1981 was also a year of major changes for the Board and its personnel with the resignation of the Board’s first head, Chairwoman Ruth T. Prokop, on July 19 Board Vice-Chair Ersa H. Poston assumed the agency’s leadership role until President Reagan named Herbert S. Ellingwood to be Chairman on December 14, and he was sworn in December 18.
The challenge that dominated agency management in 1981 was one not uncommon to much of the federal bureaucracy: doing more with less. At the Board however, the problem was even more severe Reduced resources, coupled with a spiraling workload of reduction in force (RIF) and over 11,000 air traffic controller appeals, threatened to take the Board’s workload right off the agency charts and create backlogs of a magnitude unknown since passage of the Civil Service Reform Act in 1978.
In August, a large number of the nation’s air traffic controllers were removed by the Federal Aviation Administration because of their alleged participation in a strike. This event was to have a profound impact on the Board’s workload as the Board shortly became the focus of the fired air traffic controllers’ efforts to regain their jobs By early October over 11,000 had filed appeals in the-Board’s regional offices.
But even while the Board was attempting to cope with this enormous new workload and the limited resources available to deal with it, new challenges were arising. In December, the Board sustained a 16% cut in its budget as a result of wording in a Continuing Resolution approved -by Congress even though the President had not recommended any cuts in the Board’s funding because of the workload.
At the year’s end, the Board was seeking legislative remedies to the funding dilemma, while examining the possibility of staffing reductions and administrative cuts to comply with the reduced funding.
MSPB Appointees for Fiscal Year 1981
- Chairman Herbert S. Ellingwood
- Vice-Chair Ersa H. Poston
- Member Ronald P. Wertheim
- Bios available on pages 4-5
In December, the Board sustained a 16% cut in its budget as a result of wording in a Continuing Resolution approved -by Congress even though the President had not recommended any cuts in the Board’s funding because of the workload.
Apart from air traffic controller appeals (discussed below), the Board received 7,349 other appeals which were filed during 1981, an increase Of over 1,000 cases in our normal workload. Thus, with the casework which remained from 1980 filings, the Board’s regular appeals On hand for adjudication by the regional Offices during 1981 totaled 9,444 cases, an increase of over 10800 cases from the previous year’s inventory. Over 7,000 appeals were processed to completion by the regional offices, however, representing an almost corresponding increase in productivity of over 1,600 Cases beyond the number processed during 1980.
A substantial part of the increased workload resulted from reduction in force (RIF) appeals caused by the budgetary cutbacks affecting federal agencies generally during 1981.
In the last three months of calendar year 1981, as the impact of reduced funding levels began to be felt, a total of 953 reduction-in force appeals were filed, which is considerably in excess of the total number of RIF appeals filed during all of the preceding year. (For further details see charts in the appendix.)
In addition to the increase of over 1,000 cases in the number of appeals which normally would have been received during 1981, the Board, as already mentioned has received over 11,000 appeals since September 1981 by former air traffic controllers.
The petitions for reviews as they are known, are handled by the Board’s Office of Appeals, which reviews the petitions and recommends action and drafts appropriate wording for the Board’s consideration. As happened in most offices of the Board in 1981, the Office of Appeals saw an increase in workload while staff size remained constant. In 1981, the Office of Appeals prepared 1,161 decisions compared to 1,080 the previous year.
In 1981, the Board issued several orders staying personnel actions which the Special Counsel alleged were taken as a result of one or more prohibited personnel practices, including discrimination on the basis of conduct which does not adversely affect the performance of the employee or others, discrimination on the basis of sex and national origin, retaliation for whistleblowing and reprisal for the exercise of appeal rights. The Board also ruled in response to a stay request that it has jurisdiction to stay the removal of a career appointee to the Senior Executive Service (SES) from that SES Position to a non-SES Civil service position.
The Board also considered requests for corrective action in five different cases involving such issues as retaliation for Whistleblowing discrimination on the basis of political affiliation sex, age and national origin, and reprisal for the exercise of appeal rights. Three of these cases were referred to the Board’s Office of Administrative Law Judges for processing and the Issuance of recommended decisions. One was dismissed at the request of the Special Counsel. Recommended decisions have been issued in two cases, but no final decisions were issued in corrective action cases in 1981.
The Board sent several major reports on the health of the merit system to the Congress and the President during 1981. These reports, prepared by the Office of Merit Systems Review and Studies (MSRS) under the mandate of 5 U.S.C. 1205(a)(3) which requires the Board to conduct special studies of the civil service and other merit systems, included:
• Sexual Harassment in the Federal Workforce: Is it a Problem? This report, based on a survey of approximately 23,000 Federal employees nationwide, was the first comprehensive study of this subject ever conducted on a national scale. It included extensive findings on the views of Federal employees about sexual harassment including: the extent of harassment in the workplace, description of the characteristics of victims and perpetrators of sexual harassment, the estimated dollar Cost of this type of harassment and a discussion of the perceptions and responses Of Victims to the incidents and the impact on their behavior. The report includes a discussion of the policy implications of the findings, a set of recommendations, and a survey of actions being taken by agencies to reduce the occurrence Of sexual harassment. This report was originally undertaken at the request of the Subcommittee on Investigations Of the House Committee on Post Office and Civil Service.
• Whistleblowing and the Federal Employee. This study examined “Whistleblowing” and the reprisals that are sometimes taken against Federal employees. The study was not intended to measure the extent of fraud, waste or mismanagement in government, although the observations of the surveyed employees shed considerable light on that subject. Questionnaires were sent to approximately 13,000 workers employed in the 15 agencies with Offices of Inspectors General. The report assesses the extent of employees’ awareness of illegal and wasteful activities and traces what those employees did (or failed to do) with that information, and what, if anything, resulted. The report also assesses employee awareness of, and confidence in, the channels which were intended to encourage their reportings and protect them from reprisal.
• Status Report on Performance Appraisal and Merit Pay Among Mid-level Employees. This report, based on a questionnaire survey distributed to approximately 4,900 aidlevel employees, sets forth the collective firsthand experiences and viewpoints of those employees concerning the functioning of the new Merit Pay and performance appraisal systems- It also reports on agencies’ efforts to develop performance standards in a timely fashion.
• The Senior Executive Service. This report examines the impact of the pay incentives promised in the CSRA to Senior Executives and explores what they thought of their incentive value, the equity of their distribution and whether these executives felt the various incentives were sufficient to retain highly competent executives. It examines the efficacy of the statutory safeguards against politicization. The findings were based on a comprehensive survey of approximately 1,000 career SES members.
• Study of MSPB Decisions During 1980. This study analyzed the Board’s processing of appeals during FY 1980 and contains extensive data on the average processing time, the number of appeals received and decisions issued, the number of hearings held agency reversal rates, and appellant reversal rate.
Statutory requirement for this annual report
Section 1209(b) of the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 (page 27) states:
(b) The Board shall submit an annual report to the President and the Congress on its activities, which shall include a description of significant actions taken by the Board to carry out its functions under this title. // 5 USC 1201. // The report shall also review the significant actions of the Office of Personnel Management, including an analysis of whether the actions of the Office of Personnel Management are in accord with merit system principles and free from prohibited personnel practices.