25 September 2023

UNITED STATES: PS complaints tribunal suspended

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A tribunal that is supposed to hear complaints lodged by US Public Servants alleging unfair treatment by their employers is in suspension through lack of appointments to its panel.

The Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) is supposed to have three members appointed by the White House and confirmed by the Senate.

However, since January last year it has only one member, causing the absence of a quorum, which prevents it from deciding any appeals.

More than 1.000 cases have piled up as a result, with some going back to 2014.

Of the cases waiting for resolution, 216 concern whistleblowing, while others involve discrimination complaints, terminations, adverse actions, and other personnel actions.

There are hundreds more cases in the pipeline being readied to join the ever-growing backlog.

The seven-year term of the lone remaining board member, Mark Robbins expired on 1 March.

Under current legislation, he may remain for a year unless replaced sooner.

On 12 March, President, Donald Trump nominated two MSPB members, Andrew Maunz and Dennis Dean Kirk.

However, Mr Maunz was nominated to replace Mr Robbins, thereby voiding all the internal votes and opinions Robbins has been preparing for the past 18 months.

Neither nominee has even an initial Senate hearing date, meaning this legal impasse will be prolonged.

Senior Counsel for Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), Paula Dinerstein said that through its inattention, the White House had caused a merit system train-wreck in which whistleblower protections and other safeguards were functionally nullified.

She said even if a whistleblower won an initial decision from an MSPB Administrative Judge, an Agency appeal to the full MSPB threw that victory into indefinite abeyance.

“If justice delayed is justice denied, the Federal service is suffering an injustice epidemic,” Ms Dinerstein said.

She said an Executive Order signed by Mr Trump made a bad situation worse by ordering that adverse actions be speeded up and discouraging settlements, forcing more cases into litigation before a moribund MSPB.

“President Trump is not draining the swamp, he is clogging it,” Ms Dinerstein said.

“The Federal service cannot be run like an episode of Celebrity Apprentice with a ‘You’re Fired’ edict wrapped up before the commercial break.”

Washington, DC, 20 June 2018

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