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Frequently Asked Questions Pay & Leave

Pay Administration

  • The applicable statute authorizes severance pay for employees who are "involuntarily separated from the service, not by removal for cause on charges of misconduct, delinquency, or inefficiency." (See 5 U.S.S. 5595(b).) A medical inability to perform one's duties is neither "misconduct" nor "delinquency;" therefore, the precise question is whether removal for such inability constitutes "inefficiency" for severance pay purposes. 

    The legislative history of the severance pay statute suggests at least two guidelines for interpreting its provisions. First, severance pay is intended to help individuals who lose their Federal jobs through no fault of their own. Second, severance pay benefits should be construed liberally in favor of the employee. Accordingly, an employee who is removed for inability to perform his or her duties may receive severance pay if the inability is caused by a medical condition that is beyond the employee's control. This determination should be made by the employing agency based on acceptable medical documentation provided by the employee.
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  • Some title 38 employees are not covered by chapter 51 and are classified under the title 38 qualification-based grading system. Such employees are not covered by the hazardous duty pay authority.
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  • Hazardous duty pay is additional pay for the performance of hazardous duty or duty involving physical hardship. Hazardous duty pay is payable to General Schedule (GS) employees covered by chapter 51 and subchapter III of chapter 53 of title 5, United States Code. Prevailing rate (wage) employees are eligible to receive environmental differential pay in certain circumstances under a separate statutory provision (5 U.S.C. 5343(c)(4)).
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  • Yes.  Agencies may use the standard method when the employee is covered by different pay schedules before and after promotion if the standard method produces a higher payable rate upon promotion than the alternate method.
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  • OPM typically asks agencies to submit the following information with amendment requests, as applicable:

    1. a detailed description of the hazardous duty or physical hardship (i.e., explain what causes the hazard);
    2. specific wording of the proposed category (as it would appear in appendix A), including the threshold for payment and the recommended percentage to be paid;
    3. information on ways to mitigate the hazard (e.g., training, use of safety procedures and equipment);
    4. information on the measures the agency has taken to practically eliminate the hazard;
    5. an explanation of why the hazard is "unusual;"
    6. information on Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards or other published material on safety for the work situation. Information on how the agency will determine whether the hazard is reduced to a less than significant level;
    7. descriptions of and statistics on actual accidents or injuries that have occurred because of exposure to the hazard or physical hardship;
    8. information on when a decision is made not to expose an employee to the hazard or physical hardship;
    9. information about other Federal agencies that may be affected by such a category;
    10. information on Federal Wage System employees in the agency that may be exposed to the hazard or physical hardship in the same manner; and
    11. whether and in what manner the hazard has affected the classification of the position.
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  • No. Periods of leave without pay, or other periods during which an employee is not in a pay status, do not count toward completion of the required service period. However, as provided by 5 CFR 353.107, absence because of uniformed service or compensable injury is considered creditable toward the required service period upon reemployment.  (See 5 CFR 537.107(b).)
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  • Severance pay liability rests with the agency employing the employee at the time of the involuntary separation that triggers the severance pay entitlement. In the scenario set forth in the question, the agency employing the employee in the time-limited job will be responsible for making severance payments when the time-limited appointment ends. 

    Any severance pay entitlement that an employee may have based on an involuntary separation from a permanent appointment is immediately terminated (not suspended) when the employee receives a qualifying temporary appointment. (See 5 CFR 550.711.) Severance pay for an employee in a qualifying temporary appointment is triggered by the involuntary separation from that appointment (including expiration of the appointment as provided in the definition of "involuntary separation" in 5 CFR 550.703) and is computed using the rate of basic pay at the time of separation from that temporary job. (See 5 CFR 550.709(b).) Thus, the agency employing the individual in a time-limited job is liable for any severance payments. 

    In contrast, if a temporary appointment is not qualifying for severance pay because the employee is hired 4 or more days after involuntary separation from a qualifying permanent appointment, the severance pay liability rests with the agency in which the employee had a permanent appointment. Severance payments by that agency are merely suspended during the temporary appointment.

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  • Since a reduction in grade at the employee's request is a terminating event, a determination as to whether such a reduction occurred must be made at the time an employee under grade or pay retention is transferred. This determination must be made based on the actual grade of the employee's position rather than the employee's retained grade. For example, if the true grade of the employee's position is GS-12 and his or her retained grade is GS-13, then acceptance of a GS-12 position upon transfer to another agency is not considered a reduction in grade at the employee's request.

    In addition, the term reduced in grade or pay at the employee's request is defined in 5 CFR 536.103 to exclude any reduction in grade that is directly "caused or influenced by a management action." Thus, while a reduction in grade resulting from transfer to another agency may appear to be a voluntary movement, if that transfer was directly caused or influenced by a management action at the losing agency, the gaining agency must continue the employee's grade or pay retention.

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  • The law does not require that a candidate or employee earn a degree, diploma, or certificate to be eligible for a student loan repayment benefit.  However, an agency may require a degree, diploma, or certificate as part of its individual agency plan.  Agencies are encouraged to tailor their plans to fit their specific needs.
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  • 5 U.S.C. 5545(c)(1) & (2) authorize the payment of annual premium pay for regularly scheduled standby duty and administratively uncontrollable overtime work, and 5 U.S.C. 5545a(c) authorizes availability pay, instead of some other types of premium pay, including hazardous duty pay. Thus, hazardous duty pay may not be paid for hours of work for which an employee is paid these types of premium pay.
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