The MSPB is Essentially Nonexistent Right Now. Here’s Why That’s a Problem.

The U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) was created to protect federal employees. However, if something goes wrong, you might not be able to count on MSPB. Here’s why you need to take charge of your own protection.


About the MSPB

The MSPB is an independent and quasi-judicial agency that formed in 1979 as a result of the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 (CSRA). The CSRA also created the Office of Special Counsel (OSC), which is responsible for investigating allegations of prohibited personnel practices, prosecuting violations of civil service regulations and enforcing the Hatch Act. 


The MSPB’s mission is to “Protect the Merit System Principles and promote an effective Federal workforce free of Prohibited Personnel Practices.”


Why You Can’t Rely on the MSPB

Although the MSPB provides important support to federal employees in theory, the recent reality has been less reassuring.


According to an article published in the Federal News Network in early 2020, the three-member MSPB board had not had a quorum in three years. This means that although decisions can be issued by administrative judges, if one of the parties objects to the decision and files an appeal, no decision can be reached on the petition for review. Even worse, there had been no members on the board since March of the previous year, and at the end of 2019, the board had a backlog of 2,529 pending appeals.


Further complicating matters, an article from Government Executive explains that the previous administration has argued that administrative judges can’t hear appeals of decisions to fire career federal employees, and federal agencies sometimes claim that judges on the MSPB were not lawfully appointed and cannot hear appeals. The resulting situation has left some employees in a very difficult situation, without a clear protocol to follow if they want to attempt to win their jobs back.


The situation has been especially frustrating recently, but even in the best of times, things were not necessarily ideal for employees who depended on the decisions of the MSPB. For example, Kohn, Kohn & Colapinto warns that even when the MSPB is fully functioning, federal employees win only 3% of cases.


Take Protection into Your Own Hands

Due to the massive backlog of cases, even if the situation resolves soon, it will be a while before the MSPB can hear new cases. In the meantime, federal employees need to take career protection into their own hands by purchasing insurance.


In reality, this is virtually always a good idea. Although you might want to believe that your agency will have your back if you’re accused of discrimination, harassment or wrongdoing, this is not necessarily the case.


Through the purchase of Federal Employee Professional Liability Insurance (FEPLI), you can take control of many liability risks inherent to your job. If a covered case is ever brought against you, your FEPLI coverage can facilitate the representation and legal support you will need and will help with the costs of defending your case.


Federal employees face many liability exposures, making liability insurance an important coverage type. Once you’ve secured coverage, you can focus on doing your job well, instead of worrying about your future.


Policies are available for federal employees and contractors, as well as former federal employees. You may also qualify for reimbursement of your premiums for up to 50% (up to $150) from your agency. 1


Learn more about FEPLI coverage here.



1 Section 642 of Public Law 106-58 requires Federal agencies reimburse qualified Federal employees, including law enforcement officers, supervisors, and managers for up to one-half of the cost of professional liability insurance.

Article authored by and containing the opinions of Starr Wright USA. This article is offered solely for informational purposes.Starr Wright USA is a marketing name for Starr Wright Insurance Agency, Inc. and its affiliate(s). Starr Wright USA is an insurance agency specializing in insurance solutions for federal employees and federal contractors. For more information, visit Starr Wright USA is a division of Starr Insurance Companies, which is a marketing name for the operating insurance and travel assistance companies and subsidiaries of Starr International Company, Inc. and for the investment business of C.V. Starr & Co., Inc.