The MSPB has said it is virtually—99.5 percent—finished with processing appeals of furloughs resulting from the 2013 sequestration budget limits, cases that challenged management’s discretion to choose how to allocate funding and designate certain functions as the highest priority—and in which management was upheld in nearly every case.
Of some 32,000 employees who filed appeals—at the urging unions, in many cases—only a few prevailed, mostly on grounds that management had incorrectly applied its own policies regarding exemptions for security, health, safety or similar reasons, rather than due to any fault in the policies themselves. Many of the individual appeals were consolidated into cases involving the same basic set of facts.
The sequester produced a variety of outcomes: for various reasons, some agencies didn’t furlough any employees, some furloughed some but not others, and some furloughed nearly everyone. The length of the furloughs also varied, with the days scattered over several months. Unlike the separate furloughs in 2013 related to the partial government shutdown that October, employees were not paid retroactively for the furlough time due to the sequester.
While the MSPB has now processed the largest surge in its workload since the firing of air traffic controllers for striking in the 1980s, MSPB said in its annual report that it continues to face several management challenges. These include the continued need to upgrade IT; prospects of tight budget; prospects of a shortened appeal process for VA employees that would require MSPB to divert attention from other cases in order to meet those deadlines; and that nearly a quarter of its workforce will be retirement-eligible within two years.
MSPB also currently has only one sitting member on its three-member board, meaning that it cannot decide appeals until at least one more member is nominated and confirmed. Hearing officers are continuing to decide cases, but appeals of those decisions to the merit board will be held in abeyance; appeals into federal court are an option, but a more complex and costly one.