the federal workforce from competitive hiring procedures and civil-service protections.
The move will give agencies more flexibility in hiring “employees in confidential, policy-determining, policy-making, or policy-advocating positions,” President Trump said in the executive order. It will provide “greater ability and discretion to assess critical qualities in applicants to fill these positions, such as work ethic, judgment, and ability to meet the particular needs of the agency,” according to the order.
The order gives the administration wide discretion to determine which civil-service positions will become “at will” appointments, meaning it is generally easier to dismiss the employee, though the order leaves it up to each agency to craft detailed rules. Mr. Trump’s order gives the heads of federal agencies until just before Inauguration Day, Jan. 20, 2021, to determine which staffers to move into so-called Schedule F positions.
Critics, including public-sector unions, say the order could affect a range of federal employees, including attorneys serving in a variety of roles, damping robust internal debate over how to craft federal regulations.
“If you make them essentially at-will employees, some are not going to speak up, some are going to be afraid to speak up,” said James Eisenmann, a partner at Alden Law Group who previously served as executive director of the Merit Systems Protection Board, which handles appeals brought by fired federal employees. “It’s just chipping away at the civil service,” he said.
Other critics say the order could allow the White House to tap its political appointees to fill thousands of nonpolitical jobs and hinder the transition to a new administration should President Trump lose his reelection bid next month to Democrat Joe Biden.
“The president has doubled down on his effort to politicize and corrupt the professional service,” Everett Kelley, national president of the American Federation of Government Employees, said in a statement. “This executive order strips due-process rights and protections from perhaps hundreds of thousands of federal employees and will enable political appointees and other officials to hire and fire these workers at will.”
Officials at the White House Office of Management and Budget had no immediate estimate for how many staffers agencies planned to move to the new category of federal employee, saying it is up to agency directors to decide that in the coming weeks.
The executive branch of the federal government employs about 2 million civilian workers, from agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency and the Federal Trade Commission to administrative law judges responsible for immigration decisions and even tax appeals.
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