Developments at the MSPB: In a report entitled, Prohibited Personnel Practices: Employee Perceptions, the MSPB detailed the state of prohibited personnel practices (PPPs) in the Federal workplace. The report was the culmination of a series of merit principles surveys conducted by the MSPB between 1992 and 2010. The list of PPPs is found at 5 U.S.C. § 2302(b), and specifically prohibits agency officials from: 1) discriminating; 2)considering improper recommendations; 3) coercing political activity; 4) obstructing competition or encouraging a candidate to withdraw from competition; 5) granting a preference not authorized by law; 6) engaging in nepotism; 7) retaliating for whistleblowing or the exercise of a grievance or appeal right; 8) knowingly violating the preference rights of a veteran; or 9) engaging in other actions that would violate a law, rule, or regulation that implements the merit systems principles.
The results of the report were encouraging, but also served to reinforce just how damaging a single occurrence of a prohibited personnel practice can be to the operations and cohesiveness of the workplace. Among the findings from the report was that perceptions of occurrences of most PPPs was at an 18-year low. For example, whereas 13.4% of Federal employees reported experiencing race discrimination in 1992, this figure had dropped to 5.0% in 2010. Another example finds that whereas 19.1% of Federal employees reported perceptions that management officials meted out improper advantages to certain individuals in conjunction with competition for a job or promotion, this figure had dropped to 6.9% in 2010. Similar declines were reported for all of the other PPPs.
One alarming discovery contained in the study detailed the extent to which an employee’s perception that others in the workplace had been subjected to a PPP had a impact on that employee’s work environment, negatively affecting those employees’ productivity, morale, and workplace cohesiveness. The report concludes by making some recommendations for agencies, including educating their workforces about PPPs, in particular their executives and supervisors. The report pays special attention to the need to educate political appointees, who may not have as much exposure to merit-based systems. The report suggests a standard memorandum from the head of the agency or cabinet department drawing attention to, and addressing PPPs.