Board that handles federal worker disputes is now vacant

WASHINGTON (AP) — A government board tasked with settling workplace disputes for millions of federal workers is officially vacant for the first time in its 40-year history.

The Merit Systems Protection Board became empty midnight Thursday, after the Senate failed to act on a measure to extend the term of the board's sole remaining member and acting chairman, Mark Robbins. The three-member board needs at least two members to decide appeals from civil servants.

Robbins has said it could take three years to clear the backlog of work at the board.

Although the vacant board is unprecedented, it doesn't mean the agency will grind to a halt. Administrative judges will continue hearing cases and issuing initial decisions. And if an employee decides to appeal a decision, they can go to a federal court.