Employee Evaluations
October 20, 2010 4:08 AM   Subscribe

I am writing an article about employment in the U.S. federal government. Where can I find information about what supervisors are allowed by law to tell other government agencies recruiters about their employees, and what they sometimes tell those recruiters that is against the law?

A couple civil service employees have told me that when they were trying to move to another job within the government, they applied for lots of jobs through the government employment service but kept getting turned down for new jobs even though they got letters saying they were qualified for those jobs. There are lots of qualified people out there so it's probably not personal that these people didn't get the jobs. But they suspected employers with whom they had poor working relationships somehow went outside what they could say and sabotaged their changes to get another job. I want to know if this really happens or if it's just bad employee attitude or lots of other qualified employees.
posted by CollectiveMind to Law & Government (2 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Where can I find information about what supervisors are allowed by law to tell other government agencies recruiters about their employees, and what they sometimes tell those recruiters that is against the law?

Nowhere, because there is no such law.

The federal hiring process is pretty deeply weird. Initial screenings are done by persons not actually responsible for making hiring decisions--lower level bureaucratic drones, mostly--and talismanic adherence to the position's stated qualifications is generally imposed. So even a letter which says "This person is qualified" won't matter damn if it doesn't say "This person has qualifications X, Y, and Z." The agency I interned for cuts its list down pretty ruthlessly before giving interviews because they're required to interview every candidate for employment marked as qualified for getting one. So any excuse to bump you off a list is taken.

The other thing is that except for political appointees, networking really isn't how you get federal jobs. This is completely the opposite of the private sector. The system described in the above paragraph is pretty specifically designed to prevent favoritism and nepotism in hiring, as employment is an age-old tool of the spoils system. Unless you are a federal employee applying to a position only open to other federal employees, you stand just about as much chance of getting the job as any other random schmo with the same qualifications. Knowing a guy just doesn't matter nearly as much.

And there are tons of people with the right qualifications, especially these days. Federal jobs are viewed as being pretty cushy--adequate salary and ridiculous benefits--so that combined with persistently high unemployment has a lot of people trying to land a federal job.

All of that being said, supervisors going out of their way to sabotage an employee's job search isn't something limited to the federal government. This isn't illegal per se, but it does open the supervisor up to a claim for defamation. Good luck proving it though; you'll need to prove that 1) the supervisor said bad things about you, 2) those things weren't true, and 3) those things were the deciding--or at least a major--factor in you not getting the job. Not a very easy road to hoe.
posted by valkyryn at 5:37 AM on October 20, 2010 [4 favorites]

I'm a federal employment lawyer. There is no law. The way the system works is that HR will gather the applications up and make a Best Qualified List and then send the people on those list those letters. The fact that you are on that list only meets the minimum qualifications. Guarantees nothing.

The employees in question would only have there references checked or supervisors called if they interviewed for the job and if they were strongly being considered.

Generally, federal employees are uninformed about this system,

Check title 5 of the Code of Federal Regulations. MeMail me if you need more. There's zero story here.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:48 AM on October 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

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