More employees are contesting negative performance appraisals, denials of step increases that would raise their pay, and other personnel actions that negatively affect them, Merit Systems Protection Board records show.
The board last year decided more appeals of performance actions and step-increase denials in at least eight years.
In its annual report, released Jan. 31, MSPB said the federal budget crunch — which has already meant pay scale freezes and restrictions on performance awards — may be driving the increase in such appeals.
“Constraints on pay and awards may also shift employees’ attention to the application of performance appraisal systems and ratings, which could in turn increase performance-based appeals to MSPB,” the report said.
And the threat of furloughs or layoffs could prompt disgruntled federal employees to file many more appeals, MSPB said.
“Historical trends indicate that increasing [reductions in force, or layoffs] would lead to potentially large increases in the number of appeals filed with MSPB,” the report said.
MSPB decided 155 performance action appeals in fiscal 2012, a 41 percent increase over fiscal 2011, and the highest since 2004, when MSPB decided 158 appeals.
The board decided 42 appeals of denials of within-grade step increases in 2012, a 27 percent increase over the previous year, and the highest since 1999, when MSPB decided 45 such appeals.
Adverse action appeals, which are by far the most common, increased 2 percent in 2012 to 2,798.
The report does not indicate how many of the various appeals were decided in employees’ favor.
MSPB said that continuing to freeze employee pay and reducing hiring and training also could do long-term harm on the federal workforce’s efficiency and effectiveness, and hurt the government’s ability to follow merit systems protections and avoid prohibited personnel practices.
“It could take years for federal agencies to recover from these issues,” MSPB said.
The law firm Tully Rinckey, which handles federal employment and discrimination issues, said that federal employees should remember their options for appealing or grieving a negative performance appraisal.
“Although the federal government strives to keep performance appraisals as objective as possible, some subjectivity seeps into the system and may influence it,” said John Mahoney, chairman of Tully Rinckey’s labor and employment law practice group. “Federal employees deserve to be recognized for the hard work they do, and unacceptable performers need to be properly rehabilitated or disciplined if bad performance does not improve.”