MSPB moves forward with furlough appeals

Tuesday - 9/10/2013, 5:36am EDT

Susan Tsui Grundmann, chairman of the Merit Systems Protection Board, on the Federal Drive with Tom Temin and Emily Kopp.

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With the end of the fiscal year approaching, federal employees are finally seeing some relief from furloughs, and so is the Merit Systems Protection Board.

The number of furlough appeals coming in each day is steadily decreasing, allowing the board to move forward with the more than 32,000 claims it has received in FY 2013.

"Recall back in July, we were getting thousands every day," MSPB Chairman Susan Tsui Grundmann said on the Federal Drive with Tom Temin and Emily Kopp. "The wave seems to have crested."

Of the 32,000 furlough appeals, 99 percent came from civilian employees of the Department of Defense.

Now the board is consolidating the appeals, preparing them for adjudication.

"Our regulations allow our administrative judges to consolidate cases with similar issues that would expedite the adjudication process. And I'm talking about same witnesses, same evidence, same location — those are all factors," Grundmann said.

Due to the volume of appeals, the board had to docket the claims before taking further action. The docketing process "helps us identify what types of issues are being raised. ... Not every case can be consolidated, but with 32,000-plus cases, you can expect some sort of consolidation in order for us to get through all these cases in a reasonably timely fashion," Grundmann said. "Right now, we do have a number of cases that are consolidated and heading into the adjudication process."

Offices in Philadelphia, San Francisco and Denver are consolidating cases based on the same workplace.

Parties involved in those cases that are moving to the adjudication process will receive acknowledgment orders from the board, Grundmann said. The orders tell the next steps, including documents the agency needs to file.

Grundmann described the main issues that were brought up in the appeals:

  • The furloughs were not necessary to save money;
  • The agency could have made different spending decisions to prevent furloughs;
  • Some employees were furloughed, while others were not;
  • Furloughs were unjustified for disciplinary reasons, not budgetary reasons.

To date, no employee has won a furlough appeal case.

In addition to furlough appeal cases, MSPB also processes claims from veterans, employees in non-critical sensitive positions and whistleblowers. "We're plenty busy," Grundmann said.

Typically, the board processes between 6,000 and 7,000 cases per year.

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