Fireproof! Report says US govt can't sack bad employees, including porn-watchers

Reuters/Robert Galbraith
You may be a bad worker, bully colleagues and even watch porn at work, but if you have a job with the US federal government you won't be fired. The civil service protection program helps errant employees keep their jobs at taxpayers’ expense.

According to a CBS report, while sloppy workers in the private sector would likely be fired for poor performance, bureaucracy in federal government is so powerful, employers are simply unable to sack staff who are lacking.

A high-ranking employee at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been accused of watching porn for up to six hours a day at work, since 2010. Although investigators discovered 7,000 pornographic files on his computer, the EPA still cannot fire the man, currently on paid leave.

"I actually have to work through the administrative process, as you know," EPA administrator Gina McCarthy said at a Congressional hearing, in a bid to explain why she hadn't fired the employee.

Reuters/Shannon Stapleton

The administrative process, designed to rule out politically motivated sackings, is the civil servant protection system. Employees have a right to appeal a termination, with the process dragging on for years. On average, up to 6,000 terminations are appealed each year, about half are related to misconduct and poor performance, CBS reports. Bureaucratic rules make it next to impossible to sever contracts with bad employees, including those who have committed serious violations.

"Many managers would like to get rid of problem employees and find that they have to go through a challenging process," Max Stier, CEO for Partnership for Public Service, said.

"There is no question that taxpayers are losing hundreds of millions of dollars, in a conservative estimate. They are losing more than that because they are losing the ability to get the very best out of government," he added.

READ MORE: Oregon strippers seek new regulations for better working conditions

Meanwhile, aggressive workers are also hard to part with. One former manager told CBS News he tried for over a year to sack an employee who was intimidating colleagues. The employee sent him threats via email, including one that stated: "I can stand over you to [sic]. I am 6 foot 3 inches and I weigh 265, and I am not backing down. ... And by the way, I do know where you live."

Congressman Jason Chaffetz said that legislation will be passed to circumnavigate such bureaucracy, including those dealing with "these specific things, like pornography."

"At some point, it's just common decency and a recognition that if you're not doing your job and you're creating a hostile work environment, you gotta go," he noted.