Norton to Hold Bipartisan Briefing on her Bill to Restore Due Process Rights to Federal Workers, Monday

Apr 24, 2014
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) and Congressman Rob Wittman (R-VA) will hold a bipartisan briefing for Members and staff on Norton’s bill to clarify certain due process rights of federal employees serving in sensitive positions (H.R. 3278) on Monday, April 28, 2014, at 11:00 a.m. in 2253 Rayburn House Office Building.  Norton will moderate the briefing.  The bill, which has bipartisan and bicameral support, would overturn an unprecedented federal court decision that strips many federal employees of due process rights to independent review of an agency decision removing them from their job.  The briefing will feature one of the original plaintiffs in the case, Rhonda Conyers, a Department of Defense (DOD) accounting technician.  In addition to Norton and the plaintiff in the case, the participants will include Tom Devine, Legal Director of the Government Accountability Project; Paras Shah, American Federation of Government Employees General Associate General Counsel, and Andres Grajales, National Treasury Employees Union Deputy General Counsel.

“Congressman Wittman and I are determined to protect the most basic rights of civil servants,” said Norton.  “Members and staff will want to be aware of the administration’s action followed by a court decision that strikes at the heart of a neutral civil service system, stripping federal workers of the due process rights to a hearing before being removed from a federal job.  Stripping employees whose work does not involve classified matters of the right to appeal an agency decision upon removal from their job opens entirely new avenues for arbitrary action or retaliation by an agency head.  This unprecedented inroad into the civil service system also makes a mockery of whistleblower protections passed in the 112th Congress. The court decision contains seeds for the virtual elimination of civil service protections for most federal employees without due process review.  Our bill seeks to stop in its tracks the arbitrary use of ‘national security’ to repeal civil service protection against arbitrary or retaliatory action.”

The bill, which Norton introduced last October, almost immediately drew cosponsors in the House and the Senate.  Last December, Senator Jon Tester (D-MT), chair of the subcommittee that oversees federal employees, introduced companion legislation, with Senators Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Claire McCaskill (D-MO) as original cosponsors.  Norton’s bill also has bipartisan support, with five Democrats signing on as cosponsors along with two Republicans. 

The bill would overturn a U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit decision, Kaplan v. Conyers and MSPB, that prevents workers who are designated as “noncritical sensitive” from appealing to the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) if they are removed from their job.  Norton said it undercuts Title 5 section 7701 of the Civil Service Act, which ensures federal workers due process rights conferred to them by the United States Constitution.

The case was brought by two DOD employees, Conyers and Devon Northover, a commissary management specialist, who were permanently demoted and suspended from their jobs after they were found to no longer be eligible to serve in noncritical sensitive positions.  The decision would affect at least 200,000 DOD employees who are designated as noncritical sensitive.  Moreover, most federal employees could potentially lose the same rights to an independent review of an agency’s decision because of a pending rule by the Office of Personnel Management and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence that would permit agency heads to designate most jobs in the federal government as noncritical sensitive.  Noncritical sensitive positions include jobs that do not have access to classified information.

Published: April 24, 2014