As of March 1, the Merit Systems Protection Board no longer has any members. The three-member board has been without a two-member quorum since January 2017, when one of two remaining board members' term expired. The other remaining member's term expired March 1 after having been extended for a year.
The Merit Systems Protection Board was established in 1978 to protect federal employees from unfair treatment at work and to promote the Merit System Principles. The MSPB comes into play when federal employees have blown the whistle on fraud or mismanagement, or when civil servants have complained of bias, arbitrariness, retaliation or other wrongful treatment in the workplace and need to appeal. It also provides independent research and analysis on the merit systems for the executive branch.
In July 2017, the Office of Special Counsel called on all federal agencies to disallow unpaid union official leave when its purpose was for an employee to engage in "partisan political activity." It claimed that allowing leave for that purpose violates the Hatch Act, which limits federal employees' participation in political campaign activities.
The All Circuit Review Act was signed into law on July 9 after a six-year pilot program. It gives federal employees to appeal Merit Systems Protection Board decisions to any federal appellate court of competent jurisdiction, which means any U.S. court of appeals. In the past, these decisions could only be appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, D.C.
In his State of the Union address, President Trump urged lawmakers to make it easier to "remove federal employees who undermine the public trust or fail the American people." As an example, he referred to the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act that he signed into law in June of last year.
A Veterans Affairs employee recently appealed his indefinite suspension beyond the Merit Systems Protection Board to the federal courts. Unfortunately for this employee, his appeal was unsuccessful, but federal employees should know that there appeals both within and beyond the MSPB.
Sexual harassment remains a serious problem in the workplace in Texas and among federal workers. Recent scandals of high-profile members of Congress do not touch the depth of the problem, however, and the executive branch could be facing more scrutiny in the future than it has in the past. There is a government-wide study on the subject of sexual harassment but that has been held up.
With primary elections approaching, now is a good time to reiterate a few rules under the Hatch Act. The federal law, which was most recently amended in 2012, forbids federal workers from doing a number of things, all of which are political. Federal employees are forbidden to take part in political activities while at work or on federal property; receive or solicit political contributions while on duty; and run for office in a partisan election.