With the Defense Department set to lay out a final furlough policy today, the Merit Systems Protection Board has rejected a union’s request for a heads-up on how it could decide appeals from employees who challenge the decision to force them to take unpaid time off.
“Under federal law, the Board is prohibited from issuing advisory opinions,” the agency’s clerk, William Spencer, said in a letter yesterday to Gregory Junemann, president of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers that cites the relevant provision of federal law. This afternoon, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is expected to officially tell DoD employees that most will be furloughed for up to 11 days by the end of September because of sequester-related budget cuts.
On May 1, Junemann had asked the board to issue “a pre-emptive statement of opinion” on whether furloughed DoD workers could win appeals. Such a step would save the board “from deciding thousands of cases that would likely come,” Junemann said in the letter MSPB chairman Susan Grundmann.
The board’s decision is “disappointing,” Matt Biggs, IFPTE’s legislative and policy director, in a phone interview today. By issuing the pre-emptive ruling, he said, board members “would have saved themselves a lot of time and effort and work because there are going to be thousands of cases going through.”