Q&A: Grade Determination


Q: I would like to know if there is an allowed discrepancy of GS levels for the same position within the DOD. If not, what are potential methods of remedy that I should explore?

A: A grade level represents a band or range of difficulty. The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (“OPM”) prepares classification standards and functional guides, which are used when classifying a grade of a position. If the work assigned to a position is covered by criteria in a standard for a specific occupational series, the work is evaluated by that standard. However, if there are no specific grade level criteria, a classification guide or criteria may be used for related work.

If an employee disagrees with the grade level of his or her position, the employee may file a classification appeal with the employing agency or with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (“OPM”). However, an employee may not appeal to his or her agency and to OPM at the same time.  An employee may also appeal to OPM through his or her agency, which must act on the appeal within 60 calendar days or forward it to OPM for action. OPM recommends that an employee attempt to resolve the matter with the agency before making a classification appeal with OPM. This may be done by requesting a desk audit, but if this fails, OPM will decide the appeal.

OPM bases its decision on the work assigned to the position being appealed, on the qualifications required to perform that work, and on the proper application of the classification standards. Importantly, the position being appealed is not compared to other positions. Likewise, if the position is reclassified, it may not be a favorable outcome to the employee bringing a classification appeal. OPM may raise or lower the grade of a position as the facts warrant.
For more information, you can refer to OPM’s website and fact sheets.


This case law update was written by Michael J. Sgarlat, Associate Attorney*, Shaw Bransford & Roth, PC.

*Not admitted in D.C.  Admitted only in the State of Maryland.  Practicing in the District of Columbia under the supervision of Debra L. Roth, Julia H. Perkins and Christopher J. Keeven while application for admission is pending per Rule 49(c)(8) of the D.C. Court of Appeals.

For thirty years, Shaw Bransford & Roth P.C. has provided superior representation on a wide range of federal employment law issues, from representing federal employees nationwide in administrative investigations, disciplinary and performance actions, and Bivens lawsuits, to handling security clearance adjudications and employment discrimination cases.


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Shaw Bransford & Roth provides legal representation on a wide range of employment and federal employment law issues. For more information visit us at: http://www.shawbransford.com

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