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Most agency personnel decisions upheld on appeal

Nearly 75 percent of agency personnel decisions were upheld on appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board in fiscal 2002, according to a recent report.

At 17 agencies, including the Army, the General Services Administration and the Agriculture Department, personnel decisions were upheld more than 90 percent of the time, MSPB noted in its fiscal 2002 annual report.

MSPB decides federal employees' appeals of major agency personnel actions, including dismissals, demotions and reductions in force. During fiscal 2002, nearly 6,400 cases were forwarded to the agency, but 3,377 of them were dismissed, usually due to lack of jurisdiction or lack of timeliness. Of the 3,001 cases remaining, more than half were settled.

Of the 1,372 cases in which MSPB issued a ruling, three fourths were decided in favor of agencies. Only 303 cases were reversed by MSPB. Most of those originated at the Office of Personnel Management, where 182 cases were reversed.

By law, agencies must operate their human resources management programs in accordance with merit system principles of fairness, efficiency and objectivity under Title 5 of the U.S. Code. Only agencies that deal with national security, such as the CIA, FBI, Defense Intelligence Agency and National Imagery and Mapping Agency, are exempt from the rules.

In fiscal 2002, Postal Service employees sent the most appeals to MPSB, and consequently had the most dismissed cases, with 814 of 1,442 appeals rejected. But the Postal Service also had the largest number of settled cases. Just 178 of its cases actually were decided by the board. In fiscal 2001, the Postal Service had fewer cases dismissed, but a greater number of cases were settled.

OPM sent 1,413 cases to MSPB in 2002, 38 percent of which were dismissed. But the board adjudicated more than 600 OPM appeals. Just 234 OPM cases were settled. In the previous fiscal year, the board adjudicated 688 OPM cases, and 293 were settled.

According to MSPB, most of the OPM appeals involve retirement cases. OPM oversees the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) and the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS).