Review of Pentagon furlough cases to restart

August 26, 2013

The Merit Systems Protection Board plans to continue reviewing Defense Department furlough appeals in September after putting those cases on hold this month to deal with an avalanche of claims.

The agency said in an announcement last week that it would not consider any of the appeals before entering all of them into the processing pipeline and determining whether any should be consolidated for possible class actions.

“It would be inefficient for the board to begin adjudicating certain furlough appeals, only to discover that furlough appeals raising similar arguments, filed by similarly situated employees remain to be docketed,” the statement said.

The Defense Department has furloughed more than 640,000 civilian employees for up to six days in an effort to meet its cost-cutting targets under the automatic spending cuts known as the sequester.

The MSPB said it has received more than 30,000 furlough appeals since March, when the government-wide austerity plan — approved by Congress and President Obama — went into effect. Civilian defense workers have filed 98 percent of the claims, the agency said.

The MSPB, which works with a staff of about 200 people, has docketed about 17,000 furlough cases, according to the agency’s statement.

The Pentagon initially warned defense workers that they may face up to 22 furlough days under the sequester, but the department dropped that number to 14, then 11, and finally six days after Congress granted the agency more budgeting flexibility.

Labor groups encouraged defense workers to appeal their furlough appeals to send a message to Washington that the employees would not “just roll over and take this lying down,” as an attorney for the American Federation of Government Employees said in July.

Josh Hicks covers the federal government and anchors the Federal Eye blog. He reported for newspapers in the Detroit and Seattle suburbs before joining the Post as a contributor to Glenn Kessler’s Fact Checker blog in 2011.
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