Q & A Session – Denial of Career Ladder Promotion


Ask the Lawyer received the following question (paraphrased for easier reading and clarity) from a reader on a legal matter that might be of interest to the entire audience.


I have been working for the government for over 15 years and was looking to be promoted this year. I was told I qualify for a GS-11 position and have had all good performance ratings, with no documentation of any issues. However, I was told I would not get a promotion, since I did not work on a project. Can this be a reason to deny my promotion?


Career ladder promotions have the reputation and expectation by many employees that they are automatic. The actual truth is that a career ladder promotion occurs when the employee demonstrates the ability to perform at the next higher level. If denial of a career ladder promotion is for an illegal reason, such as discrimination or whistleblower reprisal, there are processes that can be used to challenge the denial, but the unpromoted employee has the burden of proving the illegal motivation.

Bill Bransford is managing partner of Shaw, Bransford & Roth, PC.

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About Author

Debra Roth

Debra L. Roth is a partner at the law firm Shaw Bransford & Roth, a federal employment law firm in Washington, D.C. She is general counsel to the Senior Executives Association and the Federal Managers Association, host of the “FEDtalk” program on Federal News Radio, and a regular contributor to Federal News Radio’s “Federal Drive” morning show. Email your legal questions to lawyer@federaltimes.com.

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