Bills on Discipline, Employee Rights Advancing

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee is set to advance S-696, to bar employees who commit misconduct that could lead to a suspension or stronger disciplinary action from eligibility for various types of monetary awards for five years, and that similarly would require repayment of awards already paid if a violation is found retroactively.

The Senate meanwhile has passed S-1083, which would allow the MSPB to order longer “stays” in personnel decisions against federal employees at the request of the Office of Special Counsel, during times–such as the present–that the three-member MSPB lacks a quorum. OSC typically asks for such delays when it is investigating whether an action, typically some type of discipline, is one of the “prohibited personnel practices,” such as retaliation for whistleblowing. With only one member, it can issue only an initial 45-day stay but not any extension should the OSC investigation still be continuing past that time.

The merit board has been operating with only one member since early in the year, with no nominations for the other two seats having been submitted. Hearing officers are continuing to decide cases but the higher-level board cannot hear any appeals of such decisions, which may be steered into federal court instead.