Why Are the Merit System Principles Important?

How the MSPB Is Designed to Protect Federal Employees

The U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) is an independent agency in the Executive branch that serves as the guardian of Federal merit systems. The Board was established by Reorganization Plan No. 2 of 1978, which was codified by the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978. The mission of the MSPB is to “protect the merit systems principles and promote an effective Federal workforce free of Personnel Practices.”

In order to enforce this standard, the MSPB released the merit system principles. The merit system principles are the public’s expectations of a system that is efficient, effective, fair, open to all, free from political interference, and staffed by honest, competent, and dedicated employees. Section 2301 of Title 5, United States Code states that federal personnel management should be implemented consistently with the following principles:

  • All employees and applicants for employment should receive fair and equitable treatment in the aspects of personnel management without regard to political affiliation, race, color, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, age, or handicapping condition, and with proper regard for their privacy and constitutional rights.
  • Equal pay should be provided for work of equal value, with appropriate consideration of both national and local rates paid by employers in the private sector. Appropriate incentives and recognition should be provided for excellence in performance.
  • Recruitment should be from qualified individuals from appropriate sources in an endeavor to achieve a work force from all segments of society. Selection and advancement should be determined solely on the basis of relative ability, knowledge, skills, after fair and open competition that assures all receive equal opportunity.
  • All employees should maintain high standards of integrity, conduct, and concern for the public interest.
  • The Federal work force should be used efficiently and effectively.
  • Employees should be provided effective education and training in cases in which such education and training would result in better organizational and individual performance.
  • Employees should be retained on the basis of adequacy of their performance. Inadequate performance should be corrected and employees should be separated who cannot or will not improve their performance to meet required standards.
  • Employees should be protected against arbitrary action, personal favoritism, or coercion for partisan political purposes and prohibited from using their official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with or affecting the result of an election or a nomination for election.
  • Employees should be protected against reprisal for the lawful disclosure of information which the employees reasonably believe evidences a violation of any law, rule, regulation, or mismanagement, a gross waste of funds, an abuse of authority, or a substantial and specific danger to public health and safety.

These principles are so important because they provide delegation, accountability, empowerment, and flexibility, four qualities that are essential for a functioning federal workplace. It is up to the managers within the organizations to facilitate these principles.

Merit System Principles and OSC Complaints

When a federal employee, applicant, or former employee files a complaint with Office of Special Counsel (OSC) alleging that a prohibited personnel practice (PPP) occurred, OSC assigns the case to an examiner. A violation of merit system principles is a valid reason for an employee to file an OSC complaint. One of the most common reasons OSC complaints are filed is due to discrimination against an employee or applicant based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability (or handicapping condition), marital status, or political affiliation.

The Merit Systems Protection Board offers whistleblower protection against reprisal for individuals who disclose wrongful conduct in an attempt to create a more effective civil service. Whistleblowers are doing their part to create an effective civil service because they are in the bet position to witness agency wrongdoing, and our team is here to help them in this goal.

At The Law Firm of John P. Mahoney, Esq., Attorneys at Law, we can represent and advise federal employees who need to file a complaint with the OSC, including violations of merit system principles. We support your due diligence in this process and want to help make it as simple as possible. We will help you file the correct paperwork and make sure you are presenting your points properly for the investigation. If you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of needing to file such a complaint, for a merit system violation or any other reason, we want to make sure your best interests are protected.

To learn more about the merit system principles and how you would file an OSC complaint, call The Law Firm of John P. Mahoney, Esq., Attorneys at Law at (202) 759-7780 or contact us online.

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