How Does the Merit Systems Protection Board Serve Federal Employees?

Jun 22, 2017


The Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) is an independent and semi-judicial agency and is known as the “guardian of Federal merit systems”. It is part of the Executive Branch of the U.S. government and was established in 1979.


If you are a civil servant and lose your job, generally you can appeal to the MSPB. They also handle suspensions lasting more than 14 days, pay/grade reductions, and furloughs lasting less than 30 days. Further, they handle a lot of retirement matters, especially if a federal disability retirement case has been denied twice.

Under the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989, a federal employee who alleges a personnel action was taken (or threatened) due to whistleblowing may seek corrective actions from the Board directly. They also deal with cases that have a discrimination aspect to them.

If an employee is not satisfied with the Board’s final decision, they can request that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission review the Board’s decision. Then, if the EEOC and Board can’t come to an agreement, the case if then referred to the Special Panel for final resolution. The Special Panel consists of a chairman who is appointed by the President, one member of the Board appointed by the MSPB Chairman, and finally one EEOC Commissioner appointed by the EEOC Chairman.

Merit Systems Studies

The Board also conducts merit systems studies. Earlier this year, the MSPB reported on its study of effective hiring practices in the federal government. They analyzed data and examined all areas of the hiring process, including internal processes, advertising online, and candidate assessments.

Organizational Principles

MSPB follows a list of merit systems principles. They include:

  • Encouraging diversity in hiring practices
  • Non-discrimination on basis of gender, race, religion, marital status, national origin, political affiliation, handicapped condition
  • Equal pay for work of equal value
  • Protection from reprisals if an employee reports misdeeds such as waste of funds, mismanagement, or danger to public health

Filing an Appeal

Most appeals are covered under 5 C.F.R. §§ 1201.24. An appellant can raise a claim or defense, not included in the appeal, at any time before the end of any conferences being held, to define the issues in the case. After that time, no new claims or defense can be raised, except for a showing of good cause.

Most appeals must be filed within 30 days of the initial agency action, or within 30 days of receiving the agency’s decision, whichever is last. If the parties agree to attempt a mediation, that creates an extension. As a result, the amount of time to file is extended by 30 days. This brings the total time frame to 60 days.

After Filing an Appeal

The Administrative Judge assigned to the case will issue an Acknowledgement Order. This sends a copy of the appeal to the agency and it directs the agency to submit a statement to its reason for taking the action/decision being challenged. The Acknowledgement Order will also order the appellant to submit evidence and make arguments.

The AJ will issue notices and orders and generally hold one or more prehearing conferences. The purpose of these is to clarify and narrow down the issues being appealed. After the hearing, the AJ issues an initial decision. The decision is required to identify all material issues of fact and law, summarize evidence, resolve any creditability issues, and include the AJ’s conclusions of law and legal reasoning.

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