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In This Section

Classification & Qualifications Appeal Decisions

Washington, DC

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

[appellant's name]
Supervisory Information Technology (IT) Specialist
GS-2210-13
[support activity]
[section]
[branch]
[program office]
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
[city, state]
Supervisory IT Specialist
GS-2210-13
C-2210-13-03

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

03/06/2014


Date

As provided in section 511.612 of title 5, Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), this decision constitutes a certificate which 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).

As discussed in this decision, the appellant’s position description (PD) of record must be revised to meet the PD standard of adequacy in the Introduction.  The revised PD must be submitted to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) office that adjudicated this appeal within 30 calendar days of the date of this decision.

Introduction

On July 30, 2013, OPM’s Dallas Oversight accepted a classification appeal from [appellant’s name].  The appellant’s position is currently classified as Supervisory IT Specialist, GS-2210-13, but he believes it should be classified at the GS-14 grade level.  The position is assigned to the [support activity], [section], [branch], [program office], U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), in [city, state].  We received the complete agency’s administrative report on August 29, 2013.  We have accepted and decided this appeal under section 5112 of title 5, United States Code.

Background and general issues

The appellant filed a classification appeal with the VA’s Office of Human Resources Management.  Their July 9, 2013, decision determined the position was appropriately classified as GS-2210-13.  The appellant subsequently filed a classification appeal with OPM, stating the agency’s evaluation failed to fully address his major concerns and that “the adjudication was done improperly.”  In adjudicating this appeal, our responsibility is to make our own independent decision on the proper classification of the appellant’s position.  Because our decision sets aside all previous agency decisions, any concerns regarding the agency’s evaluation of his position are not germane to this decision.

Position information

The [section] promotes one technology across VA.  The [section] works collaboratively with VA organizations, performing its mission of desktop support, personal computer leasing, information protection, standardization of configuration, and patch management functions.  Within the [section], the [support activity] performs the full range of planning and operational activities required to support the current and projected systems engineering workload.  The appellant’s first-level supervisor is the [support activity] Director, who occupies a Supervisory IT Specialist (Operating Systems/Network Services), GS-2210-14, position.

The [support activity] provides operational support to [program office] field offices or “campuses” at several nationwide locations.  [Support activity] work is performed by two teams.  Each team provides desktop support services, network support services, management of computer infrastructure, data storage, frontline IT security, and local area network (LAN) and wide area network (WAN) support to primarily [program office] employees and contractors responsible for development of IT products and applications for VA-wide use.  The appellant occupies one of the two identical additional team supervisor positions (position description (PD), number [number]).  He estimates spending at least 75 percent of his time supervising, directing, and providing technical oversight to his assigned team.  The appellant is the first-level supervisor to a staff of GS-2210 IT Specialists assigned to [program office] field offices in [city, state]; [city, state]; and [city, state].  A GS-13 Lead IT Specialist oversees the work assigned to each of these offices.  In total, the appellant’s team is staffed with 18 full-time equivalent (FTE) Federal employees and two contractors.

The appellant reports spending the remainder of his time on personally performed work such as maintaining the campus computer room and infrastructure; troubleshooting problems with internal computer systems, communications hardware, and networks; and analyzing issues and providing solutions to hardware and software problems.

The appellant and immediate supervisor certified to the accuracy of the duties described in his official PD.  Nevertheless, the PD includes statements under the rating factors not supportable by either the duties described in the record or information obtained during the telephone interviews.  For example, the PD describes the supervisory and managerial authorities exercised as including making selections concerning hiring personnel, making decisions on non-routine or costly training needs, and approving or authorizing the use of overtime or compensatory time as needed.  As discussed later in this decision, the appellant does not exercise these authorities.  Under other considerations evaluated by Factor 6, the PD erroneously states he makes recommendations in the determination of program segments to be initiated, dropped, or curtailed and in other areas listed under this factor.

We find the PD of record covers the major duties assigned to and performed by the appellant.  However, because PDs must meet the minimum standard of adequacy as described in the Introduction and The Classifier’s Handbook, the appellant’s PD must be updated so there is a clear understanding of the duties and responsibilities representing the approved classification.  Regardless, an OPM decision classifies a real operating position and not simply a PD.  We have decided this appeal based on an assessment of the actual work assigned to and performed by the appellant.

To help decide this appeal, we conducted telephone audits with the appellant on November 14 and December 16, 2013; telephone interviews with the immediate supervisor on December 5 and 16, 2013; and numerous follow up conversations and correspondence.  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 his agency.

Series, title, and standard determination

The appellant’s position is properly assigned to the GS-2210 IT Management Series, which covers two-grade interval positions managing, supervising, administering, developing, delivering, and supporting IT systems and services.  The position meets the requirements for coverage and evaluation by the General Schedule Supervisory Guide (GSSG).  The authorized title for supervisory positions in this series is Supervisory IT Specialist.  We evaluated the appellant’s supervisory work by application of the GSSG.  Neither the appellant nor agency disagrees.

The Job Family Standard (JFS) for Administrative Work in the Information Technology Group, GS-2200, allows using the basic IT Specialist title without a parenthetical specialty title when a position, like the appellant’s, includes more than two of the established specialty or emphasis areas.  The basic title may, at the agency’s discretion, be used with any combination of parenthetical specialty titles in the official position title.

The appellant states his personally performed work occupies, at the most, 25 percent of his time while the [support activity] Director estimates this at only 15 percent of his time.  This work entails resolving infrastructure issues while maintaining the campus computer room, communicating with the vendors and contractors performing equipment installation, and other work.  He also responds to a wide variety of technical issues relating to operating systems support, computer applications support, database integrity, hardware, data communications, and data protection.

The appellant’s PD and performance standards provide only minimal descriptions of his nonsupervisory work.  For example, the critical elements in his performance standards include:  customer service (is personally tactful and ensures subordinates are tactful), program management (develops and maintains short-range and long-term plans used to establish priorities and support goals and requirements), budget (manages budgetary requirements and ensures timely submission for inclusion in annual budget), and supervisory responsibilities.  After careful consideration of the PD and performance standards, in addition to his spending only a minimal amount of time on this work, we conclude the appellant’s nonsupervisory work is incidental to the carrying out of supervisory responsibilities clearly serving as the primary purpose of his position.

The appellant’s personally performed work is properly evaluated by application of the grading criteria in the GS-2200 JFS.  The agency did not evaluate his nonsupervisory work by applying the JFS.  We applied the GS-2200 JFS to the appellant’s applicable work and determined that those duties and responsibilities are graded no higher than his supervisory work.  Since these duties are incidental to the core supervisory function of his position and are not grade controlling, we will not discuss them further.

Grade determination

The GSSG is used to determine the grade of supervisory positions in grades GS-5 through GS-15.  The GSSG employs a factor-point evaluation method that assesses six factors common to all supervisory positions.  To grade a position, each factor is evaluated by comparing the position to the factor-level descriptions for that factor and crediting the highest factor level which is fully met, in accordance with the instructions specific to the factor being evaluated.  The total points assessed under all factors are then converted to a grade by using the grade conversion table in the GSSG.

The agency evaluated the appellant’s supervisory work at the GS-13 level by application of the grade-level criteria in the GSSG.  The appellant only disagrees with the agency’s evaluation of Factors 3, 4B, 5, and 6.  We reviewed the agency’s determination for Factors 1, 2, and 4A, concur, and have credited the position accordingly.  Our evaluation will focus on the remaining factors.

Factor 3, Supervisory and Managerial Authority Exercised

This factor considers the delegated supervisory and managerial authorities 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.

In order to meet Level 3-2, a position must meet any one of the conditions described in paragraphs a, b, or c under this factor level.  The agency credited the appellant’s position at Level 3-2c.  Supervisors at this level must carry out at least three of the first four, and a total of six or more of the 10 responsibilities listed at that level in the GSSG.  Based on our review of the record, we agree the position fully meets Level 3-2c; as this is contested by neither appellant nor agency, we will not address the responsibilities further but incorporate them by reference into this decision.

In order to fully meet Level 3-3, a position must meet the conditions described in paragraphs a or b under this factor level.  Level 3-3a describes managerial positions with authority to devise long-range staffing needs and which are closely involved with high-level program officials (or comparable agency-level staff personnel) in developing overall goals and objectives related to high levels of program management and development or formulation.  Based on careful review of the record, we found Level 3-3a program planning authorities and responsibilities are not vested in the appellant’s position but with higher-level positions.  The appellant does not assert his position should be credited at Level 3-3a but instead bases his rationale on his position meeting Level 3-3b.

At Level 3-3b, a supervisor must exercise all or nearly all of the supervisory responsibilities and authorities described at Level 3-2c, plus at least 8 of the 15 responsibilities listed under Level 3-3b of the GSSG.  The appellant’s position exercises all 10 of the responsibilities described at Level 3-2c.  Of the 15 responsibilities listed under Level 3-3b, his duties and responsibilities are compared below.

Responsibility 1 is credited to positions using any of the following to direct, coordinate, or oversee work:  supervisors, leaders, team chiefs, group coordinators, committee chairs, or comparable personnel; and/or providing similar oversight of contractors.  The agency did not credit the appellant’s position with this responsibility, explaining in its appeal decision:

There are four subordinate team leaders assigned to the appellant.  Two of the subordinate team leaders lead organizations are so small the team leaders to [sic] not meet the definition of team leaders.  The other two team leaders lead small organizations that barely meet the minimum requisite number of employees to lead to be leaders.  A review of the positions descriptions of record indicate the position descriptions are worded directly from the standard and the position descriptions would indicate that the leaders spend 100% of the time leading employees at a grade level where they operate at Factor Level 2-4 for supervisory controls.  Level 2-4 would indicate that these employees operate with great independence and to lead employees 100% of the time would indicate that the employees operate at a much lower supervisory level and would not justify the grade of GS-12.

The appellant disagrees with the above rationale, pointing out that the agency did not accurately describe his team’s three team leader structure but that of the other [support activity] team.  He further states:

Team Leads perform a critical function in organizing the technical workload of the [support activity] team.  I hold that in reality the Team Leads perform supervisory duties approximately 50% of their time and perform non-supervisory IT Specialist work at the GS-13 level about 50% of their time.

To credit this responsibility, the subordinate personnel must spend 25 percent or more of their time on supervisory, lead, or comparable functions.  The supervisory organizational workload must also be so large as to warrant the structure (the mere presence of team leaders by itself is not sufficient to warrant credit).  In contrast to the agency’s findings, we found the arrangement and volume of work performed by the appellant’s team supports the credible use of subordinates in a team leader or comparable personnel capacity to meet the minimum requirements of responsibility 1.

The appellant’s team currently consists of three FTEs in [city], four FTEs in [city], and six FTEs in [city], each led by a team leader.  Each field office is located in a different time zone, providing IT services and functions to customers located on the same campus or at a remote workstation.  The geographic dispersion of the servicing population and field offices makes the establishment of a team leader or comparable personnel at each site plausible, so as to permit the leader to direct, advise, and oversee staff directly and immediately without hurdles from geographic and time zone differences.  In addition, the appellant’s is the only supervisory position within the team, creating a ratio of 1 supervisor to 18 GS-2210 FTEs, thus yielding a broad span of control in comparison to the 1 to 12 Government-wide ratio (OPM FedScope data as of September 2013).  We are thus persuaded the appellant’s team contains additional quasi-supervisory work to require the presence of additional positions to monitor and manage the team’s workload.

We partly agree with the agency’s rationale that the number of team leaders assigned to an organization the size of the appellant’s team is dubious.  We agree the PD for the team leader position appears to describe a position spending nearly the entire work time on leader-related responsibilities.  This is highly unlikely considering the size, structure, and depth of the field office organization.  As pointed out by the agency’s decision, it is also suspect due to the agency’s crediting of Level 2-4 to all the team’s full performance level positions.  The GS-2200 JFS describes supervisory controls at Level 2-4 as the supervisor outlining overall objectives and available resources, and the employee frequently interpreting regulations, applying new methods to resolve complex and/or intricate, controversial, or unprecedented issues and problems, and resolving most conflicts that arise.  However, crediting responsibility 1 requires that 25 percent or more, not all, of the described subordinate positions’ time be spent on leader, coordinator, or equivalent functions.  The appellant asserts the team leaders spend an average of 50 percent of their time on leader responsibilities.  We do not find this plausible as discussed under Factor 5 in this decision.

The agency classified the three team leader positions as such based on meeting the requirements for coverage and evaluation by the General Schedule Leader Grade Evaluation Guide (LGEG).  However, we are dubious that all of the team leader positions would meet the threshold for LGEG coverage.  LGEG coverage requires leaders perform, at the minimum, duties including coaching the team in the selection and application of appropriate problem solving methods and techniques and serving as coach, facilitator, and/or negotiator in coordinating team initiatives and in consensus building activities among team members.  Positions must be considered in relation to one another; thus, we conclude the functions and subject matter expertise recognized and credited to the leader’s GS-13 IT Specialist positions assigned to the team undermine the leader’s performance of the minimum functions required for LGEG coverage.  The duties and responsibilities of the GS-13 IT Specialist position includes troubleshooting problems, installing computer and data communications hardware and peripheral equipment, and leading national task forces on a wide variety of IT issues.  In addition to acting with a considerable amount of independence as an expert (as confirmed by the [support activity] Director), the GS-13 IT Specialist performs national task force project work that is directly assigned, overseen, and supervised by the appellant or [support activity] Director.  This precludes the leaders from performing the full scope of coaching, facilitating, and mentoring functions required for LGEG coverage over the GS-13 IT Specialist positions.  The team leader at [city] oversees the work of five GS-11 IT Specialists.  However, the leader in [city] oversees only one IT Specialist below the GS-13 level while the leader in [city] oversees only two IT Specialists below the GS-13 level; thus, we are dubious these leader positions lead at least 25 percent of their duty time to meet the threshold for LGEG coverage.  Nevertheless, the geographic dispersion of the workforce would support the use of a coordinator position to assist in managing a site, a situation provided for in the crediting of this element.  Thus, because the team’s workload is large and complex enough to justify directing the functions of his team’s work through these other positions, the appellant’s position is credited with responsibility 1.

One of the appellant’s major functions is to advise product development managers, administrative staff, building management, security, and other management officials of often higher rank and grade on [support activity] program matters.  He exercises significant responsibilities when dealing with and advising higher-ranked officials regarding implementing technology upgrades, reviewing new system designs, and proposing hardware and software.  The appellant also provides advice on security policies, guidelines, and procedures to managers of product development teams comprised of customers requiring different technology of varying and often conflicting security measures and controls.  Responsibility 2 is met.

Responsibility 3 is credited to positions assuring reasonable equity (among units, groups, teams, projects, etc.) of performance standards and rating techniques developed by subordinates or assuring comparable equity in the assessment by subordinates of the adequacy of contractor capabilities or of contractor completed work.  The appellant’s subordinate team leaders do not develop performance standards and rating techniques, as required for this responsibility.  Responsibility 3 is not met.

Responsibility 4 is credited to positions exercising direction of a program or major program segment with significant resources (e.g., one at a multimillion dollar level of annual resources, in 1998 dollars when the GSSG was adopted).  The [support activity] fiscal year (FY) 2013 operating budget was approximately $7.8 million and $8.2 million in FY 2014.  The [support activity] Director said the operating budget of each team is approximately half; thus the appellant directs a team with an operating budget estimated at $3.9 million in FY 2013 and $4.1 million in FY 2014.  The operating budget is used to conduct business including payment for cellular phones, network equipment, software licensing fees, printers, etc.  The appellant exercises control of his staff’s salary budget estimated at more than $1.9 million in FY 2013 (pay for his contractor staff is calculated separately).  The $3.9 million operating budget and the $1.9 million salary budget for FY 2013, totaling $5.8 million, shows his team’s funding fully meets the requirements for crediting responsibility 4.

The appellant’s position is credited with responsibility 5, which involves making decisions on work problems presented by subordinate supervisors, team leaders, or similar personnel, or by contractors.  For example, he serves as a technical expert and makes decisions on requests from team leaders to purchase repair parts and supplies, identifying and advising on lower-cost alternatives and approaches when feasible.

Responsibility 6 involves evaluating subordinate supervisors or leaders and serving as the reviewing official on evaluations of nonsupervisory employees rated by subordinate supervisors.  The appellant is the rating official for all FTEs on his team.  As his is the only supervisory position on the team, he does not serve as a reviewing official for evaluations of employees rated by subordinate supervisors.  Responsibility 6 is not met.

Responsibility 7 is credited to positions making or approving selections for subordinate nonsupervisory positions.  When filling vacancies, the appellant and team leader of the site for which the vacancy is being filled conduct interviews with applicants and make recommendations.  The [support activity] Director is the selecting official with authority to approve selections for the team’s vacancies.  Since the appellant does not make or approve selections, responsibility 7 is not met.

Responsibility 8 involves recommending selections for subordinate supervisory positions and for work leader, group leader, or project director positions responsible for coordinating the work of others, and similar positions.  The appellant conducts interviews with applicants and makes recommendations when filling team leader vacancies.  However, since his is the only supervisory position on the team, he is not delegated responsibility for recommending selections for subordinate supervisory positions, in addition to work leader positions, as described by this responsibility.  Responsibility 8 is not met.

Responsibility 9 is credited to positions hearing and resolving group grievances or serious employee complaints.  The [support activity] Director said situations of this type occur “fairly infrequently,” and that the appellant’s position primarily responds to complaints of a technical IT-related nature rather than serious employee complaints as envisioned by this responsibility.  Responsibility 9 is not met.

Responsibility 10 involves reviewing and approving serious disciplinary actions; e.g., suspensions, involving nonsupervisory subordinates.  Putting aside the rarity of such situations occurring, the appellant’s position lacks authority to independently approve suspensions, hear and resolve grievances, and issue letters of reprimand, performance improvement plans, and other performance- or conduct-based actions.  Beyond the informal level, higher-level supervisors would become involved.  Responsibility 10 is not met.

Responsibility 11 involves making decisions on non-routine, costly, or controversial training needs and training requests related to employees of the unit.  The appellant’s staff occasionally attends training and conferences on new IT technology.  However, the [support activity] training budget is centrally managed by a travel and training group in the [section] executive office.  If a subordinate employee requests training, the appellant determines whether the training is related and beneficial to the employee’s work, endorses the request when appropriate, and forwards the action to the [support activity] Director and higher-level officials for consideration and approval.  Since the appellant does not approve training requests, responsibility 11 is not met.

Responsibility 12 is credited to supervisors who regularly oversee the work of contract employees in a manner somewhat comparable to the way in which other supervisors direct the work of subordinate employees.  As part of that regular oversight, supervisors determine whether contractor-performed work meets standards of adequacy.  In addition to the 18 FTEs, the appellant’s team is staffed with a senior-level GS-13 equivalent and a junior-level GS-11 equivalent contractors.  Similar to his overseeing the work of his subordinate employees, he assigns work and responds to technical work questions, as well as reports on the adequacy of the contractors’ work to the [support activity] Director.  Given the limited contractor workforce, responsibility 12 is minimally met.

Responsibility 13 involves approving expenses comparable to within-grade increases, extensive overtime, and employee travel.  The appellant asserts his position warrants credit for this responsibility, stating in his appeal request, “I have never had a [within-grade increase] or overtime request that I approve be denied by higher authority,” and also that employee travel is “under elevated scrutiny.”  His subordinate employees routinely perform work from two to six hours each month after regular business hours, to avoid disrupting customer usage of the network infrastructure.  His first-level supervisor (in addition to the appellant’s statements indicating a higher-authority review) verified that actions involving overtime, employee travel, and other equivalent expenses are first reviewed and endorsed by the appellant prior to being elevated to the [support activity] Director and/or higher-level official for approval.  Thus, without approval authority, responsibility 13 may not be credited.

The appellant recommends awards and bonuses for nonsupervisory personnel and changes in position classification, subject to approval by higher-level officials or others.  He forwards recommendations for special act and performance awards to the [support activity] Director, who maintains responsibility for the awards budget.  [Support activity] PDs are standardized across the organization and are reviewed once every two years by the [support activity] Director and the two team supervisors.  They review the PDs to ensure the service demands of the organization are fully addressed by existing PDs, consolidating or developing new PDs when necessary.  PD changes are forwarded to the [section] executive office and then the VA office with classification authority over the positions.  Responsibility 14 is met.

Responsibility 15 involves finding and implementing ways to eliminate or reduce significant bottlenecks and barriers to production, promote team building, or improve business practices.  The [support activity] provides desktop and network support services and other functions to nationwide [program office] offices.  The appellant devises and implements process improvement strategies for the purpose of making structural and methodological improvements.  He, along with the [support activity] Director and other team supervisor, periodically assesses the adequacy of the team structure with the goal of eliminating bottlenecks and others barriers.  These organizational assessments involve making decisions (e.g., to align a field office under a different team or redistribute the workload) based on size of the current servicing population, workflow including wait times, workload, and other factors.  The appellant’s position also involves the standardizing of operations within a field office, within the team, and across [support activity], developing standard operating procedures addressing the execution of various functions, processing work requests, assigning user accounts, etc.  He also develops workflow spreadsheets and other planning tools when [support activity] completes major tasks, such as the roll out of 3,500 laptops to its customers.  Responsibility 15 is met.

Based on the information above, the appellant performs only 7 of the 15 responsibilities listed under Level 3-3b.  Because the appellant’s position does not meet Level 3-3a, nor are 8 of the 15 responsibilities listed in Level 3-3b credited, Level 3-2 is assigned and credited 450 points.

Factor 4, Personal Contacts

This is a two-part factor assessing the nature and purpose of personal contacts related to supervisory and managerial responsibilities.  The nature of contacts, credited under subfactor 4A, and the purpose of those contacts, credited under subfactor 4B, must be based on the same contacts.

Subfactor 4B:  Purpose of Contacts

This subfactor includes the advisory, representational, negotiating, and commitment responsibilities related to the supervisor’s contacts.

 At Level 4B-2, the purpose of contacts is to ensure that information provided to outside parties is accurate and consistent; to plan and coordinate the work directed with that of others outside the subordinate organization; and/or to resolve differences of opinion among managers, supervisors, employees, contractors, or others.

At Level 4B-3, the purpose of contacts is to justify, defend, or negotiate in representing the project, program segment(s), or organization unit(s) directed, in obtaining or committing resources, and in gaining compliance with established policies, regulations, or contracts.  Contacts at this level usually involve active participation in conferences, meetings, hearings, or presentations involving problems or issues of considerable consequence or importance to the program or program segment(s) managed.

The purpose of the appellant’s contacts meets Level 4B-2.  As at this level, the purpose of contacts is to plan and coordinate his team’s work with others.  The appellant communicates with product development managers when new [program office] employees require specific technical equipment, advising them if the current infrastructure and security requirements are compatible with the technology requested.  He also ensures information provided to outside parties is accurate and consistent when discussing work operations and solutions involving software, hardware, application requirements, risks, plans, and statuses.  The appellant works with contractors and vendors to ensure installations and other work are completed in accordance with the work agreement, which is consistent with Level 4B-2 contacts for the purpose of resolving differences of opinion among managers, supervisors, employees, contractors, or others.

The appellant seeks to credit his position at Level 4B-3, stating in his appeal request:

…the very nature of the job of supporting desktop and laptop equipment and LAN, WAN and computing environment infrastructure among other organizations where all have sophisticated computer experience requires the ability to communicate, negotiate and persuade those supported customers to gain their compliance in regards to their systems.  Mostly, this has to do with Information Security, enforcing the rules of VA Handbook 6500 according to the requirements of the Information Security Officer and [the VA’s Network and Security Operations Center].  Product Developers would at times like to skirt the rules in favor of convenience, and it falls to [support activity], me and my team, to gain their compliance.

The appellant’s contacts require motivating or persuading persons or groups to accept actions when opposition exists, for example, in situations involving [program office] organizations reluctant to comply with security requirements.  However, Level 4B-3 criteria are stringent, requiring justifying, defending, or negotiating on behalf of the organization with the necessary level of authority to commit resources and gain compliance with established policies.  To represent the organization in program defense or negotiations, a supervisor must necessarily have requisite control over resources and the authority necessary to gain support and compliance on policy matters.  All three Level 4B-3 conditions must be present to credit this level.  The appellant’s position is constrained in that he does not have the responsibility and authority to obtain or commit resources for his organization; this responsibility resides with the [support activity] Director and other higher-level positions.  For example, if the [support activity] changes the encryption model used by its organization or makes other upgrades, a customer may refuse the product if incompatible with current technology.  The appellant involves the [support activity] Director when an alternative product needs to be purchased to maintain compatibility, if a waiver to the standardization of equipment is required, or a product deadline cannot be met.  We conclude his position, without authority to commit resources through negotiation or other actions, does not meet the full intent of Level 4B-3.

The appellant also participates with facility managers on the local campus council.  He stated he persuades, defends, and promotes [support activity] interests at council meetings to “deal with infrastructure issues, such as computer room generator, air conditioning, power [uninterruptible power supplies] and rack locations.”  The purpose of his campus council contacts relate to infrastructure and other operational work-related issues rather than to problems, issues, or policy matters with the considerable consequence or importance to the program or program segment(s) managed as described at Level 4B-3.

Level 4B-2 is credited for 75 points.

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.

To evaluate first-level supervisors like the appellant, the GSSG instructs determining the highest grade of basic (mission oriented) nonsupervisory work performed that constitutes 25 percent or more of the workload of the organization.  The following types of work are specifically excluded from this workload calculation:

  •  work graded on the basis of supervisory or leader duties;
  • work for which the supervisor does not have the minimum supervisory and managerial authorities defined under Factor 3 (including such basic administrative supervisory functions as approving leave and evaluating performance); and
  • lower-level support work primarily facilitating the basic work of the unit.

The agency decision credited Level 5-7 under this factor, identifying GS-12 as the base level work of the organization, stating the appellant “provides administrative and technical supervision of the work of four IT Specialists, GS-2210-11; eleven IT Specialist, GS-2210-12 and four lead IT Specialist two of which are not leads.”  The agency’s rationale does not accurately portray the team’s grade and organizational structure, notably omitting seven non-leader GS-13 IT Specialists assigned to the appellant’s team.  The appellant seeks to credit his position at Level 5-8, stating the base level work of his team is GS-13.

Grade level credited to team leader positions (PD number [number]).  The appellant asserts the team leaders spend 50 percent of their workload on leader responsibilities.  Given the small groups led, it is not plausible to credit each team leader with spending 50 percent of their workload on performing leader responsibilities as discussed under Factor 1.  Instead, we credited the team leaders with spending 25 percent of their workload on leader responsibilities, the minimum required for coverage and evaluation by the LGEG.  Since, as previously stated, we are not convinced the [city] and [city] team leader positions with their oversight of two or less IT Specialists below the GS-13 level would meet the threshold for LGEG coverage, we consider these as coordinator positions; however, we have treated all three leader positions similarly for purposes of streamlining our workload calculations.  Thus, we excluded 25 percent of the team leader workload from our nonsupervisory workload calculation as instructed by the GSSG.  The remaining 75 percent of the team leader workload was included in the workload calculation, credited at the GS-12 level; i.e., the grade of the team led (as stated by the agency) and of the work personally performed by the team leaders, as described below.

In reviewing the evaluation statement for the team leader positions, we noted the agency did not evaluate the personally performed work separately.  As stated in Part II of the LGEG, for classifying two-grade interval team leader positions, the leader usually participates in the work of the team by performing work that is of the same kind and level as the highest level of work accomplished by the team led.  The GS-13 level is the highest level of work accomplished by each of the field offices; thus, we compared the PD of the team leaders with the PD of the GS-13 IT Specialists (number [number]).  The personally performed work captured in the team leaders’ PD (e.g., troubleshooting problems, installing computer and data communications hardware and peripheral equipment, and leading national task forces on a wide variety of IT issues) is described almost verbatim in the GS-13 IT Specialist PD.  However, the [support activity] Director verified that none of the leaders on the appellant’s team are currently assigned to lead a national task force.  When not serving as a mentor to lower-graded IT Specialists and performing other leader responsibilities, the team leaders troubleshoot customer problems, maintain inventory of equipment, and manage server rooms to ensure optimal temperature and other environmental conditions.

We normally assume the agency’s classification of a position is accurate when assessing the base level of an organization’s work.  However, since the agency provided no evaluation of the team leaders’ personally performed work, we applied the GS-2200 JFS to this portion of the work.  The GS-2200 JFS is written in the Factor Evaluation System (FES) format, under which factor levels and accompanying point values are assigned for each of the nine factors with Factor 1 (Knowledge Required by the Position) carrying the most weight.  Level 1-7 includes illustrations of positions, like the team leaders’, serving as senior customer technical analyst with responsibility for resolving the most complex customer problems; e.g., by reimaging customer workstations and correcting other workstations affected by similar problems.  Unlike the leaders’ personally performed work, positions at Level 1-8 manage special projects that have a significant impact on the delivery of customer support services; e.g., infrastructure or workforce relocation.  Thus, we conclude the leaders’ personally performed work is creditable at no higher than Level 1-7.  By reference to The Classifier’s Handbook (which provides tables illustrating how FES factors are typically used in positions, helping to understand how the most common factor levels are used at various grades for different kinds of work), the factor-level relationships described for administrative work identifies Level 1-7 as the common factor level assigned to GS-11 and GS-12 grade level positions.

As The Classifier’s Handbook does not preclude the use of other factor levels that may be appropriate depending on the assignment of duties and responsibilities to a particular position, we strongly encourage the agency to conduct a comprehensive review of the classification of the team leaders’ position, to determine the appropriateness of LGEG coverage and to evaluate the personally performed work.  As addressed on page ii of the decision, the agency is obligated to review its classification decisions for identical, similar, or related positions, taking appropriate action to ensure consistency with this appeal decision including reviewing the classification of related positions impacting the classification of the appealed position (particularly the classification of the appellant’s subordinate positions) and focusing on the proper classification of positions used to determine the base level by application of the GSSG.

Since we find the team leaders’ personally performed work creditable at no higher than the GS-12 grade level, we are crediting the 75 percent of the workload occupied by the leaders on personally performed work at the GS-12 grade level for workload calculation purposes.

Grade level(s) credited to GS-13 IT Specialist positions (PD number [number]).  Our workload calculations typically credit the grade levels associated with the various duties of each position as documented in the official PD, rather than assuming that the entire workload of each position is at the same grade level.  However, the PDs for the GS-13 IT Specialists and other subordinate positions do not identify percentages of workload spent on each of the major duties, instead appearing to describe a position performing grade-controlling duties 100 percent of the workload.  This approach to writing PDs makes it impracticable to identify the major duties not properly creditable at the grade-controlling level.  We also find this approach problematic given a review of the GS-13 IT Specialist PD identifies duties that do not withstand close examination and appear to be graded artificially high given the organization’s size.  For example, the PD states the employee coordinates work schedules for the assigned team and is called upon to establish work objectives, set priorities, assign tasks, and coordinate team activities.  We do not find it credible that multiple GS-13 positions are required to perform quasi-supervisory work to monitor the workload of a small field office, especially obvious at the [city] field office, as previously discussed, where a GS-13 team leader works alongside a staff of two GS-13 IT Specialists (also performing leader-type responsibilities according to their PD) and one GS-11 IT Specialist.

The appellant stated that five GS-13 IT Specialists troubleshoot problems similar to those resolved by other lower-graded IT Specialists.  The [support activity] Director agreed, further stating the GS-13 IT Specialists serve as experts and act independently when troubleshooting the organization’s most complex customer issues and problems.  This work is similar to the Level 1-7 illustration in the GS-2200 JFS describing positions resolving the most complex customer problems, and, as previously discussed, that factor level is identified with positions graded at GS-12.  In addition to troubleshooting problems, the GS-13 IT Specialists also lead national task forces rolling out projects involving the WAN Network, Citrix Access Gateway, e-Policy Orchestrator, System Center Configuration Manager, etc.  This work appears characteristic of the Level 1-8 illustration in the GS-2200 JFS which describes managing special projects with a significant impact on the delivery of customer support services.  By reference to The Classifier’s Handbook, the factor-level relationships described for administrative work identify Level 1-8 as the common factor level assigned to GS-13 grade level positions.

The [support activity] Director and appellant agree the project work is cyclical, with the earlier stages of the project likely occupying more time.  The appellant estimates the project work occupies between 10 to 50 percent of the GS-13 IT Specialist positions’ workload.  To account for these conditions and better reflect the situation as described by the appellant, we credited the GS-13 IT Specialist positions with spending 50 percent of the workload at the GS-13 grade level (on leading a national task force) and the remaining 50 percent at the GS-12 grade level (on troubleshooting the most complex customer problems).  This represents the maximum proportion of GS-13 grade level work creditable but may overstate its volume.

The appellant’s team also includes two GS-13 IT Specialists responsible for the network, managing the network switches at all locations, planning the best network configuration for each site, and monitoring equipment to maintain optimum operation.  The network specialists, though not assigned to lead a national task force, are assigned to the same PD as the other GS-13 IT Specialists.  We compared the network specialist work to the GS-2200 JFS, noting its similarities to the Level 1-7 illustrations describing positions responsible for such tasks as establishing connectivity between remote sites; creating network maps and troubleshooting network problems; and developing and implementing configuration management plans for complex LANs and WANs.  However, for purposes of streamlining our workload calculations, we are treating the network specialist positions in the same manner as the other GS-13 IT Specialists, although this does not represent confirmation of the assigned grade level.

Contractor work (GS-11 and GS-13 equivalent positions).  The contractors provide desktop support to customers on local site issues.  Neither the GS-11 nor GS-13 equivalent contractor serves as a lead to a national task force; i.e., the work we previously identified as being characteristic of the Level 1-8 illustration in the GS-2200 JFS.  Regardless, the appellant does not exercise the supervisory responsibilities identified under Factor 3 over the two contractors (e.g., approve leave, give advice and instruction on both work and administrative matters, and interview candidates).  The Contract Project Manager, who reports directly to the [support activity] Director, is responsible for approving leave and advising on and resolving matters of an administrative nature for the team’s two contractors.  The contractors are thus excluded from base level consideration.

Therefore, the appellant’s workload is broken down as follows:

 GS-13

3.5       IT Specialist, GS-2210

GS-12

2.25     Lead IT Specialist, GS-2210

4.5       IT Specialist, GS-2210

6.75

GS-11

7          IT Specialist, GS-2210

The total nonsupervisory mission-oriented workload is 17.25 FTEs.  The percentage of nonsupervisory mission-oriented workload at each grade level, rounded up, is as follows:

GS-13:                         20%

GS-12:                         39%

GS-11:                         41%

At 20 percent[1], the GS-13 grade level work constitutes less than 25 percent of the nonsupervisory workload.  We find the GS-12 work, at 39 percent, fully representative of the highest level of nonsupervisory work performed by the appellant’s team.

Level 5-7 is credited for 930 points.

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.  If the level selected under this factor is 6-1, 6-2, or 6-3, and if three or more of the eight Special Situations described are met, the original level selected is increased by one level.  If the level selected is 6-4, 6-5, or 6-6, the Special Situations do not apply and the original level selected is credited.  The agency credited the appellant’s position at Level 6-5a, but he seeks to credit his position at Level 6-6a.

At Level 6-5a, supervision and oversight 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.  Supervision at this level involves major recommendations which have a direct and substantial effect on the organization and projects managed.  For instance, making recommendations in at least three of the areas listed below or in other comparable areas:

  • significant internal and external program and policy issues affecting the overall organization, such as those involving political, social, technological, and economic conditions, as well as those factors cited in the first item of Level 6-4a;
  • restructuring, reorienting, recasting immediate and long range goals, objectives, plans, and schedules to meet substantial changes in legislation, program authority, and/or funding;
  •  determinations of projects or program segments to be initiated, dropped, or curtailed;
  • changes in organizational structure, including the particular changes to be effected;
  • the optimum mix of reduced operating costs and assurance of program effectiveness, including introduction of labor saving devices, automated processes, methods improvements, and similar;
  • the resources to devote to particular programs (especially when staff years and a significant portion of an organization’s budget are involved);
  • policy formulation, and long range planning in connection with prospective changes in functions and programs.

At Level 6-6a, supervision and oversight requires exceptional coordination and integration of a number of very important and complex program segments or programs of professional, scientific, technical, managerial, or administrative work comparable in difficulty to the GS-13 or higher level.  Supervision and resource management at this level involves major decisions and actions which have a direct and substantial effect on the organizations and programs managed.  Supervisors at this level make recommendations and/or final decisions about many of the management areas listed under Level 6-5a, or about other comparable areas.

The appellant asserts his position should be credited at Level 6-6a because he supervises GS-13 grade level work.  However, we found his team’s base level of work is GS-12, not GS-13 as expected at Level 6-6a.  Furthermore, the intent of Level 6-6a is to credit the coordination and integration of work required by a supervisor, not simply the grade level of work supervised.  Supervisory positions entail the exceptional coordination and integration of work found at Level 6-6a when the organization, for instance, contains a mix of professional, scientific, technical, managerial, and administrative work; requires the balancing and organizing of work to perform a variety of different work functions and responsibilities; or deals with fluctuations in the work from new or unstable programs and services requiring constant modifications and adjustments.  In contrast, the appellant’s organization consists of 18 FTEs and two contractors performing IT functions for a serviced population of primarily IT professionals, in an environment where both the staff and its functions are relatively stable.  We conclude his position does not require the extraordinary coordination and integration of work expected at Level 6-6a.

Level 6-6a also requires making recommendations and/or final decisions concerning many of the management areas listed under Level 6-5a.  We found the appellant’s work involves making recommendations with a direct and substantial effect on his team’s structure; for example, he periodically performs a workload analysis review with the goal of determining the organization’s optimum size and structure.  He makes purchase recommendations for costly IT equipment and technology (e.g., $1 million).  This and other work are characteristic of Level 6-5a recommendations involving significant internal and external program and policy issues involving technological and economic conditions; changes to the organizational structure; and the ideal mix of reduced operating costs and assurance of program effectiveness.

The appellant’s position does not make recommendations relating to other areas described under Level 6-5a.  He does not make recommendations on the restructuring, reorienting, recasting of immediate and long range goals, objectives, plans, and schedules to meet substantial changes in legislation, program authority, and/or funding; nor on policy formulation and long range planning in connection with prospective changes in functions and programs.  As a stable organization, the [support activity] is neither subject to substantial changes in legislation, program authority, or funding nor required to formulate policies dealing with potential changes in functions and programs.  The appellant also does not make recommendations on determinations of projects or program segments to be initiated, dropped, or curtailed (his is a customer service-driven organization that does not require making decisions on the projects to be stopped or started), and on resources to devote to particular programs when staff years and a significant portion of an organization’s budget are involved (his resource-related recommendations, if adopted, would not be considered a major portion of the organization’s budget).

The appellant’s position is responsible for performing three of the seven areas listed, the minimum required for crediting Level 6-5a.  His position falls short of making recommendations and/or final decisions regarding many of these areas as described at Level 6-6a.  Level 6-5a is credited for 1,225 points.

Summary
Factor Level Points
1.  Program Scope and Effect 1-3 550
2.  Organizational Setting 2-1 100
3.  Supervisory & Managerial Authority Exercised 3-2 450
4.  Personal Contacts
A.  Nature of Contacts 4A-2 50
B.  Purpose of Contacts 4B-2 75
5.  Difficulty of Typical Work Directed 5-7 930
6.  Other Conditions 6-5 1225
Total 3,380

 

The total of 3,380 points falls within the GS-13 range (3,155-3,600) on the grade conversion table provided in the GSSG.

Decision

The appellant’s position is properly classified as Supervisory IT Specialist, GS-2210-13.



[1] This percentage is based on the assumption that the GS-13 IT Specialists perform the project-related, grade-controlling work for 50 percent of their workload on a regular and continuing basis.  The figure, crediting the maximum percentage estimated by the appellant, is likely inflated as it does not account for situations when the volume of the GS-13 equivalent project work decreases to as low as 10 percent of an IT Specialist position’s workload.

 

 

 

 

 

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