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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Congress Considers Terminating Federal Employees for Failure to Pay Taxes

On March 17, 2010, members of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee convened a panel to hear testimony from witnesses with opinions concerning legislation proposed by Utah Congressman Jason Chaffetz. The proposed law would require federal agencies to terminate federal employees if they are subject to an IRS tax lien. The proposed law would also prevent individuals with tax liens from applying for federal jobs.

Representative Chaffetz and his supporters alleged that it was “insulting” to taxpayers if the federal government allowed tax delinquent federal workers to keep their jobs. Although Rep. Chaffetz’s proposed law has little chance of passage, four of the five panelists and Democratic members of the committee noted that the legislation was indicative of "ongoing rhetoric that demonizes civil service and civil servants."

Currently, the IRS may remove employees for failure to pay taxes, but Rep. Chaffetz wants to expand such grounds for removal to all federal agencies. Federal employee advocates argued that Rep. Chaffetz’s draconian legislation would circumvent due process afforded all federal employees and treat them harsher than other taxpayers. The due process granted to federal employees allows agencies to make employment decisions on a case-by-case basis, taking into consideration the unique factual circumstances for each employee. Furthermore, allowing employees to continue working would give them the opportunity to pay-off tax debts.

Despite the political rhetoric underlying the congressional hearing, the topics discussed by advocates for federal employees highlight the due process federal staffers should use to vindicate their rights. Depending on the alleged misconduct or impropriety, a federal employee may have the right to an oral and written reply, and the right to appeal a removal or other qualifying disciplinary decision to the Merit Systems Protection Board. For more information on federal employment, please visit www.lopezandwu.com where you will find additional information regarding the rights of federal employees.

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