AFGE’s National President J. David Cox

AFGE’s National President J. David Cox AFGE

MSPB Could Face ‘Unprecedented’ Wave of Furlough Appeals

Union encouraging members to challenge all furlough decisions.

The Merit Systems Protection Board is bracing for the “unprecedented situation” of mass furlough appeals, according to an agency official.

MSPB -- a quasi-judicial, independent agency that adjudicates appeals of “adverse personnel actions” from federal employees -- is responsible for issuing rulings on furlough appeals. Bryan Polisuk, general counsel for MSPB, said the board does not know what to anticipate regarding the possibility of a wave of appeals.

“We’re taking a wait-and-see approach,” Polisuk told Government Executive. “We’re considering different things in an effort to handle the appeals, but we have to see if they come.”

MSPB had received 140 sequestration furlough appeals as of June 3, Polisuk said. The vast majority of those were from Federal Aviation Administration workers, some of whom were furloughed for one day before Congress allowed a reprogramming of funds that made the unpaid leave unnecessary.

The board -- which has 204 employees in Washington, D.C. and across eight regional offices -- could face a wave of appeals in the coming weeks, with the nation’s largest federal employee union imploring all its furloughed members -- especially those at the Defense Department, which plans to force 650,000 civilians to take 11 days of unpaid leave -- to challenge the decisions with MSPB.

“We are encouraging all our members to appeal the furlough notice and we are doing everything we can to assist them in that process,” American Federation of Government Employees spokesman Tim Kauffman said.

AFGE’s National President J. David Cox said the Pentagon is “violating the law” by maintaining a departmentwide civilian furlough policy even though some Defense agencies have said they do not require furloughs.

“It may go all the way through the process and we may lose,” Cox recently said on the radio program Inside Government. “There’s one thing about a labor union: we fight every battle. We fight every round.”

MSPB currently handles around 6,000 appeals annually. If even 1 percent of furloughed Defense employees follow through with an appeal, it alone would trump that total.

“This is an unprecedented situation,” Polisuk said. “There’s really no roadmap. We will handle that accordingly.”

He added there is no specific timetable to review each case, and the timing would depend on what is alleged. “We’re going to try to do this in the most efficient way possible,” Polisuk said.

MSPB has already received 30 appeals from Defense employees, though they were rejected as premature; an employee may only issue an appeal after the furlough has gone into effect.