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Technically, yes. A "pass" rating in a two-level appraisal program is a Level 3 (Fully Successful or equivalent) summary level. The law at section 4505a of title 5, United States Code, which covers General Schedule employees, states that "an employee whose most recent performance rating was at the Fully Successful level or higher (or the equivalent thereof) may be paid a cash award." Eliminating the higher summary levels also eliminates the further performance distinctions that many agencies had applied in granting rating-based performance awards. Although not required, it was not uncommon for agencies to restrict the use of rating-based awards to employees with ratings of record above Level 3. Under a two-level appraisal program, agencies need to develop additional criteria for selecting employees who should receive cash performance awards and for granting awards of different amounts.
Technically, agencies will be free to continue to use just a Level 3 rating of record as the legal criterion for granting a cash award. However, the Office of Personnel Management advises agencies to make some record of the additional performance distinctions they make to select award recipients and thereby prevent perceptions of awards being arbitrary or capricious.
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