If Dale Hausner illustrates anything whatever it is that a government job is a lifelong sinecure. And this isn’t only because the percentage of employees of the federal government who are dismissed from their positions for all of the usual reasons (lousy performance, sky-high absenteeism, gross misconduct) was at one-half of one percent last year, a sixth of what it was in corporate America. Government workers, state and federal, enjoy a litany of special protections, nifty privileges of the kind that sustained Hausner’s appeal to the Phoenix Civil Service Board well after he had settled in as a resident of an Arizona maximum security penal facility.
Hausner was an employee at the Sky Harbor International Airport, where he earned performance reviews which in the private sector would have kept him up at nights worrying about his future. Instead, Hausner was up at nights stalking innocent citizens to their deaths. In all, he murdered at least six and inflicted gunshot wounds upon 19 while terrorizing everyone in the Phoenix area for a period of more than a year.
When Hausner was arrested in August of 2006, he was released from his job as airport custodian, and one would think that that would be, as they say, that. But it wasn’t. The custodian at Sky Harbor, like other government employees, is festooned with a staggering assortment of due process rights that are utterly unknown in the rest of the American economy. Because of the one that protects city employees from being disciplined too harshly or hastily, Hausner was able to appeal his termination. Indeed, he was able to actively appeal his case for three years while he resided in prison. In March of 2009, Hausner was found guilty of first-degree murder and received a death sentence, news of which did reach the Phoenix Civil Service Board. However, the Board, not wishing to be hasty, didn’t find grounds to end the appeal until April, a month after a convicted serial killer had been consigned to death row.
Among tenured faculty it is well-known that one has to go to extraordinary lengths of wrongdoing to get fired, but NEA statistics reveal that two percent of such teachers are dismissed annually. That is four times the rate among employees of the federal government. According to a Goldwater Institute report of December 2010, “A government job carries with it a constitutionally protected property right in most cases. [State employees] are protected by state laws, personnel rules, appeals procedures, court precedents, and sometimes union contracts that lay out a series of complicated, costly and time-consuming procedures” that must be observed prior to termination, suspension, or demotion. On July 19, 2011, USA Today reported that “the primary threat to job security at the Environmental Protection Agency, the Small Business Administration, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Office of Management and Budget and a dozen other federal operations” is death. That is, many more employees lose a job in these government agencies due to death than any other cause.
This is by no means to suggest that there are not excellent employees—hard-working, honest, professional—in local, state, and federal government. However, I am suggesting that if job security is high on your list of economic priorities, you should consider any offer of employment from a governmental body long and hard before turning it down. There are some who would kill for a government job.