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Critics blast latest civil service reform effort by House

Government work does not tend to be sexy. Very often it is fraught with political overtones. It's because of the pressures on that front that the civil service system exists. It's meant to provide federal employees with a set of due process procedures to ensure they don't fall victim to any form of discrimination, including political.

If you believe that you have been wrongly fired or suspended for alleged misconduct or poor performance, you are entitled to appeal that action. The process can be involved and cumbersome. There are deadlines to meet, evidence to collect and depositions to conduct. If that sounds like a major legal proceeding it's because it is. And having an attorney at your side skilled in this area of the law is always recommended.

Not everyone is happy with how the civil service system has aged since its inception. Few would argue that it couldn't do with some reform. But what form they should take is itself the subject of a lot of political debate. It often takes a special event to make things happen.

Just 18 months ago, faced with the scandal in the Department of Veterans Affairs over senior executive cover-ups over the delivery of medical services, Congress and the White House found common ground for action. The result was a law that allowed the VA to short-circuit some of the workplace protections for senior executives in that department.

Then, last month, a very similar measure cleared the House Oversight Committee and was sent to both chambers of Congress for further action. The Senior Executive Service Accountability Act purports to make it easier for all agencies to hold senior executives accountable for alleged misdeeds.

Proponents say it's needed to restore public confidence in the government executive ranks. But critics say the congressional majority party effort amounts to an unacceptable "'guilty until proven innocent' style of justice."

This act may never become law, but it might well put alert all federal employees that the protection of their employee rights can't be taken for granted.

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