Federal employees’ job security is so great that workers in many agencies are more likely to die of natural causes than get laid off or fired, a USA TODAY analysis finds.
Death — rather than poor performance, misconduct or layoffs — is the primary threat to job security at the Environmental Protection Agency, the Small Business Administration, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Office of Management and Budget and a dozen other federal operations.
The federal government fired 0.55% of its workers in the budget year that ended Sept. 30 — 11,668 employees in its 2.1 million workforce. Research shows that the private sector fires about 3% of workers annually for poor performance . . .
The 1,800-employee Federal Communications Commission and the 1,200-employee Federal Trade Commission didn’t lay off or fire a single employee last year. The SBA had no layoffs, six firings and 17 deaths in its 4,000-employee workforce.
When job security is at a premium, the federal government remains the place to work for those who want to avoid losing a job. The job security rate for all federal workers was 99.43% last year and nearly 100% for those on the job more than a few years . . .
White-collar federal workers have almost total job security after a few years on the job. Last year, the government fired none of its 3,000 meteorologists, 2,500 health insurance administrators, 1,000 optometrists, 800 historians or 500 industrial property managers.
The nearly half-million federal employees earning $100,000 or more enjoyed a 99.82% job security rate in 2010. Only 27 of 35,000 federal attorneys were fired last year. None was laid off.
Meanwhile, Atlanta teachers were caught egregiously cheating on standardized tests, including holding parties where they erased and changed student answers. And yet . . .
Depending on the specifics of a case, the teacher firing process in Georgia can range from days to weeks to years. Costs mount as legal fees accrue. Atlanta has put the accused teachers on administrative leave, meaning the district will continue to pay their salaries as the termination processes unfold.
“Since Georgia is a right-to-work state, [the termination process is] probably about as streamlined as any in the nation,” said Hayward Richardson, a professor of education at Georgia State University. But even so, the process can wear on, running officials thousands of dollars in legal fees and salaries paid to the teachers who face dismissal . . .
Completing the Atlanta terminations could take a number of years, says Michael McGonigle, counsel for the Georgia Association of Educators.
“There’s an unprecedented number of these cases coming out of the gate,” McGonigle noted. “I’m not sure how they’ll process them at this point. … If they mess up [on legal grounds], and we can argue on appeal for reversal, we will do that. Or if the evidence isn’t strong enough … we would appeal that.” . . .
If they were fired, teachers could still work in different districts in Georgia — but they would have have a note of termination in their records, which is why, according to Bromery, Davis gave implicated educators the option to resign.
And Georgia is one of the states where it’s least difficult to fire a public school teacher.