Trump Administration Makes It Easier to Fire Federal Workers

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: May 30, 2018

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Capitol Building DCPresident Trump has signed a series of executive orders that could make it easier to fire federal workers. In doing so, he took steps toward fulfilling a campaign promise to reduce “waste, fraud and abuse” in federal bureaucracy, according to the Washington Post.

According to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), there were about 2.79 million civil servants employed by the US government as of the end of 2011.

Including contractors and grant employees, the total federal workforce in 2010 was estimated to be almost 11.3 million people.

The executive orders are expected to affect about two million of these workers.

Under the Trump administration, federal employment has been shrinking due to hiring freezes and unfilled vacancies, according to the Post.

Labor Unions

Several labor unions represent federal employees. For example, the National Federation of Federal Employees represents about 100,000 employees through 200 local unions. The American Federation of Government Employees represents over 670,000 federal employees.

According to the New York Times, federal employees’ unions have usually supported Democratic presidential nominees, including by making campaign donations.

Firing Line

The first executive order makes it easier to fire and discipline federal employees. The Trump administration said that under the current process it could take six months to a year to fire someone for poor performance, with an additional eight months for appeals.

The new process would give federal employees only 30 days to improve their performance, rather than the current 120 days.

According to the administration, even some employees who committed felonies have been allowed to remain on the job.

Union Contracts

The second order directs federal agencies to renegotiate contracts with federal labor unions in order to reduce waste.

Official Time

The third order is aimed at reducing the amount of “official time” — paid time that government workers with union roles can spend helping other with tasks like filing grievances. The order limits this time to 25% of the worker’s total hours.

According to James Price, government employees’ director for the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, 

The official time is specifically used for representation of our people — like for dealing with sexual harassment cases, racial discrimination, retaliation against an employee that’s a whistle-blower, health and safety, reasonable accommodations for employees that have disabilities

The administration said that some federal employees were spending up to 100% of their time on such matters and said that this change could save $100 million per year.

Full Disclosure

Agencies must also disclose information about an employee’s record to other federal offices considering hiring a federal worker who has been disciplined or fired by a federal office.

Another change will allow agencies to take performance, as well as seniority, into consideration when making layoffs.


Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (MD), the top Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, issued the following statement:

The Trump Administration’s so-called ‘reforms’ will harm middle class workers who dedicate their lives to public service, impair our ability to recruit and retain the best and brightest, and degrade the services that our government delivers to the American people every single day.

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