Firing a government employee takes time and documentation, depending on the position and the status of the person filling it. It is not an impossible task, but cannot be an arbitrary decision for long-term employees. Therefore, if you are faced with an under-performing employee, you will need to take the proper steps to ensure that termination is the only option and is processed correctly.
Each government agency has its own policy, procedures and terminology when it comes to dealing with its employees. However, most follow similar rules. The status of employees is important when deciding whether or not their employment may be terminated. Generally, the status of government employees will be designated as either probationary or permanent. A variation may be a temporary position due to employment on a special project with grant funding, for example.
The first year of employment with a government agency is normally a probationary period, where an employee may be fired at any time for any reason. The purpose of the probationary period is to closely evaluate the progress of new employees and determine if they are an asset to the organization. If not, it may be a drain to keep them. Unless there is some type of illegal activity on your part, such as discrimination or hostile work environment, no appeal or claims can be made against the governmental agency that terminates the employee. Therefore, you will have less problems firing a governmental employee before the first year of service is over.
Once employees have celebrated their year anniversary with your agency, they become permanent and may no longer be terminated for any reason. If they exhibit incompetence or misconduct, you must document the undesirable behavior. The problem with firing permanent government employees is that they have a right to union representation and an appeal process. If your documentation is insufficient, employees may be granted back the jobs from which they were terminated. Therefore, it takes time, but making sure that you have ample documentation is worth it. Every time a staff member makes a mistake on the work product or exhibits misconduct, such as insubordination, write it down and discuss the behavior that you expect with the employee. Offer the employee more training and other ways to improve. Give frequent performance reviews and escalate discipline until termination is the only option left. Discuss firing the employee with the human resources department and have them review your documentation to ensure that you have reasonable cause.
It's possible that you will be advised by management or the human resources department that you do not have enough documentation to terminate the employee. You may be required to move the employee to a different position or department. The problem is that you will be transferring a less than satisfactory employee. However, if you are given approval to fire the employee, you will need to have a complete and formal file showing that everything in your power was done to help your employee retain the position. Also, you may not be able to use any documentation that the employee did not sign or that was not discussed. Even after the termination is complete, the employee may be back after an appeal, but you will have done everything possible to ensure that the employee does not rejoin your governmental organization.