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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

Adam Kampe
Audiovisual Production Specialist
GS-1071-11
Office of Public Affairs
National Endowment for the Arts
Washington, D.C.
Audiovisual Production Specialist
GS-1071-11
C-1071-11-01

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

07/06/2017


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).

Introduction

The appellant’s position is currently classified as Audiovisual Production Specialist, GS-1071-11, but he believes it should be classified at the GS-12 grade level.  The position is assigned to the Office of Public Affairs, National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), in Washington, D.C.  We have accepted and decided this appeal under section 5112 of title 5, United States Code (U.S.C.).

Background and general issues

The appellant initially requested a review of the classification of his position from the NEA’s servicing human resources office.  Their April 13, 2016, evaluation statement resulted in the reclassification of his position from Media Specialist, GS-301-11, to Audiovisual Production Specialist, GS-1071-11.  The appellant subsequently filed a classification appeal with OPM.

The appellant states in his appeal request to OPM:

The Position Classification Standard for Audiovisual Production Series, GS-1071 was last revised in July 1992, superseding the standard issued in 1962.  My job is largely digital and this document predated the worldwide web.

Implicit in his statement is that the grading criteria in the GS-1071 Position Classification Standard (PCS) are outdated.  However, the adequacy of grade-level criteria in OPM PCSs is not appealable (5 CFR 511.607). 

The appellant asks OPM to consider the concept of impact of extraordinary talent and creative ability in determining his position’s classification.  This provision, addressed in the GS-1071 PCS, holds that an employee, by virtue of his or her outstanding talent and creative ability, may have his or her position classified one grade higher than that derived by application of the standard’s grade-level criteria when (1) the work regularly requires extraordinary talent and creative ability to achieve its objectives and (2) the employee has regularly demonstrated extraordinary talent and creative ability in previous directly related work.  The PCS instructs that any such determination be based on the employee’s entire body of work and include such considerations as whether the employee has received industry awards and recognition; whether the productions have been generally recognized as extraordinarily effective in fulfilling their objectives; and whether there has been a consistent demand by clients or audiences for the employee’s services. 

The appellant believes his position should be upgraded based on the outstanding performance ratings he has received over the past decade, the 2012 award he received for best short audio documentary at the Third Coast International Audio Festival, and his assertion his work has “made an impact.”  After careful consideration, we find the audiovisual work produced by the appellant for the NEA does not, on a regular basis, require an extraordinary level of talent and creative ability to achieve the relatively noncontroversial objective of promoting the arts; i.e., the appellant is not responsible for communicating sensitive or urgent messages requiring a high degree of creativity to persuade or influence the intended audience.  Further, the appellant has not submitted any documentation showing he meets the above criteria in terms of multiple industry awards and external recognition and demand for his services by clients or audiences.  Also, as specifically stated in the GS-1071 PCS, the extra grade provision is not designed to substitute for an incentive award recognizing superior performance on one or a few projects.  In other words, it is not intended as a form of internal performance recognition.  Therefore, the impact of extraordinary talent and creative ability provision is not applicable to the appellant’s position.

The appellant mentions the amount of work he performs has increased because he now secures the required permissions to use pieces of music in the NEA’s various audiovisual productions.  However, volume of work cannot be considered in determining the grade of a position (The Classifier’s Handbook, chapter 5).

Position information

The NEA’s mission is to provide grants to artists and arts organizations that create different forms of art celebrating this country’s cultural heritage and secondly, to promote artists and arts organizations and the work they do to promote the arts in their own communities.  The appellant produces original audio, video, and related materials to further public awareness and support for the agency’s activities and other issues related to the nonprofit arts field at large.  This includes developing subject material, conducting interviews, and recording/filming and editing the material into audio or video pieces for use on the NEA website, magazine, blog, and on social media.  The appellant also obtains licenses to use the music selected for projects from those who hold the rights to the music.

The appellant and his supervisor certified to the accuracy of the duties described in the PD of record.  This PD, supplemented by other material of record, furnishes more information about the appellant’s duties and responsibilities and how they are performed, is adequate for classification purposes, and we incorporate it by reference into this decision.  To help decide this appeal, we conducted telephone audits with the appellant on November 14, 15, 30, 2016, and with his supervisor on November 22, 2016.  In reaching our classification decision, we carefully considered all of the information gained from these interviews, as well as the written information furnished by the appellant and the agency.

Series, title, and standard determination

The appellant’s position involves performing different kinds and levels of work which, when evaluated separately in terms of duties, responsibilities, and qualifications required, are at different grade levels.  The grade-controlling work of a position normally determines the series. The appellant’s audiovisual production work is the highest level of work assigned to his position as explained later in this decision.

The agency assigned the appellant’s position to the GS-1071 Audiovisual Production Series, titled it Audiovisual Production Specialist, and evaluated his audiovisual production work by application of the grading criteria in the GS-1071 PCS to determine the grade of his position.  The appellant does not disagree and, after careful review of the record, we concur.

Although the appellant performs a different set of duties when obtaining licenses to use music, his agency did not separately evaluate this work but rather addressed it within the context of the GS-1071 PCS.  However, his work obtaining licenses is one-grade interval support work that cannot be evaluated by application of the aforementioned GS-1071 PCS because the work does not require GS-1071 knowledges and skills.  This work supports the second part of the NEA’s mission, i.e., promoting artists and arts organizations throughout the country and the work they do to promote the arts in their communities.  The appellant must ensure permission is requested and granted from those who hold master and publishing rights to the music before using it in a production.  He ensures each NEA permission request is completed properly, requests OGC guidance and their review and acceptance of non-NEA license agreements containing new terms and clauses, and renews agreements prior to their expiration dates.  Like one-grade interval support work, his duties obtaining license agreements involve following established methods, procedures, and guidelines, and may require a high degree of technical skill, care, and precision.  Also typical of support work, the appellant’s work is of a continuing, repetitive nature and can be performed based on a practical knowledge of the purpose, operation, procedures, and techniques of the specific program area or functional assignments.

The appellant’s work obtaining license agreements is most closely comparable to the work described in the GS-986 Legal Assistance Series, which covers one-grade interval administrative support positions that supervise, lead, or perform legal assistance work not classifiable in any other series in the Legal and Kindred Group, GS-900.  The work requires specialized knowledge of processes, procedures, and practices to support legal activities.  Similar to the appellant’s position, legal assistants perform such work as:  initiating and composing standardized legal documents needed for specific legal actions; accepting service of legal documents, reviewing them for correct form and timeliness, and annotating case files and status records to reflect receipt and due date for response or other required actions; and  processing legal instruments by checking them for required information, determining if any treatment such as simple computations are necessary, and routing the assembled materials to a technical expert for examination.  Correspondingly, the appellant completes NEA license agreements as needed, reviews all agreements sent to him from the music rights holders, forwards agreements containing new or confusing language to OGC for review, and keeps track of the expiration dates of agreements and submits renewal requests.  Therefore, we evaluated this work by application of the grading criteria in the Job Family Position Classification Standard (JFS) for Assistance Work in the Legal and Kindred Group, GS-900.

Grade determination

Evaluation of audiovisual production duties using the GS-1071 PCS

The GS-1071 PCS uses the Factor Evaluation System (FES) format, under which factor levels and accompanying point values are assigned for each of the nine factors.  Under the FES, each factor-level description demonstrates the minimum characteristics needed to receive credit for the described level.  If a position fails to meet the criteria in a factor-level description in any significant aspect, it must be credited to a lower level unless the deficiency is balanced by an equally important aspect that meets a higher level.  The total points assigned are converted to a grade level by use of a grade conversion table in the PCS.

The appellant disagrees with the agency’s evaluation of Factors 1 and 4.  After careful review, we concur with the agency’s evaluation of Factors 2, 3, 6, 7, 8, and 9 but do not concur with the agency’s evaluation of Factor 5.  Therefore, we have confined our analysis to Factors 1, 4, and 5.

Factor 1, Knowledge Required by the Position

This factor measures the nature and extent of information or facts a worker must understand in order to do acceptable work and the nature and extent of skills needed to apply that knowledge.

At Level 1-6, employees use knowledge of the processes, methodologies, personnel, and equipment involved in planning and carrying out the steps necessary to produce well-precedented kinds of audiovisual productions, develop production schedules, coordinate staff activities, and make normal kinds of administrative and logistical arrangements.  At this level, employees “use knowledge of program objectives and directing skills to direct the production activities of a small television production crew and cast, in operating standard radio broadcast and recording equipment, or composing and directing prerecorded programs that consist largely of voice narration and involve minimal rehearsal or special visual, sound, or dramatic effects.”

At Level 1-7, employees use knowledge of a wide range of principles, practices, methods, and techniques for communicating information through audiovisual means.  This typically includes knowledge of all phases of audiovisual production, programming, and editing from inception to completion, and skill in modifying or adapting standard practices and procedures.  At this level, employees “use this knowledge and skill to develop contract specifications, coordinate logistics, control expenses, and arrange procurements for complex programs with significant planning and scheduling problems (for example, productions that involve numerous support personnel, specialized equipment and props, and sophisticated visual or audio effects).” 

At Level 1-8, employees apply mastery of the methods, techniques, and practices associated with the development of original television or motion picture productions and the design of highly complex, large-scale projects.  The employee conceptualizes and designs productions where there is no established format or where obstacles exist to traditional approaches and the program content and treatment of the subject are left largely to the discretion of the employee. 

The appellant produces original audio and video projects to further public awareness and support for the NEA mission, consisting of interviews with various artists or stories related to, for example, community art programs.  He determines the medium (e.g., audio or multimedia), writes the script for narrators as needed, develops interview questions, and determines camera angles, lighting, and music.  He conducts online research of the subject, the subject’s art form, and the subject’s collaborators if applicable, and may discuss the subject and/or art form with the NEA’s experts in the various fields of art.  He contacts the interviewee to discuss such topics as the objectives of the project and the extent of the subject matter to be covered and arranges for the logistics of the interview.  After he gathers the footage and shoots the photographs, he edits the information and creates a draft product.  The appellant’s supervisor reviews the draft to determine if the project’s objectives are met and if a good story is being told, and they discuss any edits that need to be made.  After the appellant’s supervisor approves the product, it is uploaded to the NEA’s website, other web sites such as Public Radio Exchange (PRX), and social media sites such as You Tube and Facebook.

The GS-1071 PCS states “this standard covers positions involved in the producing, directing, and editing aspects of audiovisual production” and provides descriptive information for these three functional areas.  It also notes that the development and execution of an audiovisual production is usually a collaborative effort of several individuals occupying different roles, and that this group may include a producer, director, scriptwriter, set designer, camera operators, lighting technicians, audio technicians, editors, computer animators, and others.  However, the grade-level criteria, particularly in Factor 1, relate almost exclusively to situations where the employee oversees the activities of a production crew and do not directly address work assignments where these various roles are carried out by one individual. 

The appellant’s position exceeds the types of assignments contemplated at Level 1-6, which include such “well-precedented” productions as using preapproved scripts to produce and direct revisions of flight training videos that mesh preexisting with revised segments, or producing automated sound/slide shows of historical sites using in-house libraries of visual materials.  A distinguishing feature at Level 1-6 is the relative lack of originality expected of the work products, e.g., the use of music libraries and stock footage.  The appellant’s projects do not have this degree of precedence nor are they as defined in terms of the parameters of the finished products.  The position is not reflective of the “collaborative” nature of the work depicted at Level 1-7, described as “rehearsing and directing the actions of production crews and casts” for “complex live or prerecorded programs with multiple visual or audio elements or other complicating features.”  However, as this collaborative feature is also present at Level 1-6, and considering that this factor is intended to measure knowledge requirements, we find the appellant’s position requires Level 1-7 knowledge of “all phases of audiovisual production, programming, and editing from inception to completion” (regardless of whether applied personally or through direction of a crew) and skill in “modifying or adapting standard practices and procedures” to produce original audio and visual products.  The appellant’s position is consistent with the first illustration provided in the PCS in that he produces “a wide range of videotaped programs related to the mission of the agency” by researching the topic, writing the script, and making decisions on such broad production matters as the format of the program, the manner in which specific information will be presented (e.g., through narration, dialogue, or graphics), and the most effective use and distribution of resources to achieve maximum technical quality.  His projects are intermediate between the largely predetermined products described at Level 1-6 but do not approach the unformatted “original television or motion picture productions” depicted at Level 1-8.  

Unlike Level 1-8, the appellant’s work projects do not require him to develop programming technically and aesthetically comparable to that produced by the commercial television and film industries, adapted to audience characteristics and desired reactions to the product.  His work appears on the NEA website and may be posted to social media sites, and thus does not require the production values associated with commercial television.  Further, his projects are not comparable to the Level 1-8 illustration of “important public service announcements for televising nationwide” to address “serious problems related to public health or social behavior” which have been unresponsive to more traditional educational efforts.  These productions are “designed to attract viewer attention and elicit the desired response or behavior through intense emotional impact, sense of urgency, or persuasive power.”  Consistent with Level 1-7, the appellant’s productions are designed to educate and inform the audience of the work of individual artists or specific arts-related issues, such as his audio production about how the music industry is grappling with how to properly compensate songwriters and performers for their work.  However, they are not designed to address serious problems by changing public attitudes or behavior, nor would such productions fall within the mission parameters of the NEA. 

Level 1-7 is credited for 1250 points.

Factor 4, Complexity

This factor covers the nature, number, variety, and intricacy of tasks, steps, processes, or methods 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 is comparable to Level 4-4.  At this level, the work involves varied projects requiring the application of a wide range of planning and production processes.  The projects are generally typical of those produced within the organization, but no specific format or treatment is specified in advance and the employee must conceptualize and work out most of the details of the finished production.  The productions are designed to not only impart information but also to attract and maintain audience attention and to emphasize certain points through the creative use of special production techniques.  The employee makes decisions or provides advice on matters that influence the basic content and aesthetic character of the final product.

Like Level 4-4, the appellant’s projects are typical of the work produced within the NEA.  He manages each project assigned to him and his audiovisual products support the arts, celebrate this country’s cultural heritage, and promote equal access to the arts.  Each project has a different subject and he uses his imagination to tell the interviewee’s story.  The record shows there is no established format for the work and the subjects include actors, musicians, arts advocates, and organizations, e.g., Library Association of Los Angeles.  Because the appellant decides how to best tell the interviewee’s story, the decisions he makes include developing the questions that will provide usable information, determining the mood to convey to the audience, selecting which medium is best to tell the story, and the footage to include and its sequence. 

The position does not meet Level 4-5.  At that level, the work involves producing a wide range of audiovisual products using many different production methods and techniques.  At this level, employees serve as project managers with responsibility for actively participating with clients in exploring new means of presenting information in audiovisual format.  Productions are usually intended for mass viewing and are required to be of the same level of technical and aesthetic quality as those produced by the large commercial production companies.  In addition, the productions are typically large-scale, require many months of preplanning, and are complicated by the controversial, sensitive, or emotional nature of the subject matter.  These elements impose very difficult coordination requirements in, for example, assuring that the views of all groups interested in the project have been considered or that major ideas are presented in a manner that will engender understanding, empathy, or support.  The employee makes decisions that determine the way the subject will be treated.  This involves gauging such intangible elements as audience attitudes and probable reactions, and designing productions that will achieve multiple objectives (for example, to inform, inspire, influence, and entertain).  The work requires developing new techniques and approaches in translating subject matter ideas and information into unique audiovisual products.

Unlike Level 4-5, the appellant’s work at the NEA does not involve producing a wide range of audiovisual products using varied production methods and techniques.  He does not explore with clients new ways to present information.  The productions are not at the same level of technical and aesthetic quality as those from large commercial production companies, and they are not typically large-scale.   

The appellant seeks to credit his position at Level 4-5.  He states in his appeal request to OPM that his work obtaining music licenses is part of the audiovisual production process, is sensitive due to “its legal nature,” and meets the aspect of that level in which productions are complicated by the controversial, sensitive, or emotional nature of the subject matter.  He also states that his audio production about how the music industry is grappling with how to properly compensate songwriters and performers for their work meets the transposing “of complicated subject matter into a unique audiovisual product” aspect of Level 4-5.  He further states the audio production is about a controversial subject, his interviewees spoke on Capitol Hill about this topic, and two articles have recently appeared in a national newspaper about this topic.  However, the appellant’s productions are not typically about controversial subject matter but are about the various art forms.  Further, although the work he performs obtaining licenses to use selected music from those who hold the rights to the music is part of the production process, it cannot be evaluated under this PCS.  Regardless of any degree of sensitivity that may be associated with this work, it cannot be equated to developing productions covering controversial or sensitive subject matter. 

Level 4-4 is credited for 225 points.

Factor 5, Scope and Effect

This factor covers the relationships between the nature of work; i.e., the purpose, breadth, and depth of the assignment, and the effect of work products or services both within and outside the organization.  Effect measures whether the work output facilitates the work of others, provides timely services of a personal nature, or impacts the adequacy of research conclusions.

The scope and effect of the appellant’s work matches Level 5-3.  At that level, the purpose of the work is to plan or execute conventional audiovisual products that depict or present clearly defined subject matter information or events.  These products are conventional in that similarly formatted programs have been done in the past using common techniques and the same general manner of presentation.  Work results affect the adequacy of the organization’s local training, education, scientific documentation, or public information activities.

Like Level 5-3, the purpose of the appellant’s work is to promote artists and arts organizations throughout the country and the work they do to promote the arts in their communities.  Although each project has a different subject, he can make adjustments and incorporate ideas from previous productions into a current project if applicable.  The appellant’s audiovisual productions raise awareness of the arts to the general public.

The position does not meet Level 5-4.  At that level, the purpose of the work is to plan or execute audiovisual productions characterized by breadth or depth of subject matter coverage and involving many individual audio and/or visual components.  The work typically involves a number of unusual production problems in planning ways to convey abstract themes or moods or to depict complex activities, or in directing live broadcasts.  Work results affect a wide range of agency activities (such as training and education efforts aimed at employees throughout a major organization and its subordinate field units), comparable activities in other agencies, or major activities of commercial audiovisual production companies.

The appellant produces audiovisual productions about the arts.  Although their subject matter covers various art forms such as music, acting, ballet, painting, and sculpture, this position does not have the breadth or depth of subject matter coverage needed to be assigned Level 5-4.  Similar to the conventional issues dealt with at Level 5-3, the appellant determines production issues such as the medium to use, which music will convey the intended mood, eliminating distracting noises, and the best lighting for the interviewee.  However, his work projects do not include communicating abstract themes or moods, reproducing complex activities, or directing live broadcasts.  The effect of his work raises awareness of the arts, which is typical of Level 5-3 “public information activities.”

Level 5-3 is credited for 150 points.

Summary evaluation of audiovisual production duties

Factor

Level

            Points

1. Knowledge Required by the Position

1-7

             1250

2. Supervisory Controls

2-4

               450

3. Guidelines

3-4

               450

4. Complexity

4-4

               225 

5. Scope and Effect

5-3

               150

6. & 7. Personal contacts and Purpose of contacts     

3-b

               110

8. Physical Demands

8-1

                   5

9. Work Environment

9-1

                   5

    Total

             2,645

The total of 2,645 points falls within the GS-11 range (2,355 to 2,750) on the grade conversion table provided in the GS-1071 PCS.  Therefore, the appellant’s audiovisual production duties are graded at the GS-11 level.

Evaluation of license agreement duties using the GS-900 JFS

The GS-900 JFS also uses the Factor Evaluation System (FES) format. 

Factor 1, Knowledge Required by the Position

This factor measures the nature and extent of information or facts the employee must understand to do acceptable work (e.g., steps, procedures, practices, rules, policies, regulations, and principles) and the nature and extent of the skills needed to apply the knowledge.

The knowledge required by the appellant’s position is comparable to Level 1-3 where work requires knowledge of, and skill in applying, standardized rules, processes, and procedures sufficient to perform the full range of legal support assignments, make simple determinations, assist others to acquire information, identify documentation and time requirements, and use personal computers and office software programs to retrieve and sort information from files or records and to prepare documents with complicated formatting, e.g., headers and footers.

Similar to Level 1-3, the appellant uses standardized procedures to obtain licenses to use the music selected for NEA productions from those who hold the master (i.e., first recording) and publishing (i.e., musical composition) rights to the music.  He locates who holds the rights primarily by using the search engine in The American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) and Broadcast Music, Incorporated (BMI), websites.  He emails the points-of-contact (POC) listed on the websites stating the NEA is requesting permission to use a particular piece of music and describing how the NEA will use it, e.g., the song title, the length of the music to be used, the name of the production, a description of the production, and the media on which the production will be accessible.  The POC provides the appellant with a completed license agreement or states he can forward a completed NEA license agreement for their review and signature.  Similar to this level, the appellant reads each license agreement and signs the non-NEA agreements with standard language.  The Office of General Counsel (OGC) reviews non-NEA agreements containing new terms/clauses or if it is the first time working with the rights holders to ensure the NEA can enter into the agreements.  Like Level 1-3, the appellant ensures time requirements are met by requesting the permissions in advance of the production being accessible to the public and renewing licenses before their expiration date so the NEA does not break copyright laws.

Level 1-4 is not met, where the work requires knowledge of, and skill in applying, an extensive body of rules and procedures gained through extended training or experience sufficient to:  perform interrelated and nonstandard legal support work; plan, coordinate, and/or resolve problems in support activities; examine documents where the information and facts are straightforward and readily verifiable and require limited searches of reference, file, or historical material; use a wide range of office software applications to prepare complex documents containing tables or graphs; and use online legal resources to obtain information accessible over the internet, as needed. 

Although the appellant reads each non-NEA license agreement and signs those containing standard language, the OGC reviews and signs agreements containing revised or new language to ensure the agency can legally enter into the agreement.  Therefore, the appellant does not apply an extensive body of rules and procedures or perform nonstandard legal support work as required at Level 1-4.

Level 1-3 is credited for 350 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.

At Level 2-3, the highest level described by the JFS, the supervisor makes assignments by outlining or discussing issues and defining objectives, priorities, and deadlines.  The supervisor provides advice or additional specific instructions on new or unusual situations that do not have clear precedents.  The employee independently plans the work; resolves problems; carries out successive steps of assignments; follows instructions, policies, previous training, or accepted practices; makes adjustments using accepted legal practices and procedures; handles problems and/or deviations that arise in accordance with instructions, policies, and guidelines; and refers controversial issues to the supervisor for direction.  The supervisor reviews completed work for technical soundness, appropriateness, and conformity to policies and requirements.  The technical methods and procedures used in completing assignments seldom require detailed review.

The appellant’s position is similar to but does not exceed Level 2-3.  Like Level 2-3, he independently plans and carries out his license agreement work by requesting permission from the music rights holders to use the piece(s) of music selected for a NEA production and explaining to them how the NEA will use the music.  The appellant resolves problems; e.g., when he receives non-NEA license agreements with an indemnity clause, he requests the clause be removed or altered using the language provided to him by OGC.  Similar to Level 2-3, the appellant seeks advice from OGC, for example, on how to respond to a rights holder including state law language or new clauses in an agreement.  The OGC staff member who provides support to the appellant reviews the agreements to ensure they are legal.

Level 2-3 is credited for 275 points.

Factor 3, Guidelines

This factor covers the nature of guidelines and the judgment employees need to apply them.

The guidelines used in the appellant’s position are comparable to Level 3-2, where the employee uses readily available guidelines in the form of agency policies and procedures that are clearly applicable to most transactions.  These guidelines consist of legal regulations, dictionaries and references, computer manuals, office manuals, office policies and procedures, directives, general decisions, and agency guides.  The employee uses judgment to determine the most appropriate guidelines or procedures to follow based on the nature of specific assignments, adapt guidelines in specific cases and make minor deviations, and refer issues that do not readily fit instructions or are outside of existing guidelines to the supervisor or a designated employee for resolution. 

Similar to this level, the appellant applies limited, clear-cut, and recurring provisions of copyright law to perform his license agreement duties.  He references the appropriate sections when reviewing non-NEA permission agreements and refers those with new language or clauses not readily understood to OGC for resolution.

Level 3-3 is not met, where the employee uses guidelines that have gaps in specificity and are not applicable to all work situations.  When completing a transaction, the employee may have to rely on experienced judgment, rather than guides, to fill in gaps, identify sources of information, and make working assumptions about what transpired.  The employee uses judgment to select the most appropriate guideline and decide how to complete the various transactions.  For example, the employee reconstructs incomplete files, devises more efficient methods for procedural processing, gathers and organizes information for inquiries, and resolves problems referred by others.  In some situations, guidelines do not apply directly to assignments and require the employee to make adaptations to cover new and unusual work situations. 

Unlike this level, the appellant applies limited, clear-cut, and recurring provisions of copyright law and unusual situations are referred to OGC.  His work does not require making adaptations to cover new and unusual work situations as described at Level 3-3.

Level 3-2 is credited for 125 points.

Factor 4, Complexity

This factor covers the nature, number, variety, and intricacy of tasks, steps, processes, or methods 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 position is comparable to Level 4-2, where work consists of related steps, processes, and standard explanations of methods or programs in the function.  Assignments may also be designed to prepare the employee for more difficult work.  The data in legal documents are factual in nature; usually designed to record specific items of routinely required information in a uniform manner; and used for only one primary purpose or action.  Supporting documents contain direct, firsthand evidence and are usually considered as conclusively establishing the point in question.    

Similar to Level 4-2, the information he handles is factual in nature, documents specific details, and is used for one primary purpose or action, i.e., granting the NEA permission to use specific pieces of music in their productions.   

Level 4-3 is not met, where the work consists of different and unrelated processes, methods, and sequences of tasks.  The employee analyzes facts and identifies issues; defines the problems; determines courses of action from many alternatives; searches, isolates, and determines the interrelationships among available information; assesses a variety of situations that depend on the particulars of the case and/or the submitting party; selects appropriate resources and applies those resources to the problem at hand; evaluates records in relation to legal requirements; develops recommendations for problem resolution; and adjusts and authorizes settlements.    

Unlike Level 4-3, the appellant’s position does not consist of different and unrelated processes, methods, and sequences of tasks.  His work involves established, related processes and methods with detailed timelines dictating sequence of tasks.  For example, he contacts the music rights holders once he knows which piece(s) of music will be used so the permission is obtained prior to the general public having access to the production.  The readily available and applicable processes established for his license agreement work do not allow for searching, isolating, and determining interrelationships among available information and assessing a variety of situations dependent on the particulars of the case as described at Level 4-3.  

Level 4-2 is credited for 75 points.

Factor 5, Scope and Effect

This factor measures the relationship between the nature of the work, as measured by the purpose, breadth, and depth of the assignment, and the effect of work products or services both within and outside the organization.

The scope and effect of the appellant’s work match Level 5-2.  At this level, the purpose of the work involves specific rules, regulations, or procedures.  Work is constrained by well-defined and precise conditions.  The work includes reviewing documents for missing information; searching records and files; verifying and maintaining records of transactions; and answering routine procedural questions.  The work affects the quality of services performed by the office and provides the basis for subsequent actions taken by the organization to provide services to the public. 

Similar to Level 5-2, the appellant completes NEA permission agreements and reviews non-NEA permission agreements in conformance with copyright laws.  He ensures the process is started early enough so the permission license is granted before the production is made available to the public and the NEA fulfills the second part of its mission. 

Level 5-3 is not met, where work involves treating a variety of routine problems, questions, or situations within the work environment.  The employee advises and assists applicants or other individuals requesting benefits or services with a variety of problems, questions, or situations in conformance with established criteria.  Work may involve subjective considerations, such as looking for misrepresentations, fraud, or other illegal activity.  The work affects the accurate and timely attainment of licenses, permits, or other legal documents, rights, or privileges; the accurate and timely resolution of claims; and the economic well-being of individuals requesting benefits, claims, and/or services. 

Unlike Level 5-3, the appellant’s position does not involve resolving a variety of routine problems, questions, or situations but involves obtaining license agreements.  His work does not involve subjective considerations, such as looking for misrepresentations, fraud, or other illegal activity as described at Level 5-3.

Level 5-2 is credited for 75 points.

Factors 6 and 7, Personal Contacts and Purpose of Contacts

Personal contacts include face-to-face and telephone contacts with persons not in the supervisory chain.  Levels described under this factor are based on what is required to make the initial contact, the difficulty of communicating with those contacted, and the setting in which the contact takes place.  These factors are interdependent.  The same contacts selected for crediting Factor 6 must be used to evaluate Factor 7.  The appropriate level for personal contacts and the corresponding level for purpose of contacts are determined by applying the point assignment chart for factors 6 and 7.

      Personal Contacts

The appellant’s personal contacts meet but do not exceed Level 2, the highest level described by the JFS.  At this level, contacts are with employees in the same agency and/or with members of the general public.  Contacts at Level 2 take place in moderately structured settings; i.e., the exact purpose of the contact may be unclear at first to one or more of the parties, and one or more of the parties may be uninformed concerning the role and authority of other participants. 

Similar to Level 2, the appellant’s contacts are with NEA employees such as Office of Public Affairs co-workers and OGC staff.  His contacts with record label and music publishing company staff, musicians, and agents occur in the moderately structured setting described at Level 2 where the exact purpose may initially be unclear to one or more of the parties.

      Purpose of Contacts

The purpose of the appellant’s contacts meets but does not exceed Level b, the highest level described by the JFS.  At Level b, the purpose of contacts is to plan or arrange work efforts; to coordinate and schedule activities; to resolve problems relating to documents or procedures; to provide explanations of why approval was not given, discuss measures that might be taken to obtain approval in the future, and explain available alternatives. 

Similar to Level b, the purpose of the appellant’s contacts is to discuss non-NEA license agreements or the music for which permission is needed and to explain why the NEA is requesting permission to use a particular piece of music in a production.

Level 2-b is credited for 75 points.

Factor 8, Physical Demands

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

Similar to Level 8-1, the only level described by the JFS, the appellant’s work is mainly sedentary but may require periods of walking, standing, bending, etc. His work does not require any special physical effort or ability.

Level 8-1 is credited for 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.

Similar to Level 9-1, the only level described by the JFS, the appellant’s work area is adequately lighted, heated, and ventilated.  His work environment involves everyday risks or discomforts requiring normal safety precautions.

Level 9-1 is credited for 5 points.

Summary evaluation of license agreement duties

Factor Level Points
     
1. Knowledge Required by the Position 1-3    350
2. Supervisory Controls 2-3    275
3. Guidelines 3-2    125
4. Complexity 4-2      75
5. Scope and Effect 5-2      75
6. & 7. Personal Contacts and Purpose of Contacts  2-b      75
8. Physical Demands 8-1        5
9. Work Environment 9-1        5
 
    Total    985

The total of 985 points falls within the GS-5 point range (855 to 1,100) on the grade conversion table provided in the GS-900 JFS.  Therefore, the appellant’s license agreement duties are graded at the GS-5 level.

Summary

The appellant’s license agreement work is evaluated at the GS-5 level, while his audiovisual production work is evaluated at the GS-11 level.  Based on application of mixed-grade position criteria as stated in Chapter 5 of The Classifier’s Handbook, the final grade of the appellant’s position is GS-11. 

Decision

The appellant’s position is properly classified as Audiovisual Production Specialist, GS-1071-11.

 

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