The personnel rules that apply to federal government workers and workers for federal contractors amount to what many might consider a bureaucracy within a bureaucracy. As we noted in a post back in September, it can be confusing to know what constitutes an adverse job action. And even when you are sure you've suffered an unfair or illegal practice, it can be difficult to know your legal options without consulting an attorney.
As that previous post noted, workers facing demotion, suspension or being fired have rights. These include receiving notice if you are being investigated and about any possible action before it's finalized. You also have a right to make a case to challenge the action through an appeal to the Merit System Protection Board.
MSPB appeal steps in brief
The appeals process can seem like a bureaucratic quagmire. Working with a reliable advocate can prevent a worker from getting lost. Another is having an idea of how the appeals process works. What follows is only a rough sketch because circumstances of each case tend to require different strategies.
- Filing the appeal: The process begins with the filing. It must be done in writing and most must be filed within 30 days of the disputed action. It can be done through online application or a downloadable form. Whatever format is used, the appeal must include all the information required by MSPB regulations. It must be mailed, faxed or hand delivered, not emailed.
- Evidence gathering: Once an Administrative Judge is assigned, the employee and agency will be asked to submit relevant supporting information. This might occur several times.
- Hearings: The AJ may call one or more hearings to elicit additional information from both sides. However, the appellant may waive hearings.
- Initial decision: As the name implies, this is preliminary. Though, it must include all material facts and address the issues of law.
- Final determination: If neither side requests a review by the MSPB of the initial ruling within 35 days, it becomes final. Here again, the timing can differ.
The rights under the law are there for worker protection, but as this post suggests, it can become easy to get lost in a juridical maze unless you take proper care.