A federal appeals court has found that the MSPB took too narrow a view of whistleblower protections, agreeing with the Office of Special Counsel that an employee does not need to provide “precise” details of a claim in order to pursue a complaint of retaliation.

The case involved an employee who contended that he was fired in reprisal for his disclosures to his agency and its IG office regarding nepotism. However, the MSPB held that he had not informed the OSC of the details of those disclosures and thus had not exhausted his “administrative remedies” there, as required before filing a complaint directly with the MSPB.


When he appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the OSC intervened on his side, arguing that the merit board had created a procedural hurdle for whistleblowers not in the law.

The court agreed, finding that the employee had provided the OSC with sufficiently detailed and clear notice” of the whistleblower retaliation claim to investigate. The court sent the case back to the MSPB to decide.