Category Archives: Civil Service

Does Changing the Rules Really Matter? Assessing Procedural Justice Perceptions Under Civil Service Reform

Source: Ellen V. Rubin and Stephen E. Weinberg, Journal of Public Admin Research and Theory, Vol. 26 Issue 1, January 2016
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Civil service reforms over the last four decades have sought to provide new flexibilities to managers, particularly in relation to performance management. Reforms undertaken by many US states are consistent with this trend. State employees report these managerial flexibilities are decreasing perceptions of fairness. At the federal level, personnel reforms in the US Department of Defense also sought to increase managerial discretion. Defense identified employee perceptions of fairness as key to the successful implementation of the system. This study examines changes in fairness perceptions in response to civil service reforms at Defense in three distinct ways. First, procedural justice perceptions are examined before, during, and after repeal of the personnel reforms. Second, we consider whether the procedural justice perceptions of employees and managers are different over the time periods. Procedural justice research includes few studies controlling for managerial status, despite early arguments that position in the organization is likely to change fairness assessments. Third, the use of control groups allows us to consider if changes in procedural justice perceptions are due to the personnel reforms or reflect governmentwide trends. US Office of Personnel Management surveys covering a 10-year period are analyzed using a difference-in-differences-in-differences model. Results indicate that manager and employee perceptions of procedural justice are different over the time period, these perceptions change in different ways in response to the reforms, and the observed changes are unique from governmentwide trends.

What is Due Process in Federal Civil Service Employment?

Source: U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, May 2015

From the press release:
The reasons why agencies must follow due process when removing Federal employees are explained in a new report issued by the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, What is Due Process in Federal Civil Service Employment? The report discusses the current civil service laws that apply to adverse actions and the history behind their formation. It also describes the constitutional requirements such laws must comply with, namely due process. According to Chairman Susan Tsui Grundmann, “The Constitution requires due process in any system where the Government must have just cause to act against an individual.”

The report explains that, in the Federal employment context, due process is: (1) a meaningful opportunity – before an adverse action takes place – for the individual to know the charges and penalty and present a defense; and (2) the ability to appeal a serious adverse action – such as a lengthy suspension, demotion, or removal – before an impartial adjudicator. …

The report walks the reader through a history of how and why the Government moved from a spoils system to a merit system; a discussion of court decisions explaining what due process the Constitution requires in a merit system; and an explanation of what the current statutes instruct agencies to do. The report also includes an appendix that discusses some misperceptions about adverse actions in the civil service and provides thoroughly documented corrections to clarify how the system actually operates today.

Water Flowing Uphill: National Implications of State Civil Service Movements

Source: Donald F. Kettl, Public Administration Review, Vol. 75 Issue 2, March/April 2015
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….That federal proposal builds on the at-will movement flowing uphill from the states. State-inspired movements are nothing new. After all, much of the progressive government reform movement of the late 1800s, from changes reining in corruption to strategies increasing the efficiency of government operations, bubbled up from state and local governments to Washington. In the 2000s, the local Tea Party movement generated enormous government-cutting energy—as well as candidates carrying its ideas to Washington. To a degree many Washington insiders do not recognize, the “flowing uphill” movement is generating a strong push toward ideas like transforming the SES into an at-will employment system.

There is little doubt that the government’s personnel systems have become ossified, trapped in mid-twentieth thinking at a time when government needs twenty-first century entrepreneurial energy. Government performance surely suffers if government employment becomes a barrier to flexibility, innovation, and energy, and there is an overwhelming consensus that the civil service system needs fundamental reform (Partnership for Public Service 2014). But at-will employment in the government reminds us of Wallace Sayre’s famous—and perceptive—observation that “business and public administration are alike only in all unimportant respects”. It raises enormous questions about how to balance the often-competing goals of accountability, flexibility, innovation, and expertise that lie at the core of the public service. The at-will movement deserves—indeed, requires—careful examination before its untested assumptions subtly reshape governmental practice…..

Deprofessionalizing State Governments: The Rise of Public At-Will Employment

Source: Paul R. Verkuil, Public Administration Review, Vol. 75 Issue 2, March/April 2015
(subscription required)

A trend that bears watching is the state expansion of at-will employment in the public sector. There are 28 states that now fall into that category to various degrees, and the number may be growing. The purpose of at-will employment is to import business practices into the public sector, which is not a bad idea in itself, but in application, salient differences between the two sectors can be lost or ignored. While reasonable grievances against public employment need to be addressed, there are also values that need to be preserved. …. That said, states and the federal government could certainly improve their respective civil service systems. Take two disparate examples: teacher tenure in two years or less and removal of nonperforming officials that takes two years or more. These are unacceptable situations. The system can and should be fixed, but it should not be eliminated. Doing so would send us back to a time when politics trumped administration and public sector incompetence was business as usual. ….

Does Changing the Rules Really Matter? Assessing Procedural Justice Perceptions under Civil Service Reform

Source: Ellen V. Rubin and Stephen E. Weinberg, Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, Advance Access, First published online: November 30, 2014
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Civil service reforms over the last four decades have sought to provide new flexibilities to managers, particularly in relation to performance management. Reforms undertaken by many US states are consistent with this trend. State employees report these managerial flexibilities are decreasing perceptions of fairness. At the federal level, personnel reforms in the US Department of Defense also sought to increase managerial discretion. Defense identified employee perceptions of fairness as key to the successful implementation of the system. This study examines changes in fairness perceptions in response to civil service reforms at Defense in three distinct ways. First, procedural justice perceptions are examined before, during, and after repeal of the personnel reforms. Second, we consider whether the procedural justice perceptions of employees and managers are different over the time periods. Procedural justice research includes few studies controlling for managerial status, despite early arguments that position in the organization is likely to change fairness assessments. Third, the use of control groups allows us to consider if changes in procedural justice perceptions are due to the personnel reforms or reflect governmentwide trends. US Office of Personnel Management surveys covering a 10-year period are analyzed using a difference-in-differences-in-differences model. Results indicate that manager and employee perceptions of procedural justice are different over the time period, these perceptions change in different ways in response to the reforms, and the observed changes are unique from governmentwide trends.

Building the Enterprise: A New Civil Service Framework

Source: Partnership for Public Service and Booz Allen Hamilton, April 2014

From the summary:
In the new report, “Building the Enterprise: A New Civil Service Framework,” the Partnership for Public Service calls for major reforms to the federal government’s decades-old civil service system and lays out a plan to modernize areas that include the outdated pay and hiring policies. …

Produced in collaboration with Booz Allen Hamilton, the comprehensive report calls the federal personnel system, the foundation for effective government, obsolete and in crisis, and an obstacle rather than an aid in attracting, hiring, retaining and developing top talent.

The report calls for overhauling the entire civil service system, including pay, performance management, hiring, job classification, accountability and workplace justice, and the Senior Executive Service, the nation’s career leadership corps.
Related:
Watch the panel discussion

The Rise and Fall of Radical Civil Service Reform in the U.S. States

Source: Robert J. McGrath, Public Administration Review, Volume 73, Issue 4, July/August 2013
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From the abstract:
Initiated by a 1996 Georgia statute, “radical” civil service reform quickly swept the United States. This article explains the wax and eventual wane of state efforts to increase the number of at-will employees at the expense of the population of fully protected merit system employees. Using an event history approach to explain this policy diffusion with state-level variables, the author shows that electoral competition and gubernatorial powers are the most significant determinants of this kind of policy diffusion. Whereas previous literature concluded that these reforms ceased spreading because the new programs were failing to create the promised governmental efficiency, this article argues that the institutional conditions for these human resource management policies have been less propitious in recent years. The article signifies an important contribution in that it brings civil service reform back into the scope of policy diffusion literature and identifies political insights into a perpetually important question….

Related:
Commentary: Does “Radical Civil Service Reform” Really Abandon Merit?
Source: Doris Hausser, Public Administration Review, Volume 73, Issue 4, July/August 2013
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Dishwashing Won't Kill Tummy-Troubling Norovirus: Study

Source: HealthDay, News & Views, December 13, 2012

Commercial dishwashers can kill everyday bacteria but not norovirus, the cause of stomach flu and many foodborne illnesses around the world, according to a new study.

Although restaurant-industry guidelines for cleaning dishes and silverware eliminate bacteria, they are not effective against norovirus, said researchers from Ohio State University. They found the virus can withstand both manual and mechanical washing….
See also:
Efficacies of Sodium Hypochlorite and Quaternary Ammonium Sanitizers for Reduction of Norovirus and Selected Bacteria during Ware-Washing Operations
Source: Lizanel Feliciano, Jianrong Li, Jaesung Lee, Melvin A. Pascall, PLOS One, December 5, 2012

Patronage Employment: Limiting Litigation

Source: Susan Lorde Martin San Diego Law Review, August / September 2012
(subscription required)

In April 2011, Theresa Kohutka, a twenty-four-year employee of the Hempstead Animal Shelter on Long Island in New York, sued the Town of Hempstead and five of her supervisors and coworkers. She claimed, inter alia, that her First Amendment rights were violated when her supervisor refused to promote her because she did not become more active in the local Republican Club after he urged her to do so.

This lawsuit should be surprising because the U.S. Supreme Court seemed to settle the issue of using political affiliation to make employment decisions in a series of three opinions more than twenty years ago. Nevertheless, cases on the issue continue to arise in significant numbers. This is an unfortunate situation because the ensuing litigation creates an expensive and unnecessary cost for cities and towns and their hard-pressed taxpayers. Because there is no end in sight, this Article suggests that it is time for the U.S. Supreme Court to revisit the issue and rethink its prior positions.

First, this Article describes the development of the patronage and civil service systems with a reflection on how they work in tandem. Then, the trio of cases, Elrod v. Burns, Branti v. Finkel, and Rutan v. Republican Party of Illinois, is reviewed. How the federal circuit courts have responded to these three cases is examined both in their immediate aftermath and in decisions in more recent cases. Finally, the Article discusses some specific examples of how the current law creating First Amendment rights against negative employment decisions for patronage appointees is not working and how it should be changed.