The Merit Systems Protection Board and How It Can Protect You
As a federal employee, you may have heard of the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB), but you might not be fully aware of its purpose and how it can protect your rights. As attorneys specializing in federal employment law, we’re here to shed light on the MSPB and help you understand how this independent, quasi-judicial agency plays a crucial role in safeguarding the rights and interests of federal employees like yourself.
Understanding the Merit Systems Protection Board
The MSPB was established in 1978 as part of the Civil Service Reform Act. Its primary function is to ensure that federal employees are treated fairly and protected from any prohibited personnel practices (PPP), such as discrimination, retaliation, or other unfair treatment. The MSPB achieves this by providing an avenue for federal employees to appeal adverse personnel actions, adjudicating retaliation PPP individual right of action appeals, reviewing the rules and regulations of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), and conducting studies to promote merit system principles.
Key Functions of the MSPB
The MSPB has three main functions:
Adjudication: Federal employees can file appeals with the MSPB if they believe they have been subjected to an adverse personnel action, such as removal, suspension of 15 calendar days or more, demotions in grade, reductions in pay, or furloughs. The Board also has jurisdiction to hear Individual Right of Action appeals from OSC complaints based on retaliation claims. The MSPB reviews these appeals, conducts hearings, and issues enforceable decisions.
Rulemaking: The MSPB has the authority to review OPM rules and regulations to ensure they are consistent with merit system principles and free from prohibited personnel practices.
Research and Studies: The MSPB conducts studies on the federal workforce to identify areas for improvement and promote merit system principles throughout the federal government.
How the MSPB Can Protect Your Rights as a Federal Employee
Adverse Personnel Action Appeals
If you have been subjected to an adverse personnel action, you have the right to file an appeal with the MSPB. Examples of adverse personnel actions include:
Removal or suspension for more than 14 days
Reduction in grade or pay
Furlough for 30 days or less
Denial of within-grade salary increases
It is essential to act quickly if you wish to file an appeal, as there are strict time limits for doing so. Typically, you must file your appeal within 30 calendar days of the effective date of the adverse action.
Whistleblower Protection Appeals
If you have made a protected disclosure (i.e., blowing the whistle on fraud, waste, abuse, or other wrongdoing) and believe you have suffered retaliation as a result, you can seek relief through the MSPB. If the retaliation has not resulted in an adverse action, you must first file a complaint with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC), which will investigate your claim. If the OSC does not provide the desired relief, you can then file an Individual Right of Action (IRA) appeal with the MSPB within 65 calendar days of receiving OSC’s final determination.
USERRA and VEOA Appeals
The MSPB also hears appeals under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) and the Veterans Employment Opportunities Act (VEOA). USERRA prohibits discrimination and retaliation against individuals who serve or have served in the uniformed services, while VEOA ensures that veterans receive preference in federal hiring.
The MSPB Process and How an Attorney Can Help
Filing an appeal with the MSPB can be a complex and daunting process. It involves drafting a detailed appeal form, gathering evidence, taking and defending sworn depositions, presenting your case at a hearing, and potentially navigating further petitions for review (PFR) and court appeals if the initial decision is not favorable.
An attorney experienced in federal employment law can help guide you through this process, ensuring that your rights are protected, and your case is presented effectively. They can assist you in:
Assessing the merits of your case
Drafting a persuasive appeal form
Gathering and analyzing evidence
Taking and defending necessary sworn depositions, including yours
Preparing for and representing you at the MSPB hearing
Navigating the PFR and the appeals court process, if necessary
Ultimately, the Merit Systems Protection Board serves as a vital safeguard for federal employees, ensuring that they are treated fairly and protected from prohibited personnel practices. If you believe your rights have been violated or you need assistance navigating the MSPB process, consider reaching out to one of our experienced federal employment law attorneys to help protect your interests and achieve the best possible outcome.