As the deadline for sequestration looms, federal agencies have begun to discuss how they will achieve the mandated five percent across the board budget cuts that will be required on March 1. To achieve these cuts, many federal agencies will use unpaid furloughs, sending employees home and off their payroll.
Agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have indicated they would have six days of unpaid leave for employees, and the Department of Defense has said they may require their 800,000 employees to use 22 furlough days this year. Because personnel decisions like furloughs are appealable to the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB), that agency could be swamped by the tidal wave of appeals.
According to MSPB Executive Director Jim Eisenmann, the agency does not know what to expect should the furloughs begin, “We don’t know if it’s going to be a whole dam breaking down, or just a trickle.”
The MSPB is a small federal agency, with only 203 employees, and the irony of the sequestration is not only could they be inundated with appeals, they are subject to the mandated cuts from sequestration, so their employees could be subject furloughs at the same time they are attempting to deal with cases from other federal agencies.
It could take years for the crush of cases to work through the system, in addition to costing the federal government additional millions in legal expenses for these cases and their appeals.
Personnel decisions are always fraught with peril, and the millions of employees who will unfairly be subjected to these unnecessary furloughs, will lose pay, while the agencies lose productivity and morale.
Source: Government Executive, “MSPB Braces for Possible Flood of Furlough Appeals,” February 22, 2013