Andrey_Popov/Shutterstock.com

House Set to Vote on Bill Making It Easier to Fire Senior Execs

The legislation would make government’s top career officials eligible for one- to 14-day suspensions without pay.

This story has been updated. 

The House will vote Tuesday evening on legislation that would make it easier to discipline and fire senior executives across the federal government.

The Senior Executive Service Accountability Act (H.R. 5169) would make the federal government’s top career officials eligible for one- to 14-day suspensions without pay, and expand the criteria that can be used to fire them. Currently, members of the SES only can be suspended for more than 14 days, or fired. Those who are suspended continue to receive pay, must receive 30 days’ advance notice of a proposed suspension, have the right to reply, and the right to appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board. Agencies can issue a reprimand in lieu of a suspension for lesser offenses.

The new provision allowing for shorter suspensions gives supervisors more flexibility in disciplining senior executives. Opponents, however, believe it could lead to politically-motivated suspensions.

The final bill also includes a provision that would require SES employees put on administrative leave during investigations and ultimately fired if the Merit Systems Protection Board sides with the agency, to pay back their salary and accrued annual leave for that period of time to the agency. In addition, the legislation would get rid of a provision in the current law which allows SES employees removed for performance and placed in a General Schedule job from retaining their SES salary. 

The vote is expected Tuesday evening under a suspension of the rules. The House Tuesday afternoon is debating the fiscal 2015 continuing resolution keeping the government open past Sept. 30. An amendment to that bill, crafted by House Armed Services Chairman Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif., would allow the Defense and State departments to train and equip Syrian rebels to fight against the terrorist group ISIS.

The SES accountability measure would extend the initial probationary period for SES employees from one to two years. Many of the procedural hurdles that prevent agencies from immediately firing senior executives do not apply when the employees are in their probationary periods. H.R. 5169 also would require agencies to provide a written justification for each of their SES positions and give employees a written description of their job performance requirements 30 days before each evaluation period.

Senior executives now can be fired for poor performance, misconduct, or the failure to complete assigned duties within the confines of due process. H.R. 5169 would add another reason defined as “such cause as would promote the efficiency of the service.” As of September 2013, there were 7,190 career senior executives in the federal government, according to data from the Office of Personnel Management.

The SES bill -- introduced by Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Mich., and cosponsored by House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif. – significantly changes SES oversight. H.R. 5169 was inspired by Lois Lerner, the senior executive at the heart of the IRS controversy who continued to collect pay during the investigation and retired at the height of the scandal. Lerner has continued to deny any wrongdoing in the matter. It’s not the first time, however, that lawmakers have sought to make it easier to fire top career officials who, unlike appointees, have strong job protections within the civil service system so that they can’t be fired for political reasons.

In 2013, legislation circulating in both chambers would have allowed the government to put those top career employees on leave without pay for three months pending the outcome of an investigation. The legislation, which Congress did not pass, directed agencies to fire, suspend without pay, or reinstate employees at the end of the 90 days. President Obama this summer signed into law a bill that makes it easier for the Veterans Affairs Department to discipline and fire senior executives engaged in misconduct or wrongdoing.

The Senior Executives Association sent a Sept. 15 letter to members of the House, urging them to vote against the bill, questioning the legality of the legislation.

“Laws already exist to allow agencies to hold employees accountable,” wrote SEA President Carol Bonosaro. “Supervisors at all levels need to understand the policies and have the will to use them and political leadership needs to support their doing so. Nonetheless, SEA welcomes the opportunity to engage in a serious attempt at identifying what accountability policies work, which do not and whether problems arise from the policies themselves versus implementation.”

Bonosaro emphasized that SEA understands the desire to hold employees accountability and protect taxpayer money, but “trying to do so through unnecessary – or worse, unconstitutional – policy changes is not the answer.”

Lawmakers Tuesday night will vote on an amended version of the bill. The original version included provisions that reduced agency notification to employees of an adverse personnel action from 30 days to 15 days, and another that required SES employees who receive written notice of a pending termination removal from the civil service to take mandatory annual leave during which they would receive pay, but could not work. Those provisions were dropped from the bill’s final version.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.