Question: Isn’t it actually even harder to fire a federal employee than the numbers suggest, because firings mostly happen during probation?
Answer: The probationary period is considered the last step in the federal job application process even though the person is already on the job. For most employees, it lasts one year, although it is two at the Defense Department and in some jobs elsewhere.
During that time, employees have few rights to appeal discipline. However, data on firings — about 10,000 are fired for poor performance or misconduct annually of about 2.1 million outside intelligence agencies and the Postal Service — typically don’t show whether the employee had worked long enough to have full appeal rights.
The Veterans Affairs Department did recently break it down, though: 30 percent of the 714 it fired through March this year still were probationers. That may or may not be typical across the government.
Firing numbers also don’t reflect employees who quit ahead of potential discipline, to avoid having it in their records. But under recent rules, an agency must put the results of a disciplinary investigation in personnel files anyway — records that all agencies must now review when considering whether to hire a former federal employee.