If you have worked with any of the software packages agencies use to hire and promote applicants, you know that they have shortcomings and flaws.  All too often agencies have decided that is just a price employees have to pay in an automated world and done nothing to help the harmed employee.  But MSPB has struck back against the systems blaming the error on the agency’s tolerance of a less-than-perfect QuickHire product they were using.

The applicant (Herbert Russell 12 MSPB 13, 2/2/12) was a ten-point veteran who sent in his job application package via two separate fax cover letters.  But rather than print a new cover sheet with a different bar code to send the second package, he just reused the cover sheet from the first bundle of material he faxed.  Unfortunately, the QuickHire product the agency used was designed to erase and replace any prior submissions when it received multiple submissions under the same cover letter.  That sounds like a good idea for applicants when seeking to modify an earlier application, but a terrible idea when supplementing the package.

You can probably guess at the next few facts.  The agency only considered the later-filed material, he did not make the final selection list, and he was not selected.    When he appealed to the Dept. of Labor, it rejected his claim without taking any corrective action—even though it was quite clear that had both parts of his application been considered he would have ranked higher than the three applicants given final consideration.

When he appealed the DOL ruling to the MSPB, the Board sided with the applicant saying, “But the agency may not deprive the applicant of his rights merely because he makes a minor technical mistake submitting his application, at least when the agency has enough information to afford him his rights anyway.”  The Board pointed to two other cases where it has said the same thing and noted that in this case the agency knew that something was wrong and did nothing to correct it.”

As for agencies hiding behind the software mysteries of QuickHire and it competitors claiming there is nothing they can do, the Board gave us the following statement that should help unions seek corrective action when similar mistakes harm applicants—whether they are internal or external applicants: “The appellant was deprived of his preference her because of a flaw in the agency’s QuickHire system that the agency apparently knew existed but did not warn applicants about it.”

MSPB ordered the agency to reconstruct the selection action and explain why the employee would not have been selected under those circumstances.


About AdminUN

FEDSMILL staff has over 40 years of federal sector labor relations experience on the union as well as management side of the table and even some time as a neutral.
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