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Denied feds could regain appeal rights

Dec. 16, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
By SEAN REILLY   |   Comments
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Sen. Jon Tester's bill would let the Merit Systems Protection Board again take cases from workers contesting agencies' efforts to disqualify them from such jobs. (Mike Morones/Staff)

A newly introduced bipartisan bill would restore appeal rights to federal employees deemed ineligible for “sensitive” positions not needing a security clearance.

The bill by Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., would let the Merit Systems Protection Board again take cases from workers contesting agencies’ efforts to disqualify them from such jobs. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit had sharply limited Defense Department employees’ ability to appeal to the MSPB on the grounds that only DoD has the expertise to decide who is a security risk, even when a job doesn’t require access to classified information.

That ruling, in summer 2013, alarmed unions and whistle-blower advocates who say that DoD and other agencies could label positions as “national security sensitive” as a means of short-circuiting standard protections. Tester’s bill, co-sponsored by Sens. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., would restore the MSPB’s jurisdiction over those appeals.

Tester chairs the lead Senate subcommittee for federal workforce issues; similar legislation has already been introduced in the House, according to his office. “Workers who have their jobs changed or stripped and their livelihoods threatened deserve due process — it’s as simple as that,” he said in a statement.

The American Federation of Government Employees has asked the Supreme Court to take the court case; the government has until Jan. 21 to respond, an AFGE spokesman said in an email Tuesday.

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