In an unusual move, the MSPB has called to the attention of the new Congress and the new administration several reports that in sum, argue against significant changes in federal disciplinary and appeals practices.
The MSPB – which decides most such appeals – “has a responsibility to ensure that Congress and the President have the information they need to make well-informed decisions about the civil service,” said board member Mark Robbins, who is acting chairman while the other two seats on the board are vacant.
One of those reports explains the structure of the disciplinary and appeals system, including a description of how those rights came about and the purposes they serve. The other is based on a survey of supervisors and managers regarding their experiences with taking disciplinary action. That study, for example, concluded that the greatest barriers to addressing employee misconduct lie not in the protections employees have under the law but within agencies, including the general culture and the lack of support from higher management for those who try to impose discipline on subordinates.
While majorities of managers and supervisors said that taking disciplinary action is harder than it should be, that report added, even larger majorities said that employees should be protected against improper or erroneous discipline. And they overall rated getting a pool of quality candidates for vacancies and other management tasks as more difficult than addressing poor performance or misconduct.
Federal employee organizations and their allies in Congress likely will use such findings to argue that any problems with the disciplinary process lie not in employees’ rights but in how agencies apply the law.