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What are Merit System Principles?


The fundamental under girding of the entire Federal Human Resources Management system is the Merit System Principles. It is important across USDA to follow these principles and guard against prohibited personnel practices given this era in which the Department is operating with a smaller number of human resources professionals to provide assistance to our managers and supervisors. Managers and supervisors have been given authority to make personnel decisions, but have fewer resources upon which to draw for advice and guidance.

The Merit System Principles can be described as the core values that should be expressed in every human resources decision. There are nine Merit System Principles, which can be found in Section 230l(b) of title 5, U.S.C. These Merit System Principles provide guidance on how managers and supervisors should manage our human resources and how human resources staff should provide oversight of our core values. These nine principles are the expected outcomes of good management. Please see the attached list of Merit System Principles that have been adapted by OPM. These nine principles are:

  • Recruit, select, and advance on merit after fair and open competition
  • Treat employees and applicants fairly and equitably
  • Provide equal pay for equal work and reward excellent performance
  • Maintain high standards of integrity, conduct, and concern for the public interest
  • Manage employees efficiently and effectively
  • Retain or separate employees on the basis of their performance
  • Educate and train employees if it will result in better organizational or individual performance
  • Protect employees from improper political influence
  • Protect employees against reprisal for the lawful disclosure of information in "whistleblower" situations

There are twelve Prohibited Personnel Practices that can be found in Section 2302 (b) of title 5, U.S.C. These practices are those actions that should never occur as they are the results or outcomes of poor management practices. However, Prohibited Personnel Practices can and often do occur unintentionally. They can happen when managers and supervisors make decisions without exploring all the possible avenues that can be used to solve a human resources-related problem or address a concern. Unfortunately, ignorance and good intentions are not excuses for acting against the law.

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