Merit System Principles and the Federal Workforce

Merit System Principles and the Federal Workforce2016-12-14T20:32:40+00:00

In Federal sector employment, workforce management decisions are based on the tenets embodied in the Merit System Principles. Federal managers at all levels rely on this solid framework to manage and make personnel decisions that affect the Federal Civil Service workforce. These principles further form the foundation for policy and program implementation rules, regulations, and directives issued by the President and the heads of agencies.

It is important for Federal officials at all levels, whether appointed in the Competitive Service or through political appointment, to be familiar with Merit System Principles that help shape how positions are filled within the Competitive Service and how Civil Service employees are treated in their employment with the Federal government.

Information concerning Merit System Principles can be found in Section 2301, Title 5, United States Code – Merit System Principles. Relevant portions of Section 2301 are cited below for ease of reference:

§ 2301. Merit System Principles

(a) This section shall apply to –

  1. an Executive agency; and
  2. the Government Printing Office.

(b) Federal personnel management should be implemented consistent with the following merit system principles:

  1. Recruitment should be from qualified individuals from appropriate sources in an endeavor to achieve a work force from all segments of society, and selection and advancement should be determined solely on the basis of relative ability, knowledge and skills, after fair and open competition which assures that all receive equal opportunity.
  2. All employees and applicants for employment should receive fair and equitable treatment in all aspects of personnel management without regard to political affiliation, race, color, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, age, or handicapping condition, and with proper regard for their privacy and constitutional rights.
  3. Equal pay should be provided for work of equal value, with appropriate consideration of both national and local rates paid by employers in the private sector, and appropriate incentives and recognition should be provided for excellence in performance.
  4. All employees should maintain high standards of integrity, conduct, and concern for the public interest.
  5. The Federal workforce should be used efficiently and effectively.
  6. Employees should be retained on the basis of adequacy of their performance, inadequate performance should be corrected, and employees should be separated who cannot or will not improve their performance to meet required standards.
  7. Employees should be provided effective education and training in cases in which such education and training would result in better organizational and individual performance.
  8. Employees should be –
    (A) protected against arbitrary action, personal favoritism, or coercion for partisan political purposes, and
    (B) prohibited from using their official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with or affecting the result of an election or a nomination for election.
  9. Employees should be protected against reprisal for the lawful disclosure of information which the employees reasonably believe evidence –
    (A) a violation of any law, rule, or regulation, or
    (B) mismanagement, a gross waste of funds, an abuse of authority, or a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety.

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