02.08.16

Op-ed: Making The Same Mistake Hundreds Of Times: The IRS Re-Hires Fired Employees

This week, Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen is set to appear before the Senate Finance Committee, and yet again, the IRS is in a sorry state. As more reports of the IRS unfairly targeting Americans come to light, taxpayers are dumbfounded about what they see as a lack of accountability at the agency and its inability to clean out bad employees. But the problem is worse than that. In hundreds of cases over a three year period, the IRS has actually hired back employees it had previously fired.

The fear of getting fired from a job – along with all of the personal and professional upheaval that can bring – lies in the hearts of many hard-working, tax-paying Americans. However, a recent investigation by a government watchdog dug up undeniable evidence that the very worst employees at the IRS don’t need to fear for their jobs.

An investigation into the hiring process at the IRS found that the agency has a history of rehiring employees who had previously been fired for misconduct. Examples of misconduct highlighted by the investigation include serious offenses like fraud, falsification of documents, and unauthorized access to taxpayer information. This is not only an affront to taxpayers, it is also a slap in the face to the public servants at the agency who do work hard every day.

Investigators looked at a sample of 7,168 rehired employees and found that 824, or 11 percent, of them had prior substantiated employment issues.

One employee even had “DO NOT REHIRE” stamped in his personnel file. He was previously fired for being absent without leave for 312 hours. If you add that up, it’s a total of two months of missed work. He was found to be employed by the IRS when the investigation was conducted. This individual is impressive only in the skill with which he has ripped off the hard working Americans who pay his salary.

The problem of rehiring fired employees is exacerbated by the complex rules that make firing a bad employee nearly impossible in the first place. Managers must make heroic efforts to fire employees for misconduct. This process can include multiple reevaluations and appeals, often dragging out for months or even years.

Firing a bad employee is so difficult at the IRS that the employees who underperform or are merely incompetent are often just tolerated or reassigned to a different position. The employees who actually do get fired after undergoing the lengthy separation process are not just bad – they are the worst of the worst.

This is unacceptable. I will not allow this problem to persist. That’s why I introduced the Ensuring Integrity in the IRS Workforce Act of 2016. My bill bans the IRS Commissioner from rehiring employees who get fired. These individuals got fired for a reason. The practice of routinely giving these bad apples a second chance is an insult to every hardworking or job-seeking person in this county. We must end it.

Senator Richard Burr is the senior senator from North Carolina and is a member of the Senate Finance Committee.

This op-ed was published in the Daily Caller.