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Frequently Asked Questions Performance Management

  • Statute restricts performance awards to no more than 10 percent of the employee's annual rate of basic pay, except that a rating-based award may exceed 10 percent if the agency head determines that an employee's exceptional performance justifies such an award. However, in no case may a rating-based award exceed 20 percent of the employee's annual rate of basic pay.
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  • The minimum period is the shortest length of time established by the agency that an employee must perform under assigned elements and standards before a performance rating can be prepared.  The appraisal period is length of time designated by the agency (usually one year) that is the basis for the rating of record.
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  • If neither the performance standards nor the retention level communicated to the employee at the start of the PIP have changed, the agency should be able to proceed with the opportunity period or PIP. However, a substantive change in standards or the retention level would require that the current PIP end.
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  • No. Case law establishes that performance elements and standards are nonnegotiable based on management's rights to direct employees and assign work through the establishment of performance plans.
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  • The modal rating is the latest rating of record summary level given most often within a single pattern to the employees in a specified group that is no smaller than the competitive area and no larger than the agency undergoing a reduction in force. It is important that the employees undergoing a reduction in force understand the basis used to determine the modal rating.
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  • Agencies may present such certificates and vouchers if they are being used as informal recognition awards. Merchant gift certificates should not be confused with cash surrogates (which are vouchers or checks that can be easily and widely redeemable for cash, not merchandise). Gift certificates usually are given when the intent is to give something but let the recipient make the final choice. Merchandise certificates cannot meet a cash surrogate's criterion of being easily negotiable because of limitations on where, how, and for what they may be redeemed. Gift certificates fail to meet the criteria for honorary awards because they convey a clear monetary value and cannot be characterized as symbolizing the employer-employee relationship. Consequently, the only circumstance where a gift certificate may be used to recognize an employee contribution is as an informal recognition award, which may not exceed nominal value. Agencies also need to be aware that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) considers gift certificates to be taxable fringe benefits that must be taxed on their fair market value. The face value of a gift certificate would be considered its fair market value. Further questions on taxable fringe benefits should be directed to the IRS.
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  • Yes. However, agencies must be aware there are Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) implications when they directly link award amounts to specific ratings. When an agency predetermines an award amount or guarantees an award payment for a specific rating, the award is considered nondiscretionary. Nondiscretionary awards must be included in total remuneration and impact the calculation of overtime payments.
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  • Governmentwide regulations specify three types of performance elements:

    • critical elements
    • non-critical elements
    • additional performance elements
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  • Yes. OPM encourages agencies to hold supervisors accountable for fulfilling their performance management responsibilities. Agencies often establish elements and standards in the raters' performance plans to hold them accountable for the performance management of their subordinates.
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  • An agency program must specify the length of its minimum period and that minimum must fall within any limits established by the agency appraisal system.  When an agency decides to use the minimum period as the length of the opportunity period, the minimum period is one of the program features that may be subject to third-party review.  Agencies are advised to be careful in determining the time limits to be used and avoid setting minimum periods that might be judged unreasonably short.
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