What Qualifies for an OPM Classification Appeal?

If you’re a federal employee and you feel that your position isn’t appropriately classified, you may be wondering if you can file a Classification Appeal with the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). But first, you need to know what can be appealed and what can’t.

What Can Be Appealed

You can use the OPM appeal process to seek changes to your grade, occupational series, or job title. You can also appeal to have your General Schedule (GS) position changed to a Federal Wage System (FWS) position or vice versa.

What Cannot Be Appealed

There are some aspects of your job and job description that can’t be appealed. For example, you can’t appeal:

  • The accuracy or content of your official job description
  • The accuracy of your classification standard
  • Your agency’s classification decision
  • The classification of positions other than those to which you have been officially assigned
  • The classification of positions to which you are promoted temporarily or detailed for a period of time not more than two years

Before you submit your appeal, be sure that your official job description identifies all of the main duties you perform or that are assigned to you. Your agency is responsible for assigning your job duties and putting those duties in your official job description. Your agency is also responsible for classifying your position appropriately. The OPM won’t accept an appeal if your agency hasn’t upheld these responsibilities.

What to Do If Your Job Isn’t Classified Appropriately

If your official job description is very inaccurate, you should take the problem to your supervisor first. He or she may be able to answer your questions and help address your concerns. If your conversation with your supervisor fails to yield the answers you’re looking for, you’ll need to go to someone in your agency’s human resources department.

Ask to see the position classification standards used for your position. If, after reviewing the position classification standards with your human resources personnel, you still don’t think your position is properly classified, take the description back to your supervisor. He or she should be able to either explain the classification description or recommend that your position is reevaluated.

Reevaluation will be performed by your agency’s human resources office. A human resources specialist may choose to perform a desk audit of your position, which will involve interviewing both you and your supervisor about your job duties and responsibilities.

The goal of the desk audit is to clarify exactly what it is you do in your position, and how difficult the work is. When the human resources specialist interviews you, it’s very important to outline your main tasks and duties and your role in the agency’s or unit’s operations.

You want to make sure that the specialist leaves with an accurate and thorough understanding of what you do in your position, how important it is to your agency, and how difficult the work is for you. Don’t downplay or exaggerate your duties.

Understanding Your Appeal Choices

Your appeal choices will vary somewhat, depending on whether you’re a GS or FWS employee. As a GS employee, you’re allowed to make your appeal either directly to the OPM or to your agency at any time. However, you can’t appeal to both at the same time. You can also make your classification appeal to the OPM through your agency. Your agency is required to act on your appeal, or forward it to the OPM, within 60 days.

It’s a good idea to appeal to your agency first, that way, if you don’t get the result you were hoping for, you can still appeal to the OPM. If you go directly to the OPM and don’t get the result you were hoping for, you won’t be able to appeal to the agency; you will have used up all your appeals.

If you’re an FWS employee, you are required to first appeal to your agency, but you may appeal to the OPM if you’re not happy with your agency’s decision. You have 15 calendar days from the date you get your agency’s decision to file your appeal with the OPM. If you’re prevented from filing due to circumstances out of your control, or because you weren’t aware of the deadline, you may get an extension.

Making Your Appeal

If you’re appealing to your agency, your human resources office will help you understand the appropriate procedures and get you started on the appeals process. If you don’t agree with your agency’s final decision, you can appeal to the OPM. You can prepare your appeal yourself, or have a designated representative do it. The representative can’t be someone who has authority over you in the workplace. Most people choose to have an attorney represent them.

Your appeal needs to contain the following information:

  • Your contact information, including name, address, and office telephone number
  • Your present job classification and your requested classification
  • The name of your department or agency and office
  • Your city of employment and your agency or office’s mailing address
  • A copy of your official job description, plus a state that confirms its accuracy or describes in detail its inaccuracies as well as the efforts that have been made by your agency to correct these inaccuracies
  • Additional information that will help the OPM understand your job duties
  • Arguments in favor of your requested classification, which should be based on existing classification standards

The OPM will base its appeal decision on the information you and your agency supply. Additional information may be obtained through telephone calls, written correspondence, or on-site visits. The OPM may also choose to conduct an interview or desk audit with you to gather necessary information about your position.

The OPM bases appeal decisions on your assigned work, the qualifications you have that apply to that work, and the appropriate application of classification standards. The OPM will not take into consideration the quality of your performance, the volume of work assigned to you, or qualifications you have that aren’t relevant to your position. You and your agency will receive notification of the OPM’s decision in writing.

Leitner Varughese Warywoda Law Attorneys Can Help

If you think your position has been improperly classified, you may need an employment attorney to help you navigate the classification appeal process. At LVW Law, our attorneys have successfully litigated a wide variety of federal cases across the nation — with a special focus on issues involving federal employee EEO claims at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Merit Systems Protection Board.

With any of our cases, we quickly zero in on the essential facts, apply the law, and then work to reach the conclusion you desire with well-reasoned approaches and aggressive advocacy. Contact an attorney today to learn more about your rights as a federal employee at 888.594.0424 or complete our online contact form to get started. We look forward to working with you!