Gov Career

By Phil Piemonte

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Taking the fifth

“The federal workforce should be used efficiently and effectively.”

That’s not only the fifth Merit Principle but also the crux of a lot of the wrangling currently going on in Congress.

According to an explanation laid out this month as part of a nine-month Merit Systems Protection Board information campaign to educate feds on the nine Merit Principles, No. 5 means that "the public has a right to an efficient and effective government which is responsive to their needs as perceived by elected officials."

But the fifth Merit Principle also serves to protect employees. That’s because at the same time, the law also says that an agency may take an adverse action against an employee "only for such cause as will promote the efficiency of the service." MSPB says that every adverse action must be tested against that standard. The agency has to prove its case.

From there, however, it gets awfully complicated, and MSPB offers plenty of examples on its website to illustrate cases in which the fifth principle became a determining factor in board decisions.

MSPB also correctly notes that many bills now queued up in Congress — legislation that focuses on the size and performance of the federal workforce — would make the application of the fifth principle even more critical.

MSPB offers a closer look at No. 5 on its website if you’re interested.

Posted by Phil Piemonte on May 11, 2011 at 4:02 PM

Reader comments

Wed, May 11, 2011 George Saufley Retired Rochester NH

The "Fifth Merit System Principle" is as sticky as the "Fifth Amendment". If one is being removed, demoted, or wedged into retirement using this procedure could raise a lot of questions depending on the size of one's "network and influence" . A boss has the option to influence one's "networking and influence" opportunities could be practicing a form of discrimination could be a "field day" for creative lawyers. If I had unlimited resources it might be fun to test.

Wed, May 11, 2011 Tired Fed

To cd in SC - you forgot to mention 'trustworthy'. I think the majority of elected officials are the least trustworthy as well as least efficient, etc, of our government work force. As long as they talk a good talk, shake the right hands, and pander to the right contributors, they don't need a lick of sense or credentials to get elected.

Wed, May 11, 2011 cd SC

"...efficient and effective government as perceived by elected officials." Like I'd trust elected officials to perceive efficient and effective government. They are probably the least efficient and effective of all persons involved in government.

Wed, May 11, 2011

So is Congress considered part of the Federal Workforce?

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