Original Issue Date: 10/2021


Merit issue complaints are complaints that the State Civil Service Act or State Personnel Board (SPB or Board) regulation or policy has been violated by a state agency. These complaints include but are not limited to, interference with promotional opportunities, disputes regarding the effective dates of appointments or promotions, interference with a person's access to any SPB appeals process, and the designation of managerial positions pursuant to Government Code section 3513. Additionally, an employee who believes they have been discriminated against within the State civil service because of political affiliation or opinion may also file a merit issue complaint. Merit issue complaints do not include appeals of actions that are specifically provided for elsewhere in law or in Board regulations.

If an employee or applicant feels they have experienced discrimination or harassment based on any of the following categories, then they are encouraged to reach out to the Department of General Services (DGS) Equal Employment Opportunity Office: race, color, religion, religious creed (including religious dress and grooming practices), national origin, ancestry, citizenship, physical or mental disability, medical condition (including cancer and genetic characteristics), genetic information, marital status, sex (including pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, or related medical conditions), gender, gender identity, gender expression, age (40 years and over), sexual orientation, veteran and/or military status, protected medical leaves (requesting or approved for leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act or the California Family Rights Act), domestic violence victim status, political affiliation, and any other status protected by state or federal law.


State Personnel Board (SPB) and the following Government Code (GC) sections and Code of Regulations sections govern the authority and define the process for filing a merit issue complaint, including:

Government Code sections 18670 - 18683 – Investigations and Hearings
California Code of Regulations, title 2, sections 51.1 – 52.10 – Hearings and Appeals
California Code of Regulations, title 2, section 66.1 - Merit Issue Complaints
California Code of Regulations, title 2, section 548.61 - Rights of Disadvantaged Employee


State departments, including DGS are required to research and respond to all merit issue complaints within 90 days.


SPB laws and rules require that appointments and promotions within the State civil service be made on the basis of merit. If an applicant or employee feels that this has been violated by DGS, they must first file a complaint with DGS’ Office of Human Resources (OHR) within one year of the alleged act.

DGS OHR has 90 days to research the complaint and issue a response, including appeal rights.

An applicant or employee may challenge the decision to the SPB Appeals Division within 30 days after (1) DGS denies the complaint or (2) the 90 days expires without DGS’ decision on the complaint.


The following chart outlines the procedure for filing a merit issue complaint:




DGS Applicant or Employee

  • Applicant or employee submits the OHR 81 Merit Issue Complaint form to the DGS OHR Chief and Personnel Officer describing the nature of the complaint.
 2 OHR Chief or Personnel Officer
  • Reviews the complaint and determines if it meets the criteria for a merit issue complaint.
  • Assigns the merit issue complaint to an OHR Manager for research.
 3 OHR Manager
  • Sends an email to the applicant or employee acknowledging receipt of the merit issue complaint.
  • Researches the merit issue complaint by reviewing all applicable documentation and asking follow-up questions as appropriate, keeping the applicants or employees identifying information confidential.
  • Consults with the OHR Chief and Personnel Officer with initial findings.
  • Prepares a formal response to the applicant or employee, including appeal information.
    • The response should include a cc to:
      • DGS OHR Chief
      • DGS Classification & Pay Manager
      • Program’s Deputy Director
      • Program’s Office Chief
      • Hiring Manager’s Manager
      • Hiring Manager
  • Submits the formal response to the OHR Personnel Officer for review and signature.
 4 OHR Personnel Officer
  • Reviews the response.
  • If changes are needed, returns the response to the OHR Manager for revisions.
  • If no changes are needed, signs the response and returns it to the OHR Manager for distribution.
 5 OHR Manager
  • Sends an email to the to the applicant or employee, including the response as an attachment, informing the applicant or employee of the outcome, and providing their appeal rights.