NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

It's Just About Impossible To Get Fired From Government

November 22, 2002

Once a person gets a job in the federal government, he's set for life. Getting fired for deficient work is all but impossible, according to Cato Institute researchers.

  • Only 434 federal employees were fired last year for poor performance -- less than 0.02 percent of all federal workers, or just one in every 5,000.
  • "Involuntary separations" occur almost four times as often in the private sector.
  • Even the private rate is probably too low -- since firms are under threat of expensive wrongful discharge lawsuits, Cato points out.

Five State Department workers out of 28,000 were fired between 1984 and 2000. Only 21 in the Education Department were "let go" in that time. The most dismissals were in Veterans Affairs -- 767 persons.

Firing a federal worker can take 18 months or longer, due to regulations and mandatory procedures. Even then, the worker can file a discrimination complaint -- which allows him or her to stay on the job for another period and continue to draw paychecks.

Source: Editorial, "Jobs for Life," Investor's Business Daily, November 22, 2002; based on Chris Edwards and Tad DeHaven (both Cato Institute), "Federal Government Should Increase Firing Rate," Fox News, November 8, 2002.

For Cato text,2933,69557,00.html


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