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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

Maurice P. Smith, et al.
General Investigator
Background Investigations Branch
Personnel Security Division
Office of Security Management
Bureau of Engraving and Printing
Department of the Treasury
Washington, DC
General Investigator, GS-1810-10
General Investigator, GS-1810-10

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



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

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


 On May 7, 2013, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management’s (OPM) Merit System Audit and Compliance, now Merit System Accountability and Compliance, accepted a position classification appeal from Maurice P. Smith, Johnny R. Curtis, and Ivo I. Tatarov.  Their position is currently classified as General Investigator, GS-1810-11.  They believe their position should be classified as General Investigator, GS-1810-12.  The appellants work in the Background Investigations Branch, Personnel Security Division, Office of Security Management, at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP) in Washington, D.C.  We received the complete agency administrative report on July 1, 2013.  We have accepted and decided this appeal under the provisions of section 5112 of title 5, United States Code. 

To help decide the appeal, we conducted a desk audit with the appellants on November 18, 2013, and a telephone interview with their supervisor on December 24, 2013.  In reaching our decision, we have carefully considered the audit and interview findings and all information of record furnished by the appellants and the agency, including their official PD and other material received in the agency administrative report, supplemented by work samples provided by the appellants.

General issues

The appellants dispute the grade level assigned to their position.  They occupy position description (PD) #13906V, classified on March 18, 2013.  They assert their position has been graded inconsistently with other investigator positions in the branch and at the BEP in Fort Worth, Texas.  In their March 15, 2013, appeal letter, the appellants state that other investigator positions in the division that perform substantially the same work are graded at the GS-12 level, and they believe their position should be graded consistently with those positions.   

By law, we must classify positions solely by comparing their current duties and responsibilities to OPM standards and guidelines (5 U.S.C. 5106, 5107, and 5112).  Since comparison to standards is the exclusive method for classifying positions, we cannot compare the appellants’ position to others that may or may not have been properly classified as a basis for deciding their appeal.

Like OPM, the appellants’ agency must classify positions based on comparison to OPM standards and guidelines.  However, the agency also has primary responsibility for ensuring its positions are classified consistently with OPM appeal decisions.  Because of the specificity of information in the record regarding the appellant’s consistency assertions, we have asked the agency to provide us with an intra-agency classification consistency report on other investigator positions identified by the appellants as comparable to their position.  In making its report, the agency will review positions that are identical, similar, or related to the appellants’ position to ensure that they are classified consistently with this appeal decision.  The Introduction, appendix 4, section I, provides more information about such reports.  We have also asked the agency to inform the appellants of the results of its consistency review. 

The appellants point to the sizeable amount of work they perform, as well as the goals they are expected to meet.  However, volume of work and quality of performance are issues that cannot be considered in determining the grade of a position (The Classifier’s Handbook, chapter 5).  We considered the goal-based performance appraisal documents only insofar as they contain case information that is relevant to the classification process.

In support of their appeal, the appellants submitted several copies of training certificates they have earned.  They state that BEP Investigators are required to attend, and successfully pass, the OPM Federal Investigative Services Background Investigation Course or have attended and successfully passed a course approved by OPM.  Although completing training courses and earning training certificates may help the appellants carry out progressively more difficult and responsible tasks, this in and of itself does not influence the classification of the position.  The classification of the appellants’ position is based on an evaluation of current duties and responsibilities, not their training accomplishments.

The appellants do not dispute the accuracy of their position description.  However, they assert that the current PD for General Investigator, GS-11, dated March 18, 2013, “omits the fact that BEP Investigators travel on a frequent basis throughout the U.S. to conduct background investigations… some travel can last up to ten days.”  That the appellants are required to travel as a condition of their employment does not influence the classification of their position.  In adjudicating this appeal, and by law, we must classify positions solely by comparing their duties and responsibilities to OPM standards and guidelines.  Travel requirements are not a consideration in this determination.                 

Position Information

The appellants are responsible for providing background investigations on BEP employees, applicants, and contractors to determine suitability for access to the Bureau.  There are about seven General Investigators in the Background Investigations Branch, which includes the appellants and three GS-12 General Investigators, with a GS-13 Lead General Investigator.  The branch is headed by a GS-13 Supervisory General Investigator (SGI).  The appellants work under the general supervision of the SGI.  The appellants gather facts through interviews, observations, and evaluating records.  They then use the information to substantiate findings or conclusions and prepare reports of investigation (ROI), which are then forwarded to adjudicators for final suitability determination.  However, the appellants have discretion and authority to grant interim clearances to applicants based on their preliminary investigative findings.         

In addition to their primary investigative duties, the appellants have each been assigned a collateral duty, such as processing National Security Clearance (NSC) holders and/or making position designations using the Position Designation Automated Tool.  However, collateral duties are work assignments which are generally not considered grade controlling.  The appellants’ collateral duties occupy no more than 15-20 percent of their overall time.  Only duties that occupy at least 25 percent of an employee’s time can affect the grade of a position (Introduction , section III.J).  Therefore, we will not address or consider the appellants’ collateral duties in this decision. 

Series and Title Determination

The appellants do not dispute the series and title of their position, and we find it is correctly classified as General Investigator, GS-1810.   

Grade Determination

The position was evaluated by application of the grade-level criteria provided in the Job Family Position Classification Standard (JFS) for Administrative Work in the Inspection, Investigation, Enforcement, and Compliance Group, GS-1800.  This JFS is written in the Factor Evaluation System (FES) format, under which factor levels and accompanying point values are to be assigned for each of the following nine factors, with the total then being converted to a grade level by use of the grade conversion table provided in the standard.  The factor point values mark the lower end of the ranges for the indicated factor levels.  For a position to warrant a given point value, it must be fully equivalent to the overall intent of the selected factor level description.  If the position fails in any significant aspect to meet a particular factor level description, the point value for the next lower factor level must be assigned, unless the deficiency is balanced by an equally important aspect that meets a higher level.   

The appellants contest the agency’s evaluation of Factor 1, which is addressed below.  They do not contest the agency’s evaluation of Factors 2 through 9.  However, after careful review of the record, we disagree with the agency’s factor level assignments for Factors 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, and 9 as also discussed below. 

Factor 1, Knowledge Required by the Position

This factor measures the nature and extent of information an employee must understand in order to do the work, and the skills needed to apply that knowledge.

The agency assigned Level 1-6 under this factor.  The appellants believe Level 1-7 should be credited. 

At Level 1-6, the work requires knowledge of, and skill in applying, inspection, investigation, enforcement, and/or compliance principles, concepts, and methodologies; laws, regulations, guidelines, and precedent decisions; requirements of various legal jurisdictions; and practices common to industries and entities regulated by applicable programs.  These acquired knowledges and skills must be sufficient to independently perform duties such as:

  • identify significant sources of information to detect illegal activity and document issues or probable cause;
  • conduct inspections to determine if violations have occurred;
  • conduct investigations using accepted methodology and problem solving techniques;
  • take statements from witnesses, third parties, and other knowledgeable persons;
  • research, analyze, interpret, and evaluate data and information to make appropriate recommendations; and
  • prepare reports and technical information.  

The knowledge required by the appellants’ position is comparable to Level 1-6.  As at this level, the appellants’ position requires thorough knowledge of and skill in applying investigative concepts, pertinent laws and regulations, accepted methodologies, and problem solving techniques.  For example, they apply skill in identifying sources of information and exercising the appropriate methods and techniques when questioning subjects to assess their credibility during interviews; take statements from witnesses, third parties, and other knowledgeable persons; review IRS tax records, credit reports, criminal reports, employment/unemployment records, and court records; and evaluate the compiled data and information to prepare reports of findings.                         

Factor level illustrations are provided in the JFS to give insight into the meaning of the factor level descriptions (FLDs).  The illustration for Level 1-6 Investigator work describes knowledge of, and skill in applying, fact-finding methods and analysis sufficient to conduct background investigations on personnel who are being considered for employment, security clearances, or assignment to sensitive positions; interview persons acquainted with the subject of the investigation; develop, evaluate, and pursue derogatory information, such as financial and credit problems and substance abuse; and draft or compose concise reports of investigation.  The appellants’ duties and responsibilities are comparable to this illustration.        

Other Level 1-6 illustrations for related types of work help further clarify the intent of this factor level.  For example, Wage and Hour Investigators at Level 1-6 collect relevant information from sources, interview employers and other witnesses, and recognize discrepancies or irregularities in records.  Agriculture Warehouse Inspectors at this level analyze accounts and ledgers to identify discrepancies and prepare reports.  Investigative Analysts at this level summarize information received from other law enforcement agencies and determine supplemental leads for further research and analysis.  Customs and Border Protection Officers question individuals, examine identity papers, and search databases to detect fraud or falsification of documents.  The common element among these disparate Level 1-6 illustrations, including the one for background investigators and consistent with the work performed by the appellants, is that at this level the employee is engaged in conducting interviews and data searches to detect, reconcile, and report on discrepancies or irregularities in the information or subject being examined. 

At Level 1-7, the work requires knowledge of, and skill in applying, a wide range of complex inspection, investigation, enforcement, and/or compliance principles, concepts, and practices; criminal and case law precedents, administrative and legal procedures; requirements of various legal jurisdictions; a broad range of advanced investigative techniques, research methodologies, and statistical and financial analyses; and business practices common to regulated entities and parties sufficient to perform duties such as:

  • coordinate investigative activities with Federal, State, and local law enforcement officials;
  • conduct sophisticated surveillance;
  • ensure criminal cases are supported by evidence;
  • develop supportable cases for presentation and/or prosecution;
  • conduct inspections and investigations where significant difficulties are encountered;
  • select, adapt, and apply investigation and negotiation techniques;
  • interpret complex laws and regulations;
  • develop new approaches, methods, or procedures in data gathering and analysis techniques;
  • recognize and resolve discrepancies and/or inconsistencies among findings;
  • obtain and/or reconstruct missing or withheld documents and information;
  • overcome obstacles to gather and interpret evidence;
  • collect and confirm information from a variety of sources and methods, such as court records, databases, the Internet, newspapers, periodicals, and financial reports; and
  • prescribe corrective action or remediation in difficult and complex work assignments. 

Level 1-7 is not met.  This level requires a higher order of knowledge and investigative skills to delve into deeper and more complex assignments, thus requiring a broader range of advanced investigative techniques and the development of new data gathering and analysis methodologies; to interpret and apply complex laws, regulations, and legal precedents to the case at hand; and to conduct in-depth investigations and collect evidence sufficient to, for example, support prosecution.  The appellants' work, as presented, does not include these characteristics.  There is no indication they use advanced investigative techniques (e.g., conducting sophisticated surveillance or performing statistical or financial analyses of business records to uncover criminal activity or regulatory violations) or that they develop new methods of gathering and analyzing data.  Rather, they apply established investigative methodologies such as interviews with neighbors, co-workers, landlords, etc., and the review of common sources of information such as criminal, court, and credit records.  Although the appellants assert they reference law journals, Federal codes and statutes, they provided no examples to support this assertion, and their work does not require researching statutes or criminal codes to determine legality.  The nature of their work does not require them to coordinate with other law enforcement entities. Their investigations are not as in-depth as expected at this level because although they are expected to uncover derogatory information that may be disqualifying for suitability purposes, their investigations do not extend to developing the level of evidence that would be required to, for example, prove allegations of criminal conduct for prosecution purposes or equivalent administrative actions.  The appellants raised the issue that prior to interviews all subjects are administered the oath authorized by title 5 of the United States Code, section 303, and informed of the provisions of the Privacy Act of 1974.  However, administering an oath and informing subjects of the provisions of the Privacy Act are not equivalent to "interpreting complex laws and regulations.”  Although the appellants’ position may include some of the general characteristics of this level, such as resolving discrepancies among findings and collecting information from a variety of sources, these individual features may be regarded as equally consistent with Level 1-6.  For a position to warrant a given point value, it must be fully equivalent to the overall intent of the selected factor level description.  In this case, the appellants’ work does not require the degree of knowledge or involve the depth of investigation expected at Level 1-7.

Although the JFS includes a Level 1-6 illustration for conducting background investigations, it does not provide a corresponding illustration for Level 1-7.  However, other Level 1-7 illustrations provided are instructive in discerning the type of work that would involve the knowledge requirements expected at this level.  For example, Investigators at Level 1-7 plan and conduct investigations involving allegations of fraud, waste, or mismanagement or unequal application of laws, regulations, or policies; ensure that reports of investigation contain thorough analyses; and coordinate with other investigative agencies on the conduct of follow-up investigations.  Wage and Hour Investigators at this level investigate complex allegations and violations involving diversified businesses.  Agricultural Warehouse Inspectors conduct examinations of large business entities with complicated financial and organizational structures; determine if records are fraudulent; and perform special examinations for fraudulent manipulation or loss of large quantities of commodities or financial difficulties.  Equal Opportunity Investigators conduct complex complaint investigations, research unique legal issues, determine whether discrimination occurred, and develop remedies and recommend enforcement action.  Customs and Border Protection Officers conduct difficult inspections; collect and compile raw intelligence data to detect fraudulent documents and criminal patterns; and prepare evidence such as false documents in preparing cases for removal or referral to an immigration judge.  The commonality among these disparate types of work is the conduct of complex, in-depth investigations involving the analysis of systems of records or the reconstruction of events in order to develop evidence of violations.

The appellants' work does not involve investigations of this degree of depth or complexity, nor does it involve the development of the types of evidence and conclusions depicted in the Level 1-7 illustrations.  The appellants submitted a variety of case samples where derogatory information was discovered that they believe are representative of the complexity of their work. However, complexity does not derive from the mere discovery of derogatory information but rather from the degree of investigation and analysis required to develop sufficient actionable evidence.  The nature of the appellants’ work is such that the depth of investigation required to establish nonsuitability is considerably less than required to establish, for example, a basis for prosecution or the imposition of penalties as depicted in the Level 1-7 illustrations above.  The case samples show that the appellants usually identify derogatory information either because it was self-reported or through common records checks (such as criminal, employment, or credit records), and interview the employees or applicants to give them the opportunity to refute or explain any discrepancies.  For example, in one case one of the appellants followed-up on an employee's conflicting account of having resigned from a previous job because of alleged misconduct.  For the most part, however, the nature of their work is that they are reporting information that has been developed by other entities (such as arrest records, bankruptcy proceedings, etc.).  Although they interview employees and applicants to attempt to establish the facts of the case, they do not develop original evidence of criminal activity (i.e., sufficient for prosecution) or make conclusive determinations that violations of statute or regulation occurred, nor do they develop information affecting suitability that requires the independent review and analysis of, for instance, complicated financial records or raw intelligence data.

Level 1-6 is credited (950 points)                                                     

Factor 3, Guidelines

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

The agency assigned Level 3-4 under this factor.

At Level 3-3, the employee uses a variety of guidelines, manuals, and standard reference materials; however, they are not completely applicable to the work or have gaps in specificity.  The employee exercises judgment in interpreting, adapting, applying, and deviating from guidelines.  The employee analyzes the results of such adaptations and recommends changes in established methods and procedures.  

The guidelines used by the appellants meet Level 3-3.  Because of the nature of the work assignments or the environment in which they are performed, their guidelines may not always be applicable or there may be gaps in specific applicability; e.g., in circumstances encountered in volatile situations such as confrontational interviews where judgment must be used to adapt and possibly deviate from guidelines, based on unusual or emergency circumstances.

At Level 3-4, guidelines include administrative policies and precedents which are applicable but stated in general terms.  The guidelines for performing the work are scarce or of limited use.  The employee uses initiative and resourcefulness in deviating from established methods to address specific issues or problems, identify and research trends and patterns, develop new methods and criteria, or propose new policies and practices.

Level 3-4 is not met.  By the appellants’ own admission, the OPM investigator training, the OPM Investigator’s Handbook, OPM-FISD Security Manual, and other applicable manuals and directives, as opposed to being "stated in general terms" or "scarce or of limited use," are quite detailed and thorough in establishing the parameters of the work and how it is to be carried out.  The appellants have not presented any examples of situations in which they were compelled to deviate from established methods in conducting an investigation.  Although the Investigator's Handbook may not delineate the exact steps to take in any given case, the appellants reported that it prescribes what aspects must be addressed in each background investigation, the required or recommended sources of information, and the actions they may or may not take.  Moreover, at Level 3-4 employees perform such work as identifying and researching trends and patterns, developing new methods or criteria, or proposing new policies and practices for application by others.  The case-oriented nature of the appellants' work neither requires nor permits them the opportunity to regularly perform these types of assignments. 

Level 3-3 is credited (275 points).                                                                                                    

Factor 4, Complexity

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

The agency assigned Level 4-5 under this factor.

At Level 4-4, employees analyze data from a variety of sources, considering the impact, interrelationships, and complex patterns; confirm the accuracy and authenticity of information, and resolve issues of contradictory, missing, or inconclusive data; or resolve unusually complex jurisdictional issues through extensive coordination efforts. Employees exercise good judgment in planning and prioritizing the sequence, direction, and progress of work.  The employee must evaluate and interpret information from various sources and vary the approach to each assignment by adapting established practices and precedents.    

The illustration for Level 4-4 Investigator work in the JFS describes work which consists of investigations and financial examinations where employees review incomplete or conflicting records, interview knowledgeable parties, and consult with experts to gain insight.  The difficulty and originality of this level of work involves exercising judgment and discretion in conducting investigations susceptible to Privacy Act violations and sorting through personal financial or medical information to prepare reports of investigation. 

The complexity of the appellants' work meets Level 4-4.  As at this level and consistent with the corresponding illustration described above, the appellants analyze information from a variety of sources and resolve issues of contradictory, missing, or inconclusive data by using comprehensive research skills and interviewing and elicitation techniques.  They must recognize verbal and non-verbal body language that may reveal possible deception and employ questioning techniques to elicit additional, adverse, or contradictory information.  Similar to Level 4-4, the appellants also must exercise judgment in planning and prioritizing the sequence, direction, and progress of work. 

At Level 4-5, the work consists of the most significant and complex issues in areas of changing and/or conflicting policy or program requirements.  Employees make decisions and recommendations in situations complicated by uncertainty in approach, methodology, and/or interpretation due to: extreme sensitivity (e.g., subjects of an investigation may be well-recognized, high profile individuals or organizations); the existence of few or no precedents to follow; significant unresolved legal or regulatory issues; intense and widespread public, media, or congressional interest; emerging and innovative methods and patterns of non-compliant or criminal activity; sophistication of networks involved; and/or issues of multi-jurisdictional authority.  Employees must develop innovative strategies, approaches, or methods to serve as precedents or models for similar situations in the future.

Level 4-5 is not met.  The appellants’ background investigations do not involve the types of characteristics that would support crediting of Level 4-5.  There is no evidence the appellants make decisions or recommendations in situations complicated by uncertainty in approach, methodology, and/or interpretation, as the methods and procedures for performing their work are well established.  There is no indication their case assignments involve extreme sensitivity or intense public, media, or congressional interest.  Their work does not involve unresolved legal or regulatory issues as the basis for findings of nonsuitability are established.  The basic nature of their work in conducting background investigations on individuals precludes any consideration of investigating patterns or networks of criminal activity or issues of jurisdiction.  Further, the appellants have not presented any evidence to suggest they have developed innovative strategies, approaches, or methods to serve as precedents or models for similar situations in the future, as is found at Level 4-5.  

The Level 4-5 illustrations shed additional light on the degree of complexity expected at this level.  These illustrations include Criminal Investigators conducting investigations of large-scale, multi-level criminal operations, terrorism investigations involving organizations with national or international structures, or investigations of State-sponsored counterintelligence operations; a Mine Safety and Health Inspector investigating major accidents, fatalities, and disasters; a Wage and Hour Investigator investigating large national or international organizations; and an Equal Opportunity Investigator investigating highly sensitive cases where the respondents are large national or international companies or unions.  The appellants' responsibility for conducting routine background investigations of individual employees or applicants is not comparable in complexity to the types of large-scale investigations depicted at this level.

In support of their appeal, the appellants submitted several case samples of investigations they conducted which they consider complex investigations.  In each example derogatory information was developed about the subject which, as one of the appellants describes it, “expanded the scope of the investigation.”  Whenever derogatory information is discovered about a subject during the investigation, the appellant customarily schedules a follow-up interview to allow the subject an opportunity to either confirm or refute the information.  The appellants point out that at times these interviews can become confrontational, thereby increasing the complexity of the investigation.  Confrontational interviews require the appellants to exercise skill in managing difficult, hostile, and sensitive people and to use specialized interview techniques, acquired through training, to calm confrontational subjects while simultaneously obtaining the needed information.  However, while confrontational interviews are difficult to conduct and sensitive in nature, they do not represent the most significant and complex issues intended at Level 4-5.          

Level 4-4 is credited (225 points).                                                                                                     

Factor 5, Scope and Effect

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

The agency assigned Level 5-4 under this factor. 

At Level 5-3, the work involves independently conducting and completing typical investigations.  Employees have the responsibility for resolving a variety of conventional problems and situations by applying known solutions. The work contributes to the effective administration and/or enforcement of pertinent laws and regulations and to the prevention and detection of illegal or unsafe activities. 

The scope and effect of the appellants' work meets Level 5-3.  As at that level, their work involves independently conducting and completing typical investigations by developing deadlines and selecting the appropriate problem solving techniques and methods.  The appellants’ investigative work contributes to the effective administration of employee suitability determinations.        

At Level 5-4, the work involves planning and conducting multi-agency, multi-state, or international investigations; developing operational criteria, plans, and bulletins; or investigating or analyzing a variety of unusual situations.  The work efforts result in the disruption of large-scale organized illegal activity and/or result in changes to business practices or procedures that promote health, safety, or fair treatment of a large group or whole class of people.  Work may also result in improved planning and operational aspects of agency programs. 

Level 5-4 is not met.  The impact of the appellants’ work is largely limited to the BEP.  It does not involve planning and conducting multi-agency, multi-state, or international investigations as described at Level 5-4, nor does it result in the disruption of large-scale organized illegal activity and/or result in changes to business practices or procedures that promote health, safety, or fair treatment of a large group or whole class of people.

The Level 5-4 illustrations include a Criminal Investigator serving on a Federal task force to investigate money laundering operations resulting in the disruption of activities to defraud investors; a Mine Safety and Health Inspector investigating mines with serious safety and health issues and violations resulting in significant monetary fines and the halting of mining operations affecting local economic stability and employment; a Wage and Hour Investigator investigating major violations affecting the employment and pay practices of large firms and resulting in sanctions and potential compensation to employees; and an Equal Employment Investigator investigating the employment practices of large regional or national employers affecting the economic welfare of large groups of employees and resulting in substantial settlements.  The appellants' work investigating individual employees and applicants for suitability is of much lesser scope than depicted at this level, and its effect is limited to the employment prospects or status of the individuals investigated rather than the practices of a large business or the safety or well being of large groups or classes of employees.

The appellants assert the work they perform directly impacts the mission of BEP, and that divisions throughout the BEP are dependent upon the completion of the timely background investigation of candidates so they can employ adequate and competent staff to fulfill their mission.  Here, we agree with the appellants.  However, the scope of the appellants’ investigations do not reach level 5-4 where the work involves multi-agency, multi-state, or international investigations; developing operational criteria; or investigating a variety of unusual situations of the scope depicted at this level.   

Level 5-3 is credited (150 points).                                                                                                     

Factor 6, Personal contacts, and Factor 7, Purpose of contacts

These factors measure the nature and purpose of personal contacts. 

These two factors are interdependent.  The relationship between Factors 6 and 7 presumes the same contacts will be evaluated under both factors.  Personal contacts include face-to-face and telephone contacts with persons not in the supervisory chain.  The nature of the discourse defines the reason for the communication and the context or environment in which the communication takes place.  The levels of these factors; i.e., the FLDs described under each 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.

Personal Contact

The agency assigned Level 4 under Personal Contacts.

At Level 3, the personal contacts are with individuals or groups from outside the employing agency in a moderately unstructured setting.

Level 3 is met.  The appellants' contacts are comparable to this level in that they are with contracting officials, security representatives, educational institutions, police, employees' and applicants’ neighbors, coworkers, etc., and other various members of the community.  Overall, their contacts frequently are not structured and are done on a non-routine basis.

At Level 4, the personal contacts are with high-ranking officials from outside the employing agency at national or international levels in highly unstructured settings.  Typical of contacts at this level are those with Members of Congress, leading representatives of foreign governments, presidents of large national or international firms, nationally recognized representatives of the news media, presidents of national unions, State governors, or mayors or large cities.   

Level 4 is not met.  The appellant does not have contacts with high-ranking officials such as agency heads, top Congressional staff officials, State executive or legislative leaders, or other equivalently high-level officials in highly unstructured settings.

Purpose of Contacts

The agency assigned Level C under Purpose of Contacts

Level C is met.  As at this level, some of the appellants’ interviews involve individuals who may be fearful, skeptical, uncooperative, or dangerous.  They must exercise skill and tact in approaching the individuals to obtain needed information.      

Together, Factors 6 and 7 are assigned Level 3C.  The points assigned are determined by the intersection of the relationship of both Factors 6 and 7 as found in the chart within the JFS.   

Level 3C is credited (180 points).

Factor 8, Physical Demands

This factor covers the requirements and physical demands placed on the employee by the work assigned.  This includes physical characteristics and abilities, e.g., specific agility and dexterity requirements, and the physical exertion involved in the work, e.g., climbing, lifting, pushing, balancing, stooping, kneeling, crouching, crawling, or reaching.  To some extent the frequency or intensity of physical exertion must also be considered, e.g., a job requiring prolonged standing involves more physical exertion than a job requiring intermittent standing. 

The agency assigned Level 8-2 under this factor. 

At Level 8-1, the work is sedentary, although some slight physical effort may be required.  Typically, the employee sits comfortably to do the work.  However, there may be some walking; standing; bending; carrying of light items, such as papers, books, or small parts; or driving an automobile.  No special physical demands are required to perform work.

Level 8-1 is met. The appellants’ work is primarily sedentary in nature and is performed in an office setting. Although some periodic physical effort is involved (standing, carrying of light items, walking, etc.), the focus of their responsibilities are the administrative aspects of conducting investigations.

At Level 8-2, assignments regularly involve long periods of standing, bending, and stooping to observe and study work operations in an industrial, storage, or comparable work area.

Level 8-2 is not met. Although the appellants’ work involves some periodic activity requiring limited physical effort, there are no indications that their work routinely involves or requires lengthy or recurring periods of physical exertion, agility, dexterity, etc., in the kind of setting described at this level.

This factor is credited at Level 8-1 (5 points).

Factor 9, Work Environment

This factor considers the discomfort and risk of danger in the employee’s physical surroundings and the safety precautions required. 

The agency assigned Level 9-2 under this factor.

At Level 9-1, the work area is usually an office setting with adequate lighting, heating, and ventilation.  The work environment involves everyday risks or discomforts requiring normal safety precautions.  The employee may occasionally be exposed to uncomfortable conditions in facilities.

At Level 9-2, the work involves moderate risks and requires special safety precautions or protective clothing or gear.  It is mostly performed in settings such as:

  • outdoors, on land or at sea, in all types of weather;
  • at dockside on fishing vessels during catch-landing operations;
  • at fish processing houses;
  • on board aerial or surface patrol craft;
  • at ports of entry; or
  • at cold storage facilities and warehouses.

The work involves exposure to such conditions as:

  • moderate discomfort, high noise levels, dust, auto and aircraft exhaust, or adverse weather, such as hot cold, wet, or dry climates;
  • people and animals with contagious diseases, such as tuberculosis, hepatitis, or HIV/AIDS; and
  • hazardous chemicals, herbicides, carcinogens, or pesticides used in packaging and preservatives used for international shipment;
  • potentially dangerous machinery, equipment, and products; or
  • areas with high crime rates.

Level 9-2 is not met.  The appellants’ work is primarily done in public locations, residential areas, and local businesses.  There is no evidence their work involves the safety risks or conditions described at Level 9-2.     

Level 9-1 is credited (5 points).

Factors Level Points
Knowledge Required 1-6 950
Supervisory Controls 2-4 450
Guidelines 3-3 275
Complexity 4-4 225
Scope and Effect 5-3 150
Personal Contacts
Purpose of Contacts 3C 180
Physical Demands 8-1 5
Work Environment 9-1 5
Total 2240


The total of 2240 points falls within the GS-10 point range (2105-2350) on the grade conversion table provided in the JFS.


The position is properly classified as General Investigator, GS-1810-10.

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