The following message was sent out to federal employees at SPAWAR Systems Center San Diego on May 8, 2002 by Valerie Miller, who is the Human Resources Site Director. They are very enlightening of the ethical and legal duties and responsibilities of federal employees under the Merit System of pay.

It is time once again to remind all employees of the principles by which we all are expected to operate. These are referred to as the Merit System Principles and are accompanied by a set of Prohibited Personnel Practices.

Personnel Practices.

The Merit System Principles express the public's expectations of a system that is efficient, effective, fair, free from political interference and staffed by honest, competent and dedicated employees. As the federal government experiences continued change in the management of its human resources, it becomes increasingly important that employees, line supervisors and managers incorporate these principles into their decision making processes. They are:

  1. Recruit qualified individuals from all segments of society and select and advance individuals on their merit after fair and open competition which assures that all receive equal opportunity.
  2. Treat employees and applicants fairly, without regard to political affiliation, race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, age or handicapping condition and with proper regard for privacy and constitutional rights.
  3. Provide equal pay for equal work and recognize excellent performance.
  4. Maintain high standards of integrity, conduct, and concern for the public interest.
  5. Manage employees efficiently and effectively.
  6. Retain and separate employees on the basis of their performance.
  7. Educate and train employees when it will result in better organizational or individual performance.
  8. Protect employees from arbitrary action, personal favoritism or coercion for partisan political pursuit.
  9. Protect employees against reprisal for lawful disclosure of information in "whistleblower" situations.

Prohibited Personnel Practices 

These practices apply to those who have the authority to take, direct others to take, or approve any personnel action. They are:

  1. You may not discriminate for or against any employee or applicant for employment on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, age, handicapping condition, marital status or political affiliation.
  2. You may not solicit or consider employment recommendations based on factors other than personal knowledge or records of job-related abilities or characteristics.
  3. You may not coerce the political activity of any person. 
  4. You may not deceive or willfully obstruct any person from competing for employment.
  5. You may not influence anyone to withdraw from competition for any position so as to improve or injure the prospects of another person.
  6. You may not give preference or advantage to anyone so as to improve or injure the employment prospects of any particular employee or applicant.
  7. You may not employ, promote, or advocate for employment or advancement any relative or family member for a civilian position.
  8. You may not engage in reprisal for whistleblowing.
  9. You may not take or fail to take or threaten to take or fail to take any personnel action against an employee or applicant for exercising an appeal, complaint or grievance right.
  10. You may not discriminate for or against any employee or applicant based on personal conduct which is unrelated to on-the-job performance.
  11. You may not knowingly take, recommend, approve or fail to take, recommend or approve any personnel action if the action violates a veteran's preference requirement.
  12. You may not take or fail to take any personnel action if it violates any law, rule or regulation concerning the merit system principles cited above.

For addition information on prohibited personnel practices and whistleblower protection, see the Office of Special Counsel web site at

The principles and prohibited practices listed above are summarized. The full text verion of the United States Code on both may be viewed at and


Please contact your Personnel Management Advisor in the Human Resources Office if you have questions or concerns.

HR Site Director