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Policy, Data, Oversight Pay & Leave

Fact Sheet: Administrative Law Judge Pay System


Administrative law judges (ALJs) are individuals appointed under 5 U.S.C. 3105 for administrative proceedings conducted in accordance with 5 U.S.C. 556 and 557. ALJs are paid under 5 U.S.C. 5372.

Pay Levels and Rates of Basic Pay

The ALJ pay system has three levels of basic pay: AL-1, AL-2, and AL-3. Pay level AL-3 is the basic pay level for ALJ positions filled through competitive examination. Pay level AL-3 has six rates of basic pay: A, B, C, D, E, and F. Pay levels AL-2 and AL-1 are established by agencies subject to U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) approval. ALJ positions are placed at levels AL-2 and AL-1 when they involve significant administrative and managerial responsibilities.

The rate of basic pay for AL-3, rate A, may not be less than 65 percent of the rate of basic pay for level IV of the Executive Schedule. The rate of basic pay for AL-1 may not exceed the rate for level IV of the Executive Schedule.

Pay System Adjustments and Locality Pay

The President determines the appropriate adjustment for each level in the ALJ pay system by Executive order. Such adjustments take effect on the first day of the first pay period beginning on or after the first day of the month in which adjustments in the General Schedule rates of basic pay under 5 U.S.C. 5303 take effect.

ALJs also receive locality payments under 5 U.S.C. 5304. Locality rates for ALJs may not exceed the rate for level III of the Executive Schedule.

Setting Pay for a Newly-Appointed ALJ

An ALJ who is appointed and placed in level AL-3 must be paid at the minimum rate A, unless the ALJ is eligible for a higher rate because of prior service or superior qualifications.

  • An agency may offer an ALJ applicant with prior Federal service a rate higher than the minimum rate, up to the lowest rate of basic pay that equals or exceeds the applicant's highest previous Federal rate of basic pay, not to exceed the maximum rate F.
  • With prior OPM approval, an agency may offer an ALJ applicant with superior qualifications who is within reach for appointment from the ALJ certificate of eligibles, the rate of pay that is next above the applicant's existing pay or earnings, not to exceed the maximum rate F.
  • With prior OPM approval, an agency may offer a higher than minimum rate to a former ALJ with superior qualifications who is eligible for reinstatement.

Administrative law judge positions placed at AL-2 or AL-1 are paid at the established rates for those levels.

Advancement to the Next Higher Pay Level

Administrative law judges must serve at least one year in each AL pay level, or in an equivalent or higher level in positions in the Federal service, before advancing to the next higher level. Administrative law judges may advance only one level at a time.

Advancement to the Next Higher Rate of Basic Pay in AL-3

An ALJ in level AL-3 is advanced automatically to the next higher rate upon completion of the required waiting period.

Required Waiting Periods
Advancement from . . .Requires . . .
rate A to rate B 52 weeks of creditable service at rate A
rate B to rate C 52 weeks of creditable service at rate B
rate C to rate D 52 weeks of creditable service at rate C
rate D to rate E 104 weeks of creditable service at rate D
rate E to rate F 104 weeks of creditable service at rate E

Creditable Service

All service as an ALJ in the next lower rate is creditable towards completing the waiting period, whether consecutive or discontinuous. In other words, time previously served in the next lower rate will be creditable service towards completing the waiting period when an ALJ returns after a break in service to the same rate.

Time under the administrative appeals judge pay system established under 5 U.S.C. 5372b is not creditable service in computing the required waiting period.

Time in a non-pay status is generally creditable service in computation of a waiting period as long as it does not exceed, in the aggregate, two weeks per year for each 52 weeks of service. However, absence due to uniformed service or compensable injury is fully creditable upon re-employment as provided in 5 CFR part 353.

Added Administrative and Managerial Duties

On a one-time basis and with prior OPM approval, an agency may advance an ALJ in an AL-3 position with added administrative and managerial duties and responsibilities to the next higher rate, up to the maximum rate F.

Premium Pay

Administrative law judges are covered by the definition of "employee" in 5 U.S.C. 5541(2) and, therefore, are covered by the premium pay provisions under 5 U.S.C. chapter 55, subchapter V. ALJs may earn premium pay under title 5, subject to the applicable premium pay cap under 5 U.S.C. 5547.

Eligibility for Pay Flexibilities

Administrative law judges are not eligible for recruitment, relocation, or retention incentives under 5 U.S.C. 5753 and 5754. The regulations in 5 CFR part 575, subparts A, B, and C, require an eligible employee to have or maintain a rating of record of at least "Fully Successful" or equivalent to receive a recruitment, relocation, or retention incentive. An ALJ cannot meet the rating of record requirement because an agency may not rate the job performance of an ALJ (5 CFR 930.206(a)).

Similarly, ALJs are not eligible for the student loan repayment program. Under 5 U.S.C. 5379(d)(2) and 5 CFR 537.108(a)(2), an employee must maintain an acceptable level of performance to receive student loan repayment benefits.

How to Compute ALJ Rates of Pay

An agency must use the following procedures to convert an ALJ's annual rate of basic pay to an hourly, daily, weekly, or bi-weekly rate:

  • To derive an hourly rate, divide the annual rate of pay by 2,087 and round to the nearest cent, counting one-half cent and over as the next higher cent
  • To derive a daily rate, multiply the hourly rate by the number of daily hours of service required by the ALJ's basic daily tour of duty
  • To derive a weekly or bi-weekly rate, multiply the hourly rate by 40 or 80, as the case may be

Key Terms

Administrative law judge position means a position in which any portion of the duties requires the appointment of an administrative law judge under 5 U.S.C. 3105.

Superior qualifications means an appointment made at a rate above the minimum rate based on such qualifications as experience practicing law before the hiring agency; experience practicing before another forum in a field of law relevant to the hiring agency; or an outstanding reputation among others in a field of law relevant to the hiring agency.


  • 5 U.S.C. 5372
  • 5 CFR part 930, subpart B

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