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Merit Systems Principles


The Merit System Principles can be described as the core values and are the fundamentals of the entire Federal Human Resources system and should be expressed in every human resources decision that is made. It is important that we emphasize to managers, supervisors, and HR professionals alike that following the Merit System Principles and guarding against Prohibited Personnel Practices is critical.

There are nine Merit System Principles which can be found in 5 U.S. Code § 2301. These Merit System Principles provide guidance on how managers and supervisors should manage our human resources and how human resources professionals should provide oversight of our core values.

These nine principles are the expected outcomes of good management.

  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 work force 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-
  • Protected against arbitrary action, personal favoritism, or coercion for partisan political purposes, and

  • 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 evidences-

  • A violation of any law, rule, or regulation, or

  • Mismanagement, a gross waste of funds, an absence of authority, or a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety.