Civil Service And Civil Service Reform Act of 1978


The civil service describes the body of professionals and highly qualified personnel employed to serve in the public sector for the purposes of delivering impartial government services to all citizens. The main duty of civil servants is to represent the interests of the public and to work in the best interest of everyone. Civil servants are not appointees of government but rather professional workers employed based on merit. This paper elaborates on the state of civil service before the enactment of the 1978 civil service act as well as the impact the act has had on civil service.

Civil Service before the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978

In the periods canvassing the early 19th Century, civil servants that worked in the federal government were employed at the pleasure of the president. This means that the president could therefore fire them at will for any wrong-doing or for no reason at all. In some instances, due to politics being tied to job positions at government level, some employees were required to take sides politically if their jobs were to be safe. By around 1910, there was a change and most civil servants were employed based on merit. The Hatch Act of 1939 restricted civil servants from taking part in political activities in order for them to focus on serving everyone impartially. The U.S. Civil Service Commission which was established in 1883 was at the forefront of enforcing a merit-based system in the employment of civil servants. Lloyd-La Follette Act of 1912 gave civil servants the right to form unions and to petition government.

Civil Service since the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978

The Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 abolished the U.S. Civil Service Commission. The position of the Civil Service Commission was then taken up by three newly created bodies which are: Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA), Office of Personnel Management, and the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board. The Office of Personnel Management is tasked with the provision of management advice and guidance to the sectors of the executive government (Boeckelman, 2016). The body also provides the regulations and policies that guide and control the human resources of the government. The U.S. Merit System Protection Board conducts research on civil servants and is in charge of hearing and determining appeals of civil servants who have been fired or disciplined. The Federal Labor Relations Authority is in charge of the rights of civil servants at the federal level (Boeckelman, 2016). It ensures that civil servants sign into correct collective bargaining agreements and that they make use of collective bargaining agreements when being employed by government agencies in order for their jobs to be secured. The main purpose of the 1978 act was to increase efficiency in civil service as well as eliminate loopholes through which people could cheat the system and get into civil service without meeting the required set standards.

Implications of the Act of 1978

The Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 has had many implications on the face and the nature of the civil service since its enactment. The act formally ended the ambiguity that existed in civil service where no actual system of merit was used to employee personnel who could work as civil servants at various levels in government (Brewer & Kellough, 2016). The merit system introduced in 1978 stipulates how civil servants are to be employed and as such there has been witnessed a huge increase in efficiency and transparency in the delivery of services by civil servants (Brunsson & Olsen, 2018). This has been attributed to the right people being in place. The act also made it possible for civil servants to form labor unions that would help them to spearhead their grievances. In every sector of civil service currently, there are labor unions that push and fight for the right of workers.

Additional Federal Laws that have contributed to Diverse Workplaces

There are numerous federal legislations that have been passed over the years that have gone a long way in ensuring that there is no discrimination in the workplace. This has had many positive consequences including the fact that it has ensured that there is a diverse workforce in the realm of civil service. Federal Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Laws protect potential workers of different workers. Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA) makes it illegal to discriminate a person based on their genetic information. The 1991 Civil Rights Act demands that monetary damages should be paid to anyone that is discriminated against in matters to do with employment.  Additionally, the 1964 Civil Rights Act makes it illegal to discriminate against a person as far as employment is concerned based on their race, national origin, religion and gender (Eisenberg, 2015).  These regulations have played a huge role in creating a diverse workforce and their continued enforcement is of paramount significant to the quality of civil service.


The above elaboration has made it abundantly clear that the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 inaugurated sweeping changes in the civil service. Before the passage of the act, efficiency in the provision of public services was markedly below the required standards due to employment of unqualified people. The rights of civil servants were also not adequately addressed and therefore could find themselves in great danger of being abused. Additional legal frameworks like the 1964 Civil Rights Act have also contributed immensely in creation of diversity in civil service.

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