Click here to skip navigation
An official website of the United States Government.
Skip Navigation

In This Section

Classification & Qualifications Appeal Decisions

Washington, DC

U.S. Office of Personnel Management
Classification Appeal Decision
Under section 5112 of title 5, United States Code

Bessie M. Weaver
Paralegal Specialist
GS-950-12

Office of the General Counsel
Office of Management and Budget
Executive Office of the President
Washington, DC
GS-303-08
(Title at agency discretion)
C-0303-08-01

Robert D. Hendler
Classification and Pay Claims
Program Manager
Agency Compliance and Evaluation
Merit System Accountability and Compliance

07/17/2014


Date

As provided in section 511.612 of title 5, Code of Federal Regulations, this decision constitutes a certificate that is mandatory and binding on all administrative, certifying, payroll, disbursing, and accounting officials of the Government.  The agency is responsible for reviewing its classification decisions for identical, similar, or related positions to ensure consistency with this decision.  There is no right of further appeal.  This decision is subject to discretionary review only under conditions and time limits specified in the Introduction to the Position Classification Standards (Introduction), appendix 4, section G (address provided in appendix 4, section H).

 Since this decision lowers the grade of the appealed position, it is to be effective no later than the beginning of the sixth pay period after the date of this decision, as permitted by 5 CFR 511.702.  The applicable provisions of parts 351, 432, 536, and 752 of title 5, Code of Federal Regulations, must be followed in implementing this decision.  If the appellant is entitled to grade retention, the two-year retention period begins on the date this decision is implemented.  The servicing human resources office must submit a compliance report containing the corrected position description and a Standard Form 50 showing the personnel action taken.  The report must be submitted within 30 days from the effective date of the personnel action to the OPM office which accepted the appeal. 

Introduction

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management’s (OPM) Agency Compliance and Evaluation component accepted this position classification appeal on March 6, 2014.  The appellant occupies the position of Paralegal Specialist, GS-950-12, in the Office of the General Counsel (OGC) at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in Washington, D.C.  She requests reclassification of her position as Paralegal Specialist, GS-950-13, although she asserts her position supports classification at the GS-15 level.  We received the agency administrative report (AAR) on April 9, 2014, a response to the AAR from the appellant’s representative on April 11, 2014, and a summation from the claimant on June 20, 2014.  We accepted and decided this appeal under the provisions of section 5112 of title 5, United States Code (U.S.C.)

General Issues

In her appeal, the appellant presents complaints with the manner in which her agency handled the classification review of her position.  The appellant's position was desk-audited by a human resources (HR) specialist from the servicing HR office in the Executive Office of the President (EOP), who subsequently notified the appellant that she had found her position to warrant upgrading to GS-13 and prepared a revised position description (PD) to effect the upgrade, without having conducted a supervisory interview to verify the duties performed.  The appellant's management challenged the language in the PD factor level descriptions, changes were incorporated, and the HR specialist's recommendation was accordingly reversed by higher level HR management.  The appellant requests "that the original decision made by the White House Human Resources Specialist to raise the level of the position to GS-13 be reinstated," "that OPM review the position to ascertain the correct job level based on the additional responsibilities of the position," that "OPM review how the original job description was introduced into the completed process in the beginning as requested by the White House Office of Administration be upheld [sic]," and "that the supervisor's introduction of a new job description... be stricken and found invalid." 

In adjudicating this appeal, our responsibility is to make an independent decision on the proper classification of the appellant's position.  By law, we must make that decision solely by comparing her current duties and responsibilities to OPM position classification standards (PCS) and guidelines (5 U.S.C. 5106, 5107, and 5112).  Because our decision sets aside all previous agency decisions, the appellant's complaints regarding her agency’s classification review process are not germane to this decision.  Further, we conduct an independent, de novo review and neither adopt, reinstate, nor endorse an agency decision. 

In adjudicating an appeal, we determine the correct classification of the appealed position based on the duties assigned by management and performed by the appellant.  We do not classify a PD, we classify the actual operating position; i.e., the duties and responsibilities assigned by management and performed by the appellant.  We consider the PD only to the extent that it accurately represents the work being performed.  However, because a PD documents the major duties, responsibilities, and organizational relationships of a position and serves as the official record of its classification, supervisors are responsible for ensuring the PDs to which their subordinates are assigned are current and include sufficient information on which to base a classification determination.  The accuracy of the appellant's PD is addressed in more detail later in this decision.   

Positions are classified by comparing their current duties and responsibilities to OPM standards and guidelines.  However, certain duties cannot affect the grade of a position and thus may not be considered in our adjudication of an appeal.  Included in this category are services performed by an employee but not assigned by management. In this case, the appellant serves as an equal employment opportunity (EEO) counselor on a collateral duty basis.  Although an employee may volunteer to serve as an EEO counselor, this collateral duty is neither assigned by nor under the supervisory control of the employee’s management.  Similarly, the appellant serves as a notary public and notarizes documents for employees at OMB and other EOP offices.  However, this responsibility was not assigned by management and is not a requirement of her position, but rather is a credential which she attained on her own initiative and a service she provides to others on a voluntary basis.  Therefore, these services provided are not considered in our evaluation of the appellant’s position.

The appellant’s request for a higher grade rests in large part on her assertion that some of her duties (specifically, serving as liaison between OMB and the Government Accountability Office (GAO)) were formerly performed by a GS-15 attorney, and that counterpart positions in other agencies are at the GS-14 “or even at the level of Assistant Secretary of an agency or department.”  To this we may only respond that most positions in the Federal government perform a variety of functions, and not all of the functions performed by a given position are necessarily classifiable at the same grade level. For example, with advances in office automation and the resultant reduction in the number of clerical and secretarial positions throughout the Federal agencies, many higher-level professional and administrative employees are now expected to perform work that used to be carried out by support staff, such as keeping their own calendars and preparing their own documents.  However, the grades of those higher-level positions are not based on performance of the clerical or secretarial work, which may represent only a minor portion of their jobs. Further, any similarities perceived by the appellant between the work she performs and that performed by higher level employees at other agencies is merely speculative and will not be addressed, except to note that a title such as "GAO liaison" can span a wide range of duties from the coordinative functions performed by the appellant to much higher-level work, such as formulating agency position and testifying before Congress, and there is no grade equivalence between these functions.  Rather, the grade of an individual position is based on the actual duties assigned by management and performed by the employee.  This same principle can be applied to the appellant's statement "that all individuals that I work with in various agencies are all employees who are at grade level GS-14 and above."  The grade of a position is not derived through proximity to other higher-graded positions but through evaluation of the actual duties assigned and performed.

Position information

The appellant's primary responsibility is to serve as liaison and coordinator between OMB and GAO during the conduct of GAO engagement reviews.  Upon electronic receipt of the initial GAO formal engagement-request letter, the appellant notifies the OMB offices with subject-matter responsibility for the matter under GAO review and acknowledges receipt.  She schedules a pre-meet of internal GAO staff, attends the meeting, and acts as liaison if clarification is required from GAO on the scope of their questions or to communicate any concerns.  She subsequently sets up the external meeting between OMB and GAO, attends and moderates the meeting by introducing the participants and ensuring it proceeds on schedule, and coordinates any follow-up action required.  She may set up additional meetings called in-camera reviews where GAO staff may visually review OMB documents that will not otherwise be released.  Afterwards, she receives GAO's statement of facts, forwards it to the involved OMB staff to confirm whether it accurately represents the information provided in the meeting, and sends back their comments to GAO.  If she gets any follow-up questions from GAO, she forwards them to the OMB staff for response.  Upon receipt of the draft GAO report, she forwards it to the relevant OMB offices, schedules an exit meeting for the staff to go through the report, alerts the relevant offices when a draft report includes one or more formal recommendations of action, ensures that the OMB staff coordinates with GAO on a timely basis regarding their review of the draft report and their anticipated submission of comments, and follows-up to ensure the comments have been submitted.  Throughout this process, the appellant maintains a detailed tracking system of the status of each GAO review.  With over 60 reviews currently ongoing, the appellant estimated this responsibility comprises at least 75 percent of her time.  The remainder of her time is distributed among the other duties described below.

The appellant provides assistance to ensure that Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests are processed in a timely manner by following up on responses due as requested.  She trains and provides ongoing guidance to student interns in using the Redax software to redact documents before release, screening the documents (which are provided by the responsible OMB staff offices) to eliminate any duplicates or extraneous materials, and electronically redacting them to remove information related to the deliberative process which is exempted from release under FOIA (subject to subsequent review by one of the attorneys).  The appellant ensures that required time frames are met and upon completion, may occasionally draft a response to the requestor. 

The appellant is responsible for recruiting and selecting (subject to only cursory supervisory approval) volunteer law school student interns as the occasion arises.  She posts the opportunity on an electronic job bank, screens the incoming applications, interviews applicants, and initiates the SF-52 to bring the selectee on-board. 

The appellant is responsible for preparing the draft of OMB's semi-annual reports on travel by OMB employees which is paid by non-Federal sources based on information provided to her by the OMB program offices; verifies the travel actually occurred; checks the information for accuracy, including any Government costs being reported; and contacts the travel hosts to obtain estimates of their costs.  She also archives copies of Executive Order (EO) files both electronically and in hard copy form for eventual transfer to the National Archives and Records Administration.

The forgoing description of duties is not intended to be all-inclusive, but rather is a summary of her major duties and responsibilities relevant to our below classification analysis.  Her PD contains a more detailed task-based description of her duties, all of which were fully considered in this decision. 

The appellant's supervisor certified the accuracy of her PD (#RF00105).  The appellant's representative states that although "there is no disagreement with the listing of duties described in the position description," a revised PD was submitted with the appeal to provide "additional information that should have been included."  Our review of the revisions indicate that although they provide more detail regarding the specific tasks associated with the duties performed, they do not present any duties that are not already represented in the PD.  However, the revision includes the statement that "[t]he incumbent must be a Certified Paralegal Specialist."  This is a determination normally made by management when recruiting for a position, and our below series determination analysis found that the duties performed by the appellant do not require paralegal knowledges and skills.  We also found that the factor-level descriptions presented in the appellant's PD materially misrepresent both the nature of the work she performs and the level of authority she is delegated and do not correspond to the duties and responsibilities described.  The factor-level descriptions are permeated with references to the appellant performing legal research and analysis, duties she does not perform.  For example, the appellant does not "make recommendations concerning public release of the requested material [under FOIA]" or "perform legal research into legislative history, precedent cases, decisions and opinions... to interpret or explain findings and conclusions... and to assist in case preparation" (factor 1).  She does not "contribute to the formulation of the agency's legal position and the perfection of legal process" (factor 2), or "use judgment in interpreting these laws and court decisions" (factor 3).  She does not perform any of the "wide variety of duties involved in legal research and evaluation" described under factor 4, her work does not contribute to the "litigation worthiness of a case" (factor 5), and she does not "apply skillful interrogation... to support OMB's litigation, conciliation, settlement, and other program efforts" (factor 7).

An employee's PD is expected to meet certain minimum standards of adequacy and accuracy in depicting the duties being performed in that it serves as the basis for determining the employee's pay and other associated benefits based on that pay.  The appellant’s PD does not meet these minimum standards of adequacy and accuracy and should be revised to more realistically depict the factor-level characteristics associated with her work. 

To help decide this appeal, we conducted a desk audit with the appellant on June 5, 2014, and telephone interviews with her supervisor, the Deputy General Counsel, on June 9, 2014, and with the Assistant General Counsel who oversees the OGC's FOIA process and OMB's participation in GAO engagements on June 13, 2014.  Both the Deputy General Counsel and the Assistant General Counsel confirmed the accuracy of the appellant's account of her duties, and did not present any information contrary to the description of duties submitted to the record by the appellant and her representative.  This decision is based on our assessment of the appellant’s duties and responsibilities as determined through our desk audit, review of work samples furnished by the appellant, detailed descriptions of her work contained in the appeal record, and all other material received in the AAR and submitted by the appellant and her representative.

Series and title determination

The appellant's position is incorrectly assigned to the GS-950 Paralegal Specialist Series.  This series covers positions involving various legal assistance duties in connection with such functions as hearings, appeals, litigation, or advisory services.  As described in the GS-950 PCS, paralegal specialists analyze the legal impact of legislative developments and administrative and judicial decisions, opinions, determinations, and rulings on agency programs; conduct research for the preparation of legal opinions on matters of interest to the agency; perform substantive legal analysis of requests for information under the provision of various acts; or other similar legal support functions which require discretion and independent judgment in the application of a specialized knowledge of laws, precedent decisions, regulations, agency policies and practices, and judicial or administrative proceedings.  Duties may include such work as:  examining case files to determine issues and sufficiency of evidence or documentation; searching for legal precedents, analyzing their applicability, and preparing digests of points of law involved; drafting briefs, other litigation papers, or advisory opinions for review and approval of attorneys; analyzing legal issues involved in requests for agency records; developing and justifying recommendations for agency action on legal issues; preparing for hearings and court appearances by briefing attorneys or administrative law judges on the issues and by assembling and arranging case files, documents, and exhibits; and attending court sessions or hearings to be informed on progress, the development of new issues, issues that have been resolved, and areas that need more emphasis.  Although paralegal specialists are usually located in an organizational entity staffed with attorneys or administrative law judges, not all employees who provide assistance or support to attorneys are necessarily paralegal specialists.

In making a series determination, the controlling factor is the knowledge required by the position and applied by the employee.  The employee's personal qualifications are not a consideration in this determination.  In this case, the appellant reported that she "holds a Master's Degree in Public Administration and an Undergraduate Degree in the Administration of Justice, Criminal Justice" and that she has certification as a paralegal specialist from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Graduate School.  However, her position does not require nor does she apply paralegal specialist knowledge and skills.  Her work does not support the conduct of hearings, appeals, litigation, or legal advisory services conducted by the OGC attorneys.  Rather, it supports certain administrative processes that are assigned to OMB's OGC but are not otherwise of an inherently legal nature; i.e., the coordination of GAO reviews, the redaction of FOIA-requested documents, the preparation of the "Semiannual Report of Payments Accepted from a Non-Federal Source," and the archiving of EO files.  Consequently, she does not perform such work as examining case files for sufficiency of evidence or documentation; analyzing legislative developments and administrative and judicial decisions, opinions, or determinations; conducting legal research to search for case precedents; assembling case files, documents and exhibits for hearings and court proceedings; or drafting briefs or advisory opinions.  Although paralegal specialists may perform "substantive legal analysis of requests for information under the provision of various acts" such as FOIA, the appellant does not perform this work.  Her role in the FOIA process is limited to following up on responses by the program offices, training interns in the use of the Redax software, and occasionally (although not recently) taking a first cut at redacting some documents herself which have already been determined to be releasable by the FOIA Officer and the attorneys.  Although this requires some understanding of what material would be considered to be part of the deliberative process and thus must be redacted, this does not require the degree of specialized knowledge of FOIA provisions normally applied by paralegal specialists, and the work is subsequently reviewed by one of the attorneys. 

In determining the appropriate series for the appellant's position, the initial determination to be made is whether the work performed is one- or two-grade interval in nature.  Guidance provided in The Classifier's Handbook distinguishes between one-grade interval support series and two-grade interval administrative series.  Support work usually involves proficiency in one or more functional areas or in certain limited phases of a specified program.  Employees who perform support work follow established methods and procedures.  The work can be performed based on a practical knowledge of the purpose, operation, procedures, techniques, and guidelines of the specific program area or functional assignment.  Support personnel typically learn to do the work on the job through what may sometimes be many years of experience. 

Administrative work, on the other hand, primarily requires a high order of analytical ability combined with a comprehensive knowledge of (1) the functions, processes, theories, and principles of management; and (2) the methods used to gather, analyze, and evaluate information.  Administrative work also requires skill in applying problem solving techniques and skill in communicating effectively both orally and in writing.  Administrative positions do not require specialized education, but they do involve the type of skills (analysis, research, writing, judgment) typically gained through college level education or through progressively responsible experience.  Administrative work often involves planning for and developing systems, functions, and services; formulating, developing, recommending, and establishing policies, operating methods, or procedures; and adapting established policy to the unique requirements of a particular program.

Close examination of the appellant's duties makes clear her work is one-grade interval in nature.  As is typical of one-grade interval support work, the methods and procedures for coordinating and tracking GAO reviews, preparing travel reports, using redacting software, following up on FOIA responses, and archiving EO files are established.  She carries out these duties based on a practical understanding of the purpose of the work, the sequence of operations, and the timeline of events as attained through years of experience on the job.  The work requires such tasks as scheduling meetings, serving as the go-between for the transmittal of information, following-up on action items, keeping detailed track of the status of activities, obtaining factual information from other offices, using various software, and organizing and maintaining electronic files. These duties require coordinative and organizational skills but, unlike two-grade interval administrative work, they do not require analytical ability, knowledge of management principles and processes, evaluating information, or conducting research to perform such work as planning and developing systems or services or developing policies or operating procedures.  The degree of judgment required by the work is limited as it involves carrying out established steps in a prescribed manner; the work involves the conveyance of information rather than the analysis and evaluation of that information; and the writing is limited to such subjects as transmittals of factual information, requests for status updates, proposing of meeting times, and the like.  The work does not involve such two-grade interval functions as analyzing problems and issues and proposing solutions.

As such, the appellant's position is properly classified to the GS-303 Miscellaneous Clerical and Assistance Series.  This series includes positions that perform or supervise one-grade interval clerical, assistant, or technician work for which no other more specialized series is appropriate.

There are no titles specified for positions in the GS-303 series.  Rather, the series flysheet instructs that titles be constructed following the guidance contained in the Introduction to the Position Classification Standards. Since no titles are prescribed, the title of the appellant's position may be constructed by the agency.

Standard determination

There are no published grade-level criteria for the GS-303 series.  The series flysheet instructs that positions classified in this series that are nonclerical in nature be evaluated by reference to standards of the one-grade interval type that involve analogous knowledges and skills.  In this case, the occupational series standard involving the most analogous knowledge and skills is the PCS for the Secretary Series, GS-318.  Although the appellant does not serve as assistant to one individual, hence her position is not appropriately allocated to the GS-318 series, there is a high degree of correspondence between her duties and the administrative work commonly performed by secretaries and described in the GS-318 PCS.  These include such duties as “making complete arrangements for large conferences;” “following up with staff members to insure that various commitments made at conferences and meetings are met;” “locating and assembling information for various reports, briefings, conferences, etc.;” and “designing and organizing filing systems.” Correspondingly, the appellant makes arrangements for meetings between GAO and OMB staff; follows up with program staff to ensure time frames for the review and submittal of information are met; locates information for the completion of the semi-annual travel reports; and keeps electronic and hard copy EO files.  Therefore, the GS-318 PCS is the most appropriate source of grade-level criteria for the appellant's position.

Although the appellant reported that she recruits, interviews, selects, and "supervises" student interns in the OGC, the role she occupies in relation to any student interns in the office does not constitute "supervision" within the meaning of the General Schedule Supervisory Guide (GSSG) and is not a factor in determining the grade of her position.  The GSSG is the classification guide used to evaluate supervisory duties.  However, in order to be considered supervisory and be evaluated by use of the GSSG, the work must require accomplishment of work through the combined technical and administrative direction of others; constitute a major duty occupying at least 25 percent of the position's time; and meet at least the lowest level of Factor 3 in the GSSG, based on supervising Federal civilian employees, Federal military or uniformed service employees, volunteers, or other noncontractor personnel.  The lowest level of Factor 3 includes such work as planning work to be accomplished by subordinates, setting and adjusting short-term priorities, and preparing schedules for the completion of work; assigning work to subordinates based on  priorities, selective consideration of the difficulty and requirements of assignments, and the capabilities of employees; evaluating the work performance of subordinates; giving advice, counsel, and instruction to employees on both work and administrative matters; interviewing candidates for positions, recommending appointment, promotion, or reassignment to such positions; hearing and resolving employee complaints; effecting minor disciplinary measures, such as warnings and reprimands; identifying, providing, or arranging for training and development; and developing performance standards. 

The appellant does not meet this basic threshold.  First, the presence of student interns, all of whom are now unpaid volunteers, in the office is not constant.  Although there were several such interns last summer, there were none during the past school year and there is currently only one this summer.  Therefore, any such "supervision" exercised by the appellant does not constitute a major and continuing duty occupying at least 25 percent of her time.  She oversees the interns' work when they are assisting her with administrative tasks, but when they are directly assisting one of the attorneys, that attorney oversees the work performed.  As such, she does not exercise full technical direction over their work.  She does not perform most of the duties listed under the lowest level of Factor 3 of the GSSG, because the status of the interns as volunteers rather than as Federal employees precludes her performance of such administrative supervisory functions as developing performance standards, evaluating performance (i.e., within the agency performance evaluation system), effecting disciplinary measures, recommending personnel actions, and formally hearing and resolving complaints.  Thus, she does not exercise full administrative direction over their work.  Accordingly, the representative's statement that "[p]aralegals do not [normally] supervise attorneys" to support her request for a higher grade disregards that the appellant does not exercise full technical and administrative supervision over the student interns, the interns are law students and not attorneys, and any work performed by them that she would oversee is administrative rather than legal in nature.  Therefore, the GSSG may not be used to evaluate the appellant's position, and any direction or mentoring she may provide to student interns has no bearing on the grade of her position.

Because the appellant’s position is not properly allocated to the GS-950 series and does not require analogous knowledges and skills, the GS-950 PCS is not an appropriate source of grade level criteria and will not be addressed.  However, the appellant’s grade level rationale does not rest on application of the GS-950 PCS but rather on a misunderstanding of how positions in the GS-950 series are graded.  In the appellant’s response to the AAR and reiterated in the summation, the appellant continuously asserts that the factors that distinguish between a GS-12 and GS-15 paralegal specialist are: “[t]he duties that the paralegal performs that can be interpreted as work ordinarily performed by an attorney” and “[t]hat the paralegal performs work independently, utilizing his or her own judgment.  Generally where the paralegal is unsupervised in the activities performed.”  The appellant attributes these factors to unidentified "OPM regulations" as conveyed by the EOP HR specialist who performed the agency-level review of her position.  However, there are no such criteria stated in OPM regulations or other classification guidance, including the GS-950 PCS, which includes grade-level criteria to the GS-13 level only.   (Upon inquiry, the EOP HR specialist denied conveying such information.)  As discussed earlier, the mere performance of a certain set of duties by an attorney does not mean those duties require the professional qualifications of an attorney.  A law degree is not required to schedule meetings, write emails summarizing information contained in other correspondence, keep a tracking system of the status of reviews, or compile reports.  In other words, rather than the appellant performing work “normally performed by an attorney,” it would be more accurate to state that at times, attorneys may by necessity be required to perform work normally performed by support staff.

Grade determination

The GS-318 PCS is written in the Factor Evaluation System (FES) format, under which factor levels and accompanying point values are to be assigned for each of the following nine factors, with the total then being converted to a grade level by use of the grade conversion table provided in the PCS.  The factor point values mark the lower end of the ranges for the indicated factor levels.  For a position to warrant a given point value, it must be fully equivalent to the overall intent of the selected factor-level description.  If the position fails in any significant aspect to meet a particular factor-level description, the point value for the next lower factor level must be assigned, unless the deficiency is balanced by an equally important aspect that meets a higher level.

Factor 1, Knowledge Required by the Position

This factor is expressed in terms of two elements, Work Situation and Knowledge Type. Work Situation refers to the complexity of the organization served which affects the extent of office rules, procedures, operations, and priorities the employee must apply to maintain a proper and smooth flow of work within the organization and between organizations. Knowledge Type measures the nature and extent of information the employee must understand in order to do the work, and the skills needed to apply that knowledge.

Work Situation

At Work Situation B, the staff is organized into subordinate segments which may be further divided.  Direction of the staff is exercised through intermediate supervisors, and the subordinate groups differ from each other in such aspects as subject matter, functions, relationships with other organizations, and administrative requirements.  There is a system of formal internal procedures and administrative controls, and a formal production or progress reporting system.  Coordination among subordinate units is sufficiently complex to require continuous attention.  Also included at Work Situation B are organizations that have extensive responsibility for coordinating work outside of the organization, when the external coordination requires procedures and administrative controls equivalent to those described above for this level.

As covered under Work Situation B, the appellant has extensive responsibility for coordinating work outside the organization through her coordination of engagement reviews between GAO and the OMB program offices, which requires continuous attention due to the number of ongoing reviews at any given time, and a system of internal procedures and a formal tracking system. 

At Work Situation C, in addition to the conditions described in Work Situation B, the staff is augmented by various staff specialists in such fields as personnel, management analysis, and administration.  The organization is typically divided into three or more subordinate levels, with several organizations at each level.  In addition, the organization typically has one of the following conditions, increasing the knowledges required by the work: (1) the program is interlocked on a direct and continuing basis with the programs of other agencies or organizations, requiring constant attention to extensive formal clearances and procedural controls; (2) the program is directly affected by conditions outside the organization which vary widely in nature and intensity and require frequent organizational, procedural, or program adjustments in the organization;  (3) there is active and extensive public interest or participation in the program which results in the supervisor spending a substantial portion of the time in personal contacts outside the organization.

Work Situation C is intended for secretary positions supporting organizations large enough to have multiple subdivisions and to support their own full administrative staffs.  In other words, these positions normally exist in the front office for an agency or one of its subcomponents, where extensive coordination is required both internally and externally.  The appellant’s position is located in OMB’s OGC, but the coordination she provides is between the OMB program offices and GAO, so in that sense she supports OMB as a whole for that specific coordinative function.  However, her position does not require the type of internal coordination normally expected in this work situation; i.e., between the OMB director’s office and the various administrative offices of OMB.  Further, although OMB as an agency has the extensive external programmatic relationships described at this work situation, these characteristics do not directly affect the appellant’s work or increase the knowledge required by her position (e.g., by requiring extensive formal clearances and procedural controls or significant public contacts.)  For example, although OMB’s mission is interlocked on a direct and continuing basis with the programs of other Federal agencies, the appellant is not involved in extensive and continuous coordination requiring her to establish formal administrative controls between OMB and the agencies.  Although the OGC attorneys may spend a substantial portion of their time on contacts outside OMB, the appellant does not arrange or participate in these contacts.  Her position involves carrying out the well-established coordination required between the OMB program offices and GAO for the limited and specific purpose of engagement reviews, which is fully represented at Work Situation B. 

Knowledge Type

The knowledge required by the appellant’s position matches Knowledge Type III.  Positions at this level require knowledge of the duties, priorities, commitments, policies, and program goals of the staff sufficient to perform non-routine assignments such as: independently noting and following-up on commitments made at meetings and conferences by staff members; shifting clerical staff in subordinate offices to take care of fluctuating workloads; or locating and summarizing information from files when this requires recognizing which information is relevant.  At this level, the secretary is fully responsible for coordinating the work of the office with the work of other offices, and for recognizing the need for such coordination in various circumstances.

This accurately characterizes the nature of the appellant’s work.  The appellant must know the GAO engagement review process in order to independently orchestrate all of the individual actions required, and she is fully responsible for coordinating these actions between OMB and GAO (e.g., in arranging meetings and conveying information.) 

The position does not meet Knowledge Type IV.  Positions at this level must have, as a continuing requirement, a basic foundation of administrative concepts, principles, and practices sufficient to perform independently such duties as: eliminating conflict and duplication in extensive office procedures; determining when new procedures are needed; systematically studying and evaluating new office machines and recommending acceptance and rejection of their use; and studying the clerical activities of the office and subordinate offices and recommending a specific restructuring of the way activities are carried out.  Positions at this level also require comprehensive knowledge of the supervisor’s policies and views on all significant matters affecting the organization, to perform such duties as developing material for the supervisor’s use in public speaking engagements, and briefing staff members or outside parties on the supervisor’s views on current issues affecting the organization (e.g., the supervisor feels that a proposed reorganization would increase the effectiveness of the program because it reduces some administrative burdens.)  The PCS notes that Work Situation B rarely involves application of Knowledge Type IV.

This knowledge type can only be supported by very large organizations, where the supervisor has a sizable staff and subordinate structure and significant representational responsibilities.  In contrast to Knowledge Type III, where work involves coordinating activities between offices, Knowledge Type IV requires a higher order of knowledge to develop extensive office procedures and in addition, a knowledge of the substantive policies of the organization in order represent or communicate management’s position on various issues.  The appellant coordinates the GAO engagement review process within the parameters of established procedures. Further, her work neither requires nor permits her to independently communicate OMB management’s response to GAO findings; i.e., she transmits responses prepared by the program offices but does not otherwise convey them in a manner that would require, for example, summarizing, paraphrasing, or conducting briefings.  The appellant provided no examples of work she has performed that is equivalent to the duties described above in any respect.

Work Situation B in combination with Knowledge Type III equates to Level 1-4.

Level 1-4 is credited (550 points).

Factor 2, Supervisory Controls

This factor covers the nature and extent of direct or indirect controls exercised by the supervisor, the employee’s responsibility, and the review of completed work.

The level of responsibility under which the appellant works meets but does not exceed Level 2-4 (the highest level described under this factor.)  At this level, the supervisor sets the overall objectives of the work, and the secretary and the supervisor develop the deadlines and work to be done.  The PCS describes several duties as typical of those performed at this level.  These consist of the following:  noting commitments made by the supervisor during meetings and arranging for the staff to implement them; reviewing correspondence for policy departures or conflicts with previous correspondence and resolving these problems before presentation to the supervisor; in addition to independently arranging conferences, also arranging for a subordinate of the supervisor to represent the organization; drafting letters of acknowledgement, commendation, notification, etc., on his/her own initiative, e.g., after reviewing publications for program citations; ensuing that official social obligations are met, such as arranging luncheons, issuing invitations, and providing for protocol requirements; obtaining information on specialized subject matter that is scattered in numerous documents or must be obtained orally from several sources; and preparing administrative or procedural notices or instructions to the staff on his/her own initiative.  These types of duties would normally be found in offices at high organizational echelons with supervisors who have many official programmatic and social commitments or in extremely large organizations where the supervisor delegates considerable authority to the secretary to take actions on his/her behalf.

The appellant assumes a considerable degree of responsibility in handling all administrative aspects of coordinating GAO engagement reviews.  Analogous to the above Level 2-4 assignments, the appellant performs the following duties:  setting up meetings between all parties involved; ensuring that documents are transmitted to the appropriate program staffs; moderating meetings and following up on required actions by the program staff; and tracking the status of reviews to ensure time frames are met.  As at this level, the appellant carries out these duties independently based on her understanding of the review process and requirements.  The supervisor sets the overall objectives of the work, although development of deadlines and work to be done are unnecessary because the work performed consists of continuing assignments with well-established procedures.

The appellant believes that her independence of action should be a major consideration in the grading of her position.  In the response to the AAR, she asserts that her supervisor primarily acts only as her “rating official,” and that her work on the GAO engagement review process and FOIA requests is essentially unsupervised.  However, the appellant appears to equate situations where an employee is delegated a high degree of independent authority in regard to, for example, making program decisions or policy recommendations or giving legal advice, to situations where minimal supervision is exercised because the work is routinized and governed by established procedures so that supervision of individual tasks is unnecessary. In the appellant’s case, the sequence and timing of the individual tasks associated with coordination of the GAO engagement reviews are established, leaving very little discretion on the appellant’s part on how to proceed.  Any significant deviation from normal practice would be determined by the program and legal staff.  Similarly, any work performed by the appellant in regard to FOIA responses is done after receipt of instructions by the responsible attorney.  Therefore, the independence of action afforded the appellant is more a product of the controls inherent to the work rather than delegation of authority and the resultant absence of supervision.

Level 2-4 is credited (450 points).

Factor 3, Guidelines

This factor covers the nature of the guidelines used and the judgment needed to apply them.

The guidelines used by the appellant meet but do not exceed Level 3-3 (the highest level described under this factor.)  At this level, guidelines include a large body of unwritten policies, precedents, and practices which are not completely applicable to the work or are not specific and deal with matters relating to judgment, efficiency, and relative priorities rather than with procedural concerns.  For example, they may include decisions made by the supervisor in cases that are similar, but not completely analogous.  The secretary applies and adapts guidelines, such as regulations or the supervisor’s policies, to specific problems for which the guidelines are not completely applicable.

There are no written guidelines for the appellant’s work.  Most of her duties are undertaken on her own initiative in response to the administrative demands of the work.  For example, in serving as liaison between OMB and GAO, her primary concern is to ensure that the required actions are taken and time frames are met.  As such, she operates within the parameters of unwritten policies and practices dealing with efficiency and relative priorities as envisioned at Level 3-3.

Level 3-3 is credited (275 points).                                                                                                            

Factor 4, Complexity

This factor covers the nature, number, variety, and intricacy of the tasks or processes in the work performed, the difficulty in identifying what needs to be done, and the difficulty and originality involved in performing the work. 

The complexity of the appellant’s work meets but does not exceed Level 4-3 (the highest level described under this factor.)  At this level, the work includes various duties involving different and unrelated processes and methods.  For example, the  secretary performs a number of duties comparable to the following: preparing one-of-a-kind reports from information in various documents when this requires reading correspondence and reports to identify relevant items, and when decisions are based on familiarity with the issues involved and the relationship between the various types of information; and setting up conferences requiring the planning and arranging of travel and hotel accommodations based on knowledge of the schedules and commitments of the participants.  Decisions regarding what needs to be done and how to accomplish it are based on the secretary’s knowledge of the duties, priorities, commitments, policies, and program goals of the supervisor and staff, and involve analysis of the subject, phase, or issues involved in each assignment.  The chosen courses are selected from many alternatives.

The appellant performs administrative work to support OMB’s role in the GAO engagement review process, the processing of FOIA requests, and the preparation of travel reports.  Her coordination of the GAO process is comparable to “setting up conferences… based on knowledge of the schedules and commitments of the participants,” except that the knowledge required is of the sequence, time frames, and other requirements of the process.  The key similarity is that she sets up meetings and follows up on required responses based on her knowledge of what needs to occur rather than on instructions provided by others.    

Level 4-3 is credited (150 points).                                                                                                            

Factor 5, Scope and Effect

This factor covers the relationship between the nature of the work, and the effect of the work products or services both within and outside the organization. 

The scope and effect of the appellant’s work match Level 5-2.  At that level, the purpose of the work is to carry out specific procedures.  Duties frequently appearing at this level include: serving as liaison between the supervisor and subordinate units; consolidating reports submitted by subordinate units; and arranging meetings involving staff from outside the immediate office.  The work affects the accuracy and reliability of further processes. 

The purpose of the appellant’s work is to carry out certain administrative processes of the office.  The appellant serves as liaison between OMB program offices and GAO; completes and consolidates semi-annual travel reports for OMB staff; and arranges internal and external meetings.  The work facilitates the conduct of GAO
engagement reviews within OMB and the timely OMB review and response to GAO inquiries and findings. 

The position does not meet Level 5-3.  Positions at that level serve offices that clearly and directly affect a wide range of agency activities, operations in other agencies, or a large segment of the public or business community.  The secretary at this level modifies and devises methods and procedures that significantly and consistently affect the accomplishment of the mission of the office.  The secretary identifies and resolves various problems and situations that affect the orderly and efficient flow of work in transactions with parties outside the organization.

The appellant’s position directly affects certain externally-driven processes, such as the OMB response to GAO reviews and FOIA requests, but unlike Level 5-3, has no direct effect on the mission-oriented work of OMB. 

Level 5-2 is credited (75 points).                                                                                                                 

Factor 6, Personal Contacts

This factor includes face-to-face and telephone contacts with persons not in the supervisory chain.  The relationship between Factors 6 and 7 presumes that the same contacts will be evaluated under both factors.

The appellant’s personal contacts match Level 6-3.  At that level, contacts are with individuals or groups from outside the employing agency in a moderately unstructured setting, for example, the contacts are not established on a routine basis, requiring the secretary to identify and locate the appropriate person to contact.  The appellant has equivalent contacts with individuals from GAO in coordinating engagement reviews and with non-government organizations in obtaining information for travel reports.

The position does not meet Level 6-4.  At that level, contacts are with high-ranking officials from outside the employing agency at national or international levels (e.g., Members of Congress, leading representatives of foreign governments, presidents of large national or international firms, nationally recognized representatives of the news media, presidents of national unions, State governors, or mayors of large cities) in highly unstructured settings.  The appellant has no contacts of this nature.  (As noted earlier, any White House contacts the appellant may occasionally have as a notary are not conducted within the context of her actual assigned duties and regardless, would be highly structured and limited to verifying identity and witnessing signature.)

Level 6-3 is credited (60 points).               

Factor 7, Purpose of Contacts

This factor covers the purpose of personal contacts ranging from factual exchange of information to situations involving significant or controversial issues and differing viewpoints and objectives.

The purpose of the appellant’s contacts meets but does not exceed Level 7-2 (the highest level described under this factor), where contacts are for the purposes of planning and coordinating work or resolving operating problems.

Level 7-2 is credited (50 points).                                                                                                          

Factor 8, Physical Demands

This factor covers the requirements and physical demands placed on the employee by the work situation.

The position matches Level 8-1, which covers sedentary work.

Level 8-1 is credited (5 points).

Factor 9, Work Environment

This factor considers the risks and discomforts in the employee’s physical surroundings or the nature of the work assigned and the safety regulations required.

The position matches Level 9-1, which describes a typical office environment.

Level 9-1 is credited (5 points).

Summary
Factors Level Points
Knowledge Required 1-4 550
Supervisory Controls 2-4 450
Guidelines 3-3 275
Complexity 4-3 150
Scope and Effect 5-2 75
Personal Contacts 6-3 63
Purpose of Contacts 7-2 50
Physical Demands 8-1 5
Work Evironment 9-1 5
Total 1620

 

The total of 1620 points falls within the GS-8 range (1605-1850) on the grade conversion table provided in the standard. 

Decision

The appealed position is properly classified as GS-303-8, with the title at the discretion of the agency. 

Back to Top

Control Panel