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Classification & Qualifications Appeal Decisions

Washington, DC

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

Christopher P. Rennix
Supervisory Health System Specialist
GS-671-14
Epidemiology Data Center
Directorate of Population Health
Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center
Department of the Navy
Portsmouth, Virginia
GS-601-14
(Title at agency discretion with “Supervisory” prefix)
C-0601-14-02

Linda Kazinetz
Classification Appeals and FLSA Claims
Program Manager
Agency Compliance and Evaluation
Merit System Accountability and Compliance

07/17/2017


Date

As provided in section 511.612 of title 5, Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), 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 changes the classification of the appealed position, it is to be effective no later than the beginning of the fourth pay period after the date of this decision (5 CFR 511.702).  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 Office of Personnel Management, Washington, D.C., office.

Introduction

The appellant’s position is currently classified as Supervisory Health System Specialist, GS-671-14, and is located in the Epidemiology Data Center (EDC), Directorate of Population Health, Navy and Marine Corps Public Health Center (NMCPHC), Department of the Navy (DON), in Portsmouth, Virginia.  The appellant believes his position should be classified as Supervisory Epidemiologist, GS-601-15.  We have accepted and decided this appeal under section 5112 of title 5, United States Code (U.S.C.).

General Issues

The appellant bases his appeal, in large part, on an increase in his responsibilities and the scope of the work performed by the EDC, which he asserts is supported by the increase in staff and budget ($1.3M to $6M and 6 to 54 staff since 2005).  Although we considered the organization’s impact on the position’s complexity, scope, and other classification-related factors, we do not consider volume of work in determining the grade of a position (The Classifier’s Handbook, Chapter 5).

The appellant contests the manner in which his agency handled the classification review of his position.  He asserts the agency reclassified his position to Supervisory Epidemiologist, GS-601-15, but neither assigned him to nor announced the position to allow him to compete for it.  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 his current duties and responsibilities to OPM standards and guidelines (5 U.S.C. 5106, 5107, and 5112).  Because our decision sets aside all previous agency decisions, the agency’s classification review process is not germane to this decision.

The appellant believes his official PD, number D045A, is not accurate because it does not reflect his primary duties as those of a senior epidemiologist.  The Executive Officer (XO) for the NMCPHC certified to the accuracy of the appellant’s PD of record.  With regard to the accuracy of the appellant’s PD, his immediate supervisor (Supervisory Health System Specialist, GS-671-14) concurred that the PD is inaccurate because the appellant uses professional knowledge of epidemiology and supervises epidemiologists, which is not normally expected of a health system specialist.  Our reviewed disclosed, as later discussed in this decision, that the PD does not accurately define the nature and extent of supervision provided by the appellant to his subordinate employees.  Therefore, the appellant’s PD of record does not meet the standard of adequacy as addressed on pages 10-11 of the Introduction, and the agency must revise the PD to reflect our findings.

Position information

The NMCPHC is a fully operational shore activity and the Navy and Marine Corps Center for Public Health Services.  It provides leadership and expertise to ensure mission readiness through disease prevention and health promotion and delivers three critical public health capabilities to Navy and Marine Corps customers at home and abroad:  health surveillance, epidemiology, and analysis; disease and injury prevention; and public health consultation.  These capabilities are supported by 42 “product lines” (i.e., areas of study) consisting of more than 300 unique products and services in the fields of occupational medicine, environmental health, disease surveillance, prevention monitoring, public health emergencies, and risk communication.  The NMCPHC headquarters staff in coordination with its ten operational field activities and four detachments are responsible for delivering and managing programs designed to support the command’s health capabilities.  The Population Health Directorate of the NMCPHC supports force health protection and readiness measures by providing health surveillance services in support of the Navy’s disease and injury prevention programs, analyzing clinical data, providing epidemiology study support, and assessing quality and availability of care.  Their services are provided through the EDC, Health Analysis, and Health Promotion and Wellness Departments.  The EDC provides data analysis for public health surveillance for Navy and Marine Corps members and dependents.  For example, it generates reports of related injuries and illnesses for the Wounded, Ill, and Injured (WII) Program to provide current epidemiological surveillance.  It identifies injuries and illnesses having the greatest effect on service members to influence specific prevention strategies that minimize the impact of preventable injury and disease and improve military health readiness.  It also provides epidemiology expertise for the design, collection, analysis, and interpretation of health information and conducts epidemiologic studies as requested by Navy and Marine Corps operational components.  It serves as the designated conduit for all Navy Medicine reportable medical event data transmitted to the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center (AFHSC) and manages several databases used for collecting and compiling data and producing reports and analyses.  Additionally, it collaborates with the Preventive Medicine Directorate to carry out disease epidemiological analyses.  For example, the EDC developed the Fleet Disease and Injury Report to support the Preventive Medicine Directorate at the NMCPHC and the U.S. Fleet Forces Command.  The report provides a weekly analysis of the medical encounters submitted from the Fleet through the Theater Medical Data Store.

The appellant serves as the Department Head for the EDC, providing program direction for product development and presentation.  He directs a multi-disciplinary team of epidemiologists in study development and execution and oversees the development, writing, and final review of study protocols.  He is the primary customer liaison with the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery (BUMED), Secretary of Navy (SECNAV), Navy, Marine Corps, and Department of Defense (DOD) for public health data products.  He collaborates with other Federal and State public agencies in designing and conducting health studies of mutual interest.  He prepares written and oral responses to senior management inquiries and external taskers related to analysis of data collected, maintained, or accessed by the EDC as well as epidemiologic studies conducted by the EDC staff.  Further, he provides management oversight and planning for information technology systems for data storage and collection performed by the EDC.  As the subject matter expert in epidemiology, he provides lectures, briefings, and training on epidemiological and biostatistical methods and procedures for NMCPHC staff and customers.

In reaching our classification decision, we have carefully reviewed all information provided by the appellant and his agency including his official PD which, although not completely accurate, we have incorporated by reference into this decision.  In addition, to help decide the appeal we conducted separate telephone interviews with the appellant and his supervisor including follow-up requests for additional information from the appellant.

Series, title, and standard determination

The agency has placed the appellant’s position in the Health System Specialist Series, GS-671, titled it Supervisory Health System Specialist, and evaluated it by application of the grading criteria in the Administrative Analysis Grade Evaluation Guide (AAGEG).  The appellant disagrees with his agency’s title, series, and standard determination.

Positions in the GS-671 series provide support to health care management officials by analyzing, evaluating, advising on and/or coordinating health care delivery systems and operations.  Such positions may be located within an operating health care facility or at a higher organizational echelon.  In addition to a high degree of analytical ability, positions in this series require specialized knowledge of the basic principles and practices related to the management of health care delivery systems.  These positions do not have line authority.  Qualifications for this type of position include:  knowledge of missions, organizations, programs, and requirements of health care delivery systems in general and in the country at large; knowledge of unique characteristics of the specific health care delivery system serviced (e.g., facility resources and programs, medical school affiliations, and the role of professional societies and volunteer groups); familiarity with regulations and standards of various regulatory and credentialing groups and ability to reconcile contradictory requirements in preparing staff recommendations and/or in coordinating clinical and administrative services; familiarity with government-wide, agency, and facility systems and requirements in various administrative areas such as budget, personnel, and procurement; recognition of the different functions and motivations of various employees and groups in the health care delivery system and ability to communicate effectively with each in order to gather information, present recommendations, and coordinate services; and ability to analyze problems and present both written and oral recommendations taking into full consideration the wide range of factors and requirements which affect the management of the health care delivery system.

Our fact-finding does not support placement of the appellant’s position in the GS-671 series. It does not require specialized knowledge of the basic principles and practices related to management of health care delivery systems as described in the qualifications for this series.  Instead, the paramount knowledge required by the position is knowledge of the professional concepts, principles, and practices of epidemiology, statistical methods of research, and disease surveillance, including design and methods of analysis.  The record shows the reason for the position’s existence is to direct epidemiological studies and provide epidemiological and biostatistics expertise in support of the public health initiatives and programs of the NMCPHC.  Further, this determination is supported by the appellant’s supervisor who indicated that the paramount knowledge needed for the appellant’s position is a mastery of the field of epidemiologic and public health study design serving as the basis for recruitment.

The GS-601 series is a professional series (i.e., it has a positive education requirement) and covers positions requiring a background of knowledge, skills, and techniques gained from professional training in a health science or allied scientific field, but has no paramount, rigid or continuing requirement for the knowledge, skills, and techniques characterizing any of the established series covering one or more of the academic disciplines.  Such work may cut across and require understanding of scientific methods and techniques common to several recognized professional fields in the health, medical, or allied sciences (e.g., work in the field of health research administration requiring knowledge of research methodology common to a number of different scientific fields); and/or may represent a new, emerging or miscellaneous professional occupational area of a health science not readily identifiable with an established series.  Epidemiology is a specialized professional field that is not covered by any of the established series within the Medical, Hospital, Dental, and Public Health Group, GS-600.  Thus, the appellant’s work is appropriately assigned to the General Health Science Series, GS-601.

The agency evaluated the grade of the appellant’s position by application of the AAGEG.  The AAGEG provides grade-level criteria for nonsupervisory staff administrative, analytical, planning, and evaluative work at grade GS-9 and above.  This guide is used to evaluate work that is administrative in nature and does not require specialized subject-matter knowledge and skills.  However, the appellant’s work requires specialized professional knowledge and skills in epidemiologic principles and practices.  When classifying positions, the position in question should be matched against classification criteria which are comparable in scope and difficulty and which describe similar subject matter and functions.  Thus, professional positions should be evaluated by comparison to standards for professional work as addressed on page 16 of the Introduction. Therefore, use of the AAGEG to evaluate the appellant’s position is inappropriate.   

The appellant believes his position should be evaluated using the Research Grants Grade Evaluation Guide (RGGEG), asserting that it addresses work that is most functionally similar to his work.  However, he does not address how his position meets the coverage criteria for application of the RGGEG.  The RGGEG provides criteria for evaluating the grade level of professional and scientific positions primarily concerned with the analysis, evaluation, planning, organizing, coordination, and approval of scientific research programs and projects carried out through grants or contracts, for the purpose of determining if the proposed research is scientifically valid, has a good chance of success, and will produce findings of value to the agency.  The primary purpose of the appellant’s position and management’s intent regarding its establishment and continuing operation is to provide epidemiologic and data analysis and study design leadership and support, not to review applications for grants and contracts for conducting scientific research projects.  As such, the RGGEG does not apply.

The agency titled the position using the prefix “Supervisory.” The supervisory prefix may only be applied to a position that meets the requirements for coverage by the General Schedule Supervisory Guide (GSSG).  In order to meet the basic coverage and evaluate a position using the GSSG, the position must accomplish work through technical and administrative direction of others, occupying at least 25 percent of the position’s time and meeting at least the lowest level of Factor 3-Supervisory and Managerial Authority Exercised, in the GSSG.  Although the appellant concurs that his supervisory responsibilities entail 20 percent of his time as indicated on his PD, we note the PD covers only administrative supervisory responsibilities.  In our interview with the appellant, he expanded on his technical supervisory responsibilities which are subsumed within other described duties.  Specifically, under paragraph (a) under “Major Duties,” the PD states he “directs development of assigned epidemiologic studies in support of Department of the Navy (DON) public health programs…”  It also indicates he “oversees the development, writing, and final review of study protocols coordinating with occupation review boards when required…”  The appellant describes these duties as entailing the review of his subordinates’ work products prior to being published or submitted to the Institutional Review Boards.  Also, under paragraph (d) it states he “prepares written and oral responses to senior management and taskers related to analysis of data collected, maintained, or assessed by the EDC…”  Integral to supervisory work is planning and overseeing the work performed by subordinates, improving ways to perform the organization’s work, and rendering advice to higher level managers.  Thus, we find the aforementioned duties constitute supervisory responsibilities for purposes of classification analysis and conclude these encompass at least 25 percent of his time.  We have evaluated the appellant’s supervisory duties by application of the GSSG.

The appellant personally conducts epidemiological studies comparable to those conducted by his subordinates and classified at the GS-12 level.  The agency evaluated this work using the Position Classification Standard (PCS) for the Industrial Hygiene Series, GS-690.  The appellant’s work does not approach the GS-14 level as depicted in Benchmark Description GS-690-14-01, which is predicated on agency-wide policy development and program direction over the activities of the operational components.  He does not have policy development authority and although his work supports the public health capabilities of the operational components, he does not have programmatic authority over their activities.  Therefore, because the appellant’s supervisory duties represent the highest grade level work performed, we have not separately evaluated his nonsupervisory work.

Since there are no prescribed titles for the GS-601 series, the agency may construct a title in keeping with the work performed.  In doing so, the agency should adhere to the titling guidance in section III.H.2 of the Introduction and assign the prefix “Supervisory.”

Grade determination

The GSSG is a cross-series guide used to determine the grade level of supervisory positions in the General Schedule.  It has six evaluation factors, each with several factor-level definitions and corresponding point values.  Positions are evaluated by crediting the points designated for the highest level met under each factor, and converting the total to a grade by using the point-to-grade conversion chart in the guide.

Factor 1, Program scope and effect

This factor assesses the general complexity, breadth, and impact of the program areas and work directed, including its organizational and geographic coverage.  It also assesses the impact of the work both within and outside the immediate organization.  To assign a factor level, the criteria dealing with both scope and effect, as defined below, must be met.

            Scope

This element addresses the general complexity and breadth of the program (or program segment) directed; or the work directed, the products produced, or the services delivered.  The geographic and organizational coverage of the program (or program segment) within the agency structure is included under this element.

At Level 1-2, the program segment or work directed is administrative, technical, complex clerical, or comparable in nature.  The functions or services provided have limited geographic coverage and support most of the activities comprising a typical agency field office, an area office, a small to medium military installation, or comparable activities.

At Level 1-3, the position directs a program segment that performs technical, administrative, protective, investigative, or professional work.  The program segment and work directed typically have coverage which encompasses a major metropolitan area, a State, or a small region of several States; or, when most of an area’s taxpayers or businesses are covered, coverage comparable to a small city.  Providing complex administrative or technical or professional services directly affecting a large or complex multi-mission military installation also falls at this level.

At Level 1-4, the position directs a segment of a professional, highly technical, or complex administrative program which involves the development of major aspects of key agency scientific, medical, legal, administrative, regulatory, policy development or comparable, highly technical programs; or that includes major, highly technical operations at the Government’s largest, most complex industrial installations.

The scope of the appellant’s position exceeds Level 1-2 in that the appellant directs professional work rather than the administrative, technical, or complex clerical work, and the EDC supports operational field activities and regional commands whose work exceeds that of the typical agency field or area office.  The scope of the appellant’s work situation compares to Level 1-3.  NMCPHC offers world-class health surveillance, epidemiology, and analysis; disease prevention; and public health consultation and support capabilities to improve the lives of sailors and marines around the world.  The programs that support these core public health capabilities are executed by NMCPHC headquarters staff, ten operational field activities, and four detachments.  The appellant coordinates work of the EDC and directs the delivery of products and services in the areas of deployment health, information technology, occupational and environmental exposures, reportable medical events and diseases, conditions and infections.  Services include analysis of threats to public health and patient safety, public health program evaluations, public health applications development and sustainment, and epidemiology study design.  Key customers include NMCPHC operational field activities, BUMED regional commands, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Navy Fleet, Force Surgeons, health educators and professionals, medical treatment facilities, civilian organizations such as the DHA the AFHSB and other customers in the Navy and Marine Corps and joint environment.  Illustrative of Level 1-3, the operational field activities, detachments, civilian organizations, and other recipients of the work of the EDC are comparable in coverage to a group of organizations which as a whole are comparable to a large or complex multimission military installation.                                   

The scope of the work directed by the appellant does not meet Level 1-4.  Unlike that level, he does not direct a program which involves the development of major aspects of key agency scientific, medical, administrative, regulatory, or policy development programs. These functions are assigned to and carried out by positions at higher echelons within the agency.  The program segment directed by the appellant is one part of the major program segment managed by the Population Health Directorate which is itself only a portion of a larger program managed by the NMCPHC.  For instance, the WII program established by BUMED addresses the health needs of warfighters across the continuum of care.  The NMCPHC produces products focused on improving the health and well-being of wounded current and retired service members which include the analytic and consultation support to assist with quarterly reporting and analysis for WII projects.  Consultations improve data quality and collection practices across all projects and the ability of Navy Medicine to assess project success and return on investment.  Thus, the appellant is responsible for the development and provision of epidemiology data and analyses to support program development, but is not directly responsible for the development of any major agency medical programs be undertaken in response to this data as intended at Level 1-4. 

Scope is evaluated at Level 1-3.

      Effect

This element addresses the impact of the work, the products, and/or the programs described under “Scope” on the mission and programs of the customer(s), the activity, other activities in or out of government, the agency, other agencies, the general public, or others.

At Level 1-2, the services or products support and significantly affect installation level, area office level, or field office operations and objectives, or provide services to a moderate, local, or limited population of clients or users.

At Level 1-3, the activities, functions, or services accomplished directly and significantly impact a wide range of agency activities, the work of other agencies, or the operations of outside interests (e.g., a segment of a regulated industry), or the general public.  At the field activity level (involving large, complex, multi-mission organizations and/or very large serviced populations), the work directly involves or substantially impacts the provision of essential support operations to numerous, varied, and complex technical, professional, and administrative functions.

At Level 1-4, the position impacts an agency’s headquarters operations, several bureau-wide programs, or most of an agency’s entire field establishment; or facilitates the agency’s accomplishment of its primary mission or programs of national significance; or impacts large segments of the Nation’s population or segments of one or a few large industries; or receives frequent or continuing congressional or media attention.

The appellant's position exceeds Level 1-2 installation-level effect and meets Level 1-3 because the work performed at the EDC supports and facilitates a range of agency activities through the development of products and services based on data acquisition, compilation, management, analysis, and interpretation.  For example, the EDC serves as the designated conduit for all Navy Medicine reportable medical event data transmitted to the AFHSC, the central epidemiologic resource for the U.S. Armed Forces, conducting medical surveillance to protect those who serve the nation.  The functions of the EDC also impact the work of other agencies (e.g., Centers for Disease Control and Prevention under the Department of Health and Human Services) by providing evidence-based data products that support the mission and services of those agencies.  Comparable to this level, the EDC provides customers epidemiology data and products that support Force Protection programs.  For instance, the EDC develops reports on behavioral and mental health outcomes such as post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, major depressive disorder, and substance use disorder.  The reports enable operational commanders and healthcare providers to make data-driven decisions on policies and practices that help treat and prevent deployment-related illnesses and injuries.  Other scientific and data analysis provided by the EDC enables the operational components to assess, prevent, and control health threats in the environment where sailors and marines work and live.   

The appellant’s position does not meet Level 1-4.  While the EDC data products support the broader NMCPHC public and operational health initiatives, strategic goals, and objectives described in the NMCPHC Command Strategic Plan, they do not directly impact the DON headquarters, several bureau-wide programs, or most of DON’s entire field establishment.  In contrast to Level 1-4, where a range of agency-level national programs and projects are supported, because the appellant directs a program segment of the NMCPHC his position does not meet the impact intended at this level.  Further, unlike Level 1-4, the work performed by the appellant is not the subject of frequent or continuing congressional or media attention.

Effect is evaluated at Level 1-3.

This factor is credited at Level 1-3 and 550 points are assigned.

Factor 2, Organizational setting

This factor considers the organizational situation of the supervisory position in relation to higher levels of management.

At Level 2-1, the position is accountable to a position that is two or more levels below the first (i.e., lowest in the chain of command) SES, flag or general officer, equivalent or higher level position in the direct supervisory chain.

At Level 2-2, the position is accountable to a position that is one reporting level below the first SES, flag or general officer, or equivalent or higher level position in the direct supervisory chain.

The appellant’s position meets Level 2-1.  Like this level, he is accountable to a position classified as Supervisory Health System Specialist, GS-671-14 (i.e., Deputy Director, Population Health), who reports to a Captain (O-6) (i.e., Director, Population Health), and  who then also reports to a Captain (O-6) (i.e., the  Executive Officer). 

This factor is credited at Level 2-1 and 100 points are assigned.

Factor 3, Supervisory and managerial authority exercised

This factor covers the delegated supervisory and managerial authorities which are exercised on a recurring basis.  To be credited with a level under this factor, a position must meet the authorities and responsibilities to the extent described for the specific level.

Like Level 3-2c, the appellant:  (1) plans work to be accomplished by subordinates, adjusts priorities, and prepares schedules for completion of work; (2) assigns work to subordinates based on the difficulty of assignments and employee capabilities; (3) evaluates the performance of subordinates; (4) advises, counsels, and instructs employees on work and administrative matters; (5) interviews candidates for positions in his unit and recommends promotions or reassignments; (6) hears and resolves complaints from employees, and refers group grievances and serious unresolved complaints to higher level supervisors; (7) is authorized to take minor disciplinary measures and recommends other action in more series cases; (8) identifies developmental and training needs of employees and arranges for such training; (9) finds ways to improve work production or increase the quality of work directed; and (10) develops performance standards (measures) for performance elements of positions in his unit.

To meet Level 3-3, a position must meet either 3-3a or 3-3b as described below:

At Level 3-3a, a position exercises delegated managerial authority to set a series of annual, multi-year, or similar types of long-range work plans and schedules for in-service or contracted work.  These positions assure implementation (by lower and subordinate organizational units or others) of the goals and objectives for the program segment (s) or function(s) they oversee.  They determine goals and objectives that need additional emphasis; determine the best approach or solution for resolving budget shortages; and plan for long range staffing needs, including such matters as whether to contract out work.  These positions are closely involved with high level program officials (or comparable agency level staff personnel) in the development of overall goals and objectives for assigned staff function(s), program(s), or program segment(s).  For example, they direct development of data; provision of expertise and insights; securing of legal opinions; preparation of position papers or legislative proposals; and execution of comparable activities which support development of goals and objectives related to high levels of program management and development or formulation.

The appellant’s position does not meet Level 3-3a.  Unlike this level, he does not have the managerial authority to set a series of annual, multi-year, or similar types of long-range work plans and schedules for in-service or contracted work, nor is he closely involved with agency-level officials in the development of the overall goals and objectives for the function.  The intent of Level 3-3a, in its reference to assuring program implementation by lower and subordinate organizational units, is to credit significant decision-making involvement in agency-wide staffing, budgetary, policy, and regulatory matters.  In contrast, the appellant’s decision making responsibility in relation to matters of staffing and budget is limited to the EDC.

To meet Factor Level 3-3b, a position must exercise all or nearly all of the delegated supervisory authorities and responsibilities described at Level 3-2c of this factor and, in addition, at least eight of the fifteen responsibilities listed at Level 3-3b.  Our analysis of those responsibilities follows:

Responsibility 1 is credited.  The appellant directs, coordinates, and oversees work through four supervisors who directly supervise EDC staff.

Responsibility 2 is credited.  As the department head of the EDC, he frequently exercises significant responsibilities in dealing with officials of other directorates or organizations including the CDC and Defense Health Agency (DHA), and advises the Deputy Director on sensitive investigations having broad public health implications.  

Responsibility 3 is not credited.  Unlike that responsibility, all performance standards and rating techniques are developed at the DON level.

Responsibility 4 is credited.  It involves direction of a program or major program segment with significant resources, e.g., one at a multimillion dollar level of annual resources.  The EDC’s annual budget is $6M.

Responsibility 5 is credited.  The appellant regularly makes decisions on work problems presented by his subordinate supervisors.

Responsibility 6 is credited.  The appellant evaluates the performance of his subordinate supervisors, and serves as reviewing official on evaluations of nonsupervisory employees rated by subordinate supervisors.

Responsibility 7 is credited.  The appellant makes selections for subordinate nonsupervisory positions.

Responsibility 8 is credited and actually exceeded because the appellant makes selections for subordinate supervisory positions, i.e., Supervisory Epidemiologists and Supervisory Information Technology Specialists.  

Responsibility 9 is credited.  The appellant may hear or resolve group grievances or serious employee complaints.

Responsibility 10 is not credited.  The appellant does not have authority to review and approve serious disciplinary actions (e.g., suspensions) involving nonsupervisory subordinates.  Such authority lies with the XO.

Responsibility 11 is credited.  The appellant has authority to make decisions on non-routine, costly, or controversial training needs and training requests related to employees for his unit within his allotted training budget.

Responsibility 12 is credited.  Contractors perform work on behalf of the EDC and the appellant is responsible for ensuring their work meets standards of adequacy.  

Responsibility 13 is credited.  It involves approving expenses comparable to within-grade increases, extensive overtime, and employee travel.  The appellant exercises the authority to approve such expenses as within-grade increases, employee travel, and overtime if within his budget.  

Responsibility 14 is credited.  It involves recommending awards or bonuses for nonsupervisory personnel and changes in position classification, subject to approval by higher level officials, supervisors, or others.  The appellant has the authority to recommend cash awards or bonuses for personnel, and has recommended changes in position classification for his subordinate positions, subject to approval by higher level officials.

Responsibility 15 is not credited.  It involves finding and implementing ways to eliminate or reduce significant bottlenecks and barriers to production, promote team building, or improve business practices; e.g., in a large production or processing unit.  This would apply to large organizations whose missions would be susceptible to the application of such methodological or structural improvements.  The work supervised by the appellant does not lend itself to these types of management applications.  The appellant’s authority in this area would not exceed that described in responsibility 9 of Level 3-2c.

The appellant’s position exercises all the delegated supervisory authorities and responsibilities described at Level 3-2c of this factor and twelve of the fifteen authorities and responsibilities under Level 3-3b.  Therefore, his position meets Level 3-3.

This factor is credited at Level 3-3 and 775 points are assigned.

In order to be considered for assignment of Level 3-4, a position must first exercise the delegated managerial and supervisory authorities included at lower levels of Factor 3.  Therefore, because the appellant’s position does not meet both Levels 3-3a and 3-3b, it is neither necessary nor appropriate to address Level 3-4 further in this decision.

Factor 4:  Personal contacts

Factor 4 is divided into two parts:  Sub-factor 4A, Nature of contacts; and Subfactor 4B, Purpose of contacts.  The nature of the contacts credited under Sub-factor 4A, and the purpose of those contacts credited under Subfactor 4B, must be based on the same contacts.

      Subfactor 4A: Nature of contacts

Contacts credited under Subfactor 4A cover the organizational relationships, authority or influence level, setting, and difficulty of preparation associated with making personal contacts involved in supervisory and managerial work.  To be credited, the level of contacts must contribute to the successful performance of the work, be a recurring requirement, have a demonstrable impact on the difficulty and responsibility of the position, and require direct contact.

The appellant’s position meets Level 4A-3 in that he has regular and recurring contacts with high-ranking military and civilian managers, supervisors, and technical and professional staff at the NMCPHC and major organization levels of the agency, and with agency headquarters administrative support staff.  These contacts normally take place in meetings and conferences and often require extensive preparation of briefing materials and up-to-date technical familiarity with complex subject matter.

The position does not meet Level 4A-4, where there are frequent contacts with regional or national officers of public, trade, or professional organizations of national stature; key staff of congressional committees and principal assistants to senators and representatives; elected or appointed representatives of state and local governments; heads of bureaus and higher level organizations in other Federal agencies; or journalists of major metropolitan, regional, or national media.  The appellant has no contact with most of those listed, and has only infrequent and irregular contact with state and local government officials and lower-level congressional staff.

This subfactor is evaluated at Level 4A-3 and 75 points are credited.

      Subfactor 4B:  Purpose of contacts.

Subfactor 4B describes the purpose of the personal contacts credited in Subfactor 4A, including the advisory, representational, negotiating, and commitment making responsibilities related to supervision and management.

The appellant’s position meets Level 4B-3.  Similar to this level, he meets with command staff to resolve controversial findings, provide data products and investigative findings to subordinate command echelons, and justify, defend, negotiate, or resolve issues resulting in significant public health impacts.  These contacts involve active participation in meetings and presentations to discuss issues of considerable importance such as matters requiring subject matter expertise in epidemiology.   

The position does not meet Level 4B-4, where the purpose of the contacts is to influence, motivate, or persuade persons or groups to think and act in ways that advance the fundamental goals and objectives of the program or program segments directed or involve the commitment or distribution of major resources, when intense opposition or resistance is encountered due to significant organizational or philosophical conflict, competing objectives, major resource limitations or reductions, or comparable issues.  Unlike the appellant's position where his contacts are largely collegial in nature, at this level the persons contacted are fearful, skeptical, or uncooperative. 

This subfactor is evaluated at Level 4B-3 and 100 points are credited.

Factor 5, Difficulty of typical work directed

This factor measures the difficulty and complexity of the basic work most typical of the organization directed as well as other line, staff, or contracted work for which the supervisor has technical or oversight responsibility, either directly or through subordinate supervisors, team leaders, or others.  The level is determined by identifying the highest grade which best characterizes the nature of the basic (mission-oriented) nonsupervisory work performed or overseen by the organization directed, and which constitutes 25 percent or more of the workload (not positions or employees) of the organization.

In determining the highest level of work, developmental positions below the normal full performance levels are considered at the full performance levels.  Excluded from consideration are:  the work of lower level positions that primarily support or facilitate the basic work of the unit; any subordinate work graded based on criteria in the GSSG or the General Schedule Leader Grade-Evaluation Guide; work that is graded based on an extraordinary degree of independence from supervision, or personal research accomplishments; and work for which the supervisor or a subordinate does not have the responsibilities defined under Factor 3.

The appellant directly supervises the work of three Supervisory Epidemiologists, GS-601-13, one Supervisory Information Technology Specialist (System Administration), GS-2210-13,  and one Epidemiologist, GS-601-12 (position currently vacant).  He is the second-level supervisor for three Epidemiologists, GS-601-12, and one Program Analyst, GS-343-11.  The work of the EDC is also carried out by 39 contractor employees, including epidemiologists, information technology specialists, and support personnel, under contracts with Booz Allen Hamilton, Battelle, and the Oak Ridge Institute of Science Education (ORISE) program. 

The Booz Allen Hamilton contract is described by the appellant as a “labor contract” which provides for specific requirements and tasks to be performed.  These contractors have an onsite contractor supervisor whom the appellant asserts (and which was confirmed by his supervisor) only provides administrative supervision because he does not have the technical knowledge or skills to provide technical review of the work products.  Further, although the onsite supervisor is ultimately responsible for doing performance ratings, the ratings are based on the recommendations of the appellant or his subordinate supervisors.  The appellant describes having oversight responsibilities for the work of the contractors to include reviewing data quality, study methodologies, and analysis and advising on technical matters that arise during day-to-day operations.  Thus, since the appellant has technical supervisory oversight of these contractors, we include this work for base level consideration.  There are 19 positions assigned to EDC under this contract.

The Battelle contract is described by the appellant as a “service contract” under which the contractors provide administrative support, professional services, and IT technical services primarily for special studies.  However, the government does not exercise any supervision or control over the contract service providers performing this work.  The service providers are accountable to the contractor, who in turn is responsible to the Government.  The appellant works with the contractor program manager when discussing deliverables but is not involved in the day-to-day operations of their work.  Thus, since the work performed by these 12 contractors is not under the appellant’s technical supervision, we exclude it from base level consideration.

The appellant also provides administrative and technical supervision to post-graduate, college students, and/or academic faculty under a support agreement with ORISE, who participate in mission-related public health projects and programs including disease surveillance, the WII program, and other health-related programs.  Presently, there are eight full-time post-graduate students performing epidemiology work which we include for base level consideration.

In addition to the 39 contractor positions, there are five DHA employees assigned to the EDC including one DHA Satellite Lead (Supervisory Epidemiologist, GS-601-13), three Epidemiologists, GS-601-12, and one Biostatistician, GS-1530-11.  The agency confirmed that the DHA employees are not under the technical or administrative purview of the NMCPHC.  Thus, we exclude the work performed by all DHA employees from the base level consideration. In addition, one contractor employee under the Cherokee Nation Technology Solutions contract who is assigned to EDC but performs work for DHA is not supervised by the appellant and does not perform work on a regular and recurring basis for EDC, and thus is excluded from base level consideration.

Therefore, only the Booz Allen Hamilton and the ORISE positions are included for purposes of the workload calculation under this factor.  Of the19 total Booz Allen Hamilton positions, we exclude the support work performed by the administrative assistant.  We also exclude the position of “senior epidemiologist” which, based on the task description in the contract, appears to be that of a team leader who will “coordinate and facilitate between teams of professional and support personnel in conducting routine and non-routine epidemiological evaluations.”  Additionally, we exclude the position of “technical writer” which, based on the task description in the contract, we regard as a lower-level support position established to “develop Annual report and assist in the Command Progress Report.”  Of the remaining 16 positions (for which the appellant’s subordinate supervisors have the responsibilities defined under Factor Level 3-2b), nine positions involve IT specialist work in the “database” and “help desk” areas. We compared the tasks listed in the contract to the database administration and customer support work in the GS-2200 Job Family Standard, noting its similarities to the Level 1-7 illustrations describing positions responsible for similar work, and conclude the grade equivalency is GS-11/12.  The remaining seven are epidemiologist positions identified as “surveillance intense” and responsible for “reviewing epidemiological data on issues such as injury prevention, tuberculosis, flu reporting, the wounded, ill and injured population, healthcare associated infections, infectious diseases, mental health/behavioral health conditions, possible deployment related conditions, environmental health, [and] PTSD.”  Using the description of work provided in the contract, information from the appellant, and the GS-690 PCS, we conclude these seven epidemiologist positions are equivalent to GS-12.  Based on the description of work from the ORISE support agreement and information provided by the agency regarding the time-limited nature of the positions and the grades at which the candidates would potentially qualify, we conclude the eight ORISE positions are equivalent to GS-11.

Conservatively, this results in a total of at least 11 positions graded at or equivalent to the GS-12 level (i.e., four Federal and seven contractor epidemiologist positions).  Based on a total creditable nonsupervisory staff of 29 positions (i.e., five Federal and 24 contractor positions), 38 percent of the workload of the unit is at the GS-12 grade level. Since the highest-graded nonsupervisory, mission-oriented work performed in the appellant's organization, constituting at least 25 percent of the workload, is GS-12, the position meets Factor Level 5-7.

This factor is evaluated at Level 5-7 and 930 points are credited.

Factor 6, Other conditions

This factor measures the extent to which various conditions contribute to the difficulty and complexity of carrying out supervisory duties, authorities, and responsibilities.

The appellant’s work meets Level 6-5a, where supervision requires significant and extensive coordination and integration of a number of important projects or program segments of professional, scientific, technical, managerial, or administrative work comparable in difficulty to the GS-12 level.  Like this level, the professional and administrative work overseen is comparable to the GS-12 level and requires significant coordination and integration of a number of important program segments covering epidemiology analysis, data consultation, and other work performed to support various program initiatives directed by the NMCPHC.  For instance, the department collaborates with the Preventive Medicine Directorate to carry out epidemiological analysis and consulting for disease and injury prevention projects.  Similar to Level 6-5a, the appellant makes major recommendations in at least three areas listed which have a direct and substantial effect on the organization and projects managed.  For example, in addition to identifying and integrating internal and external program issues affecting the immediate organization, such as those involving technical, financial, and administrative matters cited in the first item of Level 6-4a, he integrates the work of his staff where each member contributes a portion of the analyses, facts, information, proposed actions, or recommendations.  For instance, the work is assigned to staff focusing on multidisciplinary product lines such as reportable and emerging infections, behavioral and operational health, exposure and injury analysis, and hospital associated infections and patient safety.  Data received and organized from the information technology line is given to epidemiologists to be analyzed and used for the development of study protocols. Once the study is completed, the appellant performs a review of the study protocols used to ensure consistency of the interpretation and application of the model before it is submitted for review to the Institutional Review Board for approval and publishing.  Similar to Level 6-5a, in capitalizing on current projects and accomplishments the appellant makes recommendations for projects or program segments that should be initiated or curtailed.  For example, recommendations are made for practices that can be monitored and may reduce the risk for illness in studies relating to infectious diseases.  Comparable to Level 6-5a, the appellant makes recommendations to program officials on use of resources, and on reducing operating costs and increasing program effectiveness.  For instance, he recommends system changes for improving their web-based systems to improve the tracking and dissemination of surveillance data provided to health and other medical personnel. 

The appellant’s position does not meet Level 6-6a or 6-6b.  Unlike Level 6-6a, his position does not require exceptional coordination and integration of a number of very important and complex program segments or programs of professional, scientific, managerial, or administrative work comparable in difficulty to the GS-13 or higher grade level.  The appellant’s base level of work is GS-12, not GS-13 as expected at Level 6-6a.  Unlike Level 6-6b, although the appellant manages through subordinate supervisors who each direct substantial workloads comparable to the GS-12 level, the work of these first-line supervisors does not require similar coordination as that described at Level 6-5a.  On the contrary, their coordinating responsibilities as reflected in our fact-finding show they do not exceed Level 6-4a.  Like Level 6-4a, they identify and integrate internal and external program issues affecting their immediate units; integrate the work of their teams where each member can contribute a portion of the analyses, facts, proposed actions, or recommendations consistent with study design and methodologies; recommend resources to the appellant to devote to particular epidemiologic evaluations or projects; exercise leadership in developing, implementing, evaluating, and improving processes and procedures to monitor the effectiveness and efficiency of their activities; and review and approve the substance of data reports, project documents, and other action documents to ensure they accurately reflect the health initiatives and objectives of the NMCPHC, Population Health.  As indicated above, Level 6-5a coordination is vested in the appellant’s position.

This factor is evaluated at Level 6-5 and 1225 points are credited.

By application of the GSSG, we have evaluated the appellant’s supervisory duties as follows:

Summary

Factors

Level

             Points

1.  Program Scope and Effect

  1-3

                550

2.  Organizational Setting

  2-1

                100

3.  Supervisory & Managerial Authority Exercised

  3-3

                775

4.  Personal Contacts

      A.  Nature of Contacts

4A-3

                  75

      B.  Purpose of Contacts

4B-3

                100

5.  Difficulty of Typical Work Directed

  5-7

                930

6.  Other Conditions

  6-5

              1225

Total

              3755

The total of 3755 points falls within the GS-14 grade range (3605-4050) on the point-to-grade conversion chart in the GSSG.  Therefore, the appellant’s supervisory duties are graded at the GS-14 level.

Decision

The appellant’s position is properly classified as GS-601-14, with the title at the discretion of the agency with “Supervisory” prefix.

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