Norton bill would protect feds’ employee rights

Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) has introduced a bill that would clarify due process rights for federal employees working in sensitive positions.

The bill, H.R. 5560, would restore an independent review of agency decisions to remove workers who are designated in ‘noncritical sensitive positions’ but do not work on classified matters.

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, which concluded that federal employees whose jobs are designated as “noncritical sensitive” do not have the right to appeal an agency decision to remove them from their positions over claims that they are ineligible, even if those jobs don’t require access to classified information.

“Stripping employees whose work does not involve classified matters of the right of review of an agency decision that removes them from their jobs opens entirely new avenues for unreviewable, arbitrary action or retaliation by an agency head and, in addition, makes a mockery of whistleblower protections enacted in the 112th Congress,” Norton said in a statement.

“Our bill would stop the use of ‘national security’ to repeal a vital component of civil service protection and of due process,” she added.

The American Federation of Government Employees is urging support for the bills passage.

“This 2013 court decision, in Kaplan v. Conyers, must be overturned to ensure all federal employees have the right to third-party review of agency actions that could cost them their jobs,” said AFGE National Secretary-Treasurer Everett Kelley. “Thankfully, Rep. Norton has the right solution. I urge lawmakers to move swiftly to enact this important legislation and stop this egregious violation of law and basic employee protections.”

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