The MSPB has sent to Congress an unusual “bypass request,” seeking more money for fiscal 2021 than the White House’s budget request would provide for the agency, on grounds that it expects an increase in its workload due to recent changes in law and actions by the administration.
While the White House wants $42.2 million for the MSPB, the agency is asking for $46.8 million. It said the lower figure would cause the labor-intensive agency to cut staff, which would have “a direct impact on MSPB’s mission, contributing to a significant increase in processing time” for initial appeals to hearing officers and for appeals from them to the board, while also hampering its other operations.
A backlog of more than 2,500 cases has built up in the three years that the board has lacked the members needed to issue decisions.
The workload will increase when it again has a quorum — nominees for all three seats have been awaiting a Senate vote for months — and starts issuing decisions, some of those rulings will require further work by the hearing officers, it said.
Further, it expects that proposed OPM rules to carry out one of the administration’s executive orders on federal employee appeals will result in more work for hearing officers and the board.
Those rules would bar agencies from agreeing to remove any reference to the proposed disciplinary action from the person’s personnel files and also would bar “any settlement agreement in which an action is mitigated, changed to a no-fault reason, or in any way changed or corrected without admission of error by the agency.”
“The provision limits the potential for reaching an agreement and settling cases on terms both parties might otherwise find appropriate,” the MSPB said—an effect already being seen at the hearing officer level, according to an annual MSPB report issued recently.
Other recent developments that it said could increase its appeals workload include: the administration’s plans to reorganize agencies, which could trigger furloughs, RIFs and other appealable actions; a law requiring that when an employee resigns while under investigation any eventual finding against the employee must be put in their personnel files; a law requiring discipline against supervisors found to have retaliated against whistleblowers; and laws broadening the scope of whistleblower protections.
MSPB Says Impact from Leadership Void Is Showing (12/10/2019)