Merit Systems Protection Board Adds Third Member After 5 Years Without Quorum

The Merit Systems Protection Board added a third member in May 2022, Cathy Harris, to its ranks to assist with the thousands of cases that have been pending before the Board.

The MSPB reached a quorum back in March, but adding another member will be a huge help. There were previous issues such as potential ties on cases that will now be avoided with three members instead of just two.

Third Member Will Bring Changes To MSPB

New MSPB member Cathy Harris explained that the board was finally able to vote on cases again once they reached a quorum, but that the administrative judge’s decision would have been final in cases of split votes.

According to Harris, “If one board member must recuse from a case, it permits the appeal to still be voted upon by the other two board members.” She also stated that having three MSPB members will help them move through their enormous backlog more quickly.

There is a catch, though. There could be negative consequences for federal employees whose cases have been on hold for many years. Some MSPB decisions require that an employee be entitled to back pay or getting their job back. This can be an issue as it’s very likely that after a few years, the position has been backfilled or eliminated.

The MSPB is not only responsible for issuing case decisions, but they also must report on federal workforce management quality. They will be running special studies on different federal agencies to report to Congress and the White House. These studies will decide whether there are adequate protections in place for federal employees from prohibited personnel practices.

Before reaching a quorum, the MSPB wasn’t able to do this reporting, but MSPB’s Office of Policy and Evaluation published a reporting-related newsletter in the meantime.