What Is the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB)?

Established in 1978 as part of the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 (CSRA), the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) is housed in the Executive branch of the government and is “an independent, quasi-judicial agency” and is considered the “guardian of Federal merit systems.” In this context, a merit system is defined as the hiring and promoting process of federal employees based on their ability to perform the job in question, not based on their political affiliations or connections. The MSPB is guided by nine Merit System Principles outlined in the CSRA and codified in Title 5 U.S. Code § 2301.

One of the primary functions of the MSPB is to “protect Federal merit systems against partisan political and other prohibited personnel practices.” This is done through adjudicating appeals brought before the Board by federal employees. The MSPB is also responsible for conducting merit system studies.

It is important to note that the MSPB does not hear discrimination complaints, except when discrimination allegations are raised in an appeals case in which the MSPB has jurisdiction. Discrimination complaints are heard by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Review the MSPB website to learn more about the history and function of the MSPB.

What Types of Appeals Does the MSPB Hear?

The MSPB’s mission is to ensure that the Federal workforce is “free of Prohibited Personnel Practices.” When a federal employee believes that they have been subjected to an adverse action (such as a suspension, pay reduction, or removal) that is unfair or enacted arbitrarily, they can bring an appeal before the MSPB. Most cases that the MSPB hears are those related to agency adverse actions.

The specific actions that the MSPB is authorized to hear appeals cases for include:

  • Removals, including performance-based removals
  • Reductions in grade or pay
  • Denials of within-grade salary increases
  • Suspensions of more than 14 days
  • Furloughs of 30 days or less
  • Reduction-in-force actions
  • Denials of restoration or reemployment rights
  • Terminations of probationary employees (under certain circumstances)

The MSPB is also authorized to hear appeals cases of several OPM issues, including:

  • OPM suitability determinations
  • OPM employment practices
  • OPM determinations in retirement matters

For a more complete list of appeals cases that the Board is authorized to hear, review Title 5 of the Code of Federal Regulations § 1201.3

How to File an MSPB Appeal

MSPB appeals can be filed online using the MSPB’s e-Appeal Online website. This is the only method for online filing. If you are unable or do not want to file your appeal online, you can download and print the appeal form and file it by mail, fax, or personal or commercial delivery. Appeals must be submitted in writing, and while the appeal form is not required, it is highly recommended. In addition to the required information (as outlined by the Code of Federal Regulations), you will also need to submit the notice of proposed action, the agency’s decision to take the action being appealed, and the SF-50 or similar notification of personnel action (when available).

Generally speaking, most appeals should be submitted within 30 calendar days of the effective date of the action you are appealing or within 30 calendar days of receipt of the agency’s decision which you are appealing, whichever is later. You should be aware that certain appeals have different filing time limits (such as IRA appeals and VEOA appeals). Speak with your attorney before filing your appeal to ensure that you follow the correct procedures for your specific situation.

In cases where the appellant and the agency agree to try and resolve their issue through alternative dispute resolution, the filing window is extended by 30 days, giving the appellant a total of 60 days to file their appeal. However, in these situations, both the appellant and the agency involved must agree in writing to pursue alternative dispute resolution methods.

When going through the appeals process, the appellant may also choose any person to act as their representative, or they may represent themself. If you choose to designate a representative, you need to do so in writing. This can be done using the Designation of Representative Form.

Why You Need an MSPB Appeals Attorney

Though hiring an attorney to help you with an MSPB appeal is not necessary, it is highly recommended. The MSPB appeals process can be complicated, and failure to follow correct procedures or provide the required information can negatively impact the outcome of your appeal. Working with an experienced MSPB appeals attorney, like ours at Pines Federal, can give you the support and guidance you need throughout the appeals process.

If you are a federal employee and need help filing an appeal with the MSPB, reach out to Pines Federal. Our team of legal professionals is standing by to help you today.