Role of the Merit Systems Protection Board

(Information from the MSPB website)

Otherwise appealable action MSPB appeals. In this kind of case, the individual is subject to a personnel action that is directly appealable to the MSPB, and the individual claims that the action was taken because of whistleblowing. This kind of case is referred to by the MSPB as an "otherwise appealable action," and the individual may file an appeal directly with the MSPB after the action has been taken. In such an appeal, both the appealable matter and the claim of reprisal for whistleblowing will be reviewed by the MSPB.

An individual who has been subjected to an otherwise appealable action must make an election of remedies. 

  • Under 5 U.S.C. 7121(g)(3), an employee who believes he or she was subjected to a covered personnel action in retaliation for protected whistleblowing "may elect not more than one" of 3 remedies: An appeal to the MSPB under 5 U.S.C. 7701; a negotiated grievance under 5 U.S.C. 7121(d); or corrective action under subchapters II and III of 5 U.S.C. chapter 12, i.e., a complaint filed with the Special Counsel (5 U.S.C. 1214), which can be followed by an IRA appeal filed with the MSPB (5 U.S.C. 1221). Under 5 U.S.C. 7121(g)(4), an election is deemed to have been made based on which of the 3 actions the individual files first.
  • In the case of an otherwise appealable action as described in paragraph (b)(2) of this section, an employee who files a complaint with OSC prior to filing an appeal with the MSPB has elected corrective action under subchapters II and III of 5 U.S.C. chapter 12, i.e., a complaint filed with OSC, which can be followed by an IRA appeal with the Board. As described in paragraph (c) of this section, the IRA appeal in such a case is limited to resolving the claim(s) of reprisal for whistleblowing activities. 


Citing alleged misconduct, an agency proposes Employee Y's removal. While that removal action is pending, Y files a complaint with OSC alleging that the proposed removal was initiated in retaliation for her having disclosed that an agency official embezzled public funds in violation of Federal law and regulation.  While the OSC complaint with respect to the proposed removal is pending, the agency effects the removal action. OSC subsequently issues a letter notifying Y that it has terminated its investigation of the alleged retaliation with respect to the proposed removal. With respect to the effected removal, Employee Y can elect to appeal that action directly to the MSPB or to proceed with a complaint to OSC. If she chooses the latter option, she may file an IRA appeal when OSC has terminated its investigation, but the only issue that will be adjudicated in that appeal is whether she proves that her protected disclosure was a contributing factor in the removal action and, if so, whether the agency can prove by clear and convincing evidence that it would have removed Y in the absence of the protected disclosure. If she instead files a direct appeal, the agency must prove its misconduct charges, nexus, and the reasonableness of the penalty, and Y can raise any affirmative defenses she might have.