Supreme Court: Feds can challenge MSPB decisions in federal district court

J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Federal employees can take their discrimination complaints to federal district court after an initial government ruling, the Supreme Court ruled Monday. 

Previously, employees with complaints involving both unwarranted personnel actions and discrimination -- known as “mixed cases” -- were forced to take their case to the U.S. Court of Appeals if they wanted to challenge the decision by the quasi-judicial Merit Systems Protection Board.

The high court’s unanimous decision in Kloeckner v. Solis will reverse the 1978 Civil Service Reform Act’s mandate that procedural rulings by MPSB can be challenged only in appeals court.

Carolyn Kloeckner filed her suit against Labor Secretary Hilda Solis after she felt discriminated against and wrongfully terminated at the Labor Department. Kloeckner was forced to take her case to appeals court when MSPB dismissed it.

The National Treasury Employees Union praised the decision, saying it will allow federal employees to receive a broader review process.

“The court took the government to task for its ‘mazelike’ and ‘round-about’ arguments, and held that the path for appeal in mixed cases is ‘crystalline,’ ” said Colleen Kelley, the union’s president. “NTEU recognizes that it is important that federal employees have broader appeal rights in connection with these very serious personnel matters than the narrow review employees would have received in the U.S. Court of Appeals.”

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