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Legal Insider: Federal employee doing duties above your grade? A desk audit could help

This is a sponsored column by attorneys John Berry and Kimberly Berry of Berry & Berry, PLLC, an employment and labor law firm located in Northern Virginia that specializes in federal employee, security clearance, retirement and private sector employee matters.

By Melissa L. Watkins, Esq.

If you are a federal employee and believe you are regularly asked to perform duties that are outside the scope of your grade, job series and title, there is a path to address such an issue.

The procedure is referred to as a “desk audit” or a classification appeal. A desk audit is simply a procedure where the duties and position of a federal employee are evaluated to determine whether the employee’s position should be upgraded in terms of grade, pay level, title or classification series.

Prior to a Desk Audit — Ensuring Accuracy of Position Description

Before requesting a desk audit, the federal employee should make sure that their position description accurately identifies the major duties assigned and performed. If the position description is significantly inaccurate, the employee should try to resolve the problem first by discussing it with a supervisor and perhaps a representative of the human resources office.

If unable to resolve the problem at this level, the employee could potentially use the agency’s negotiated or administrative grievance procedure. If the agency is unwilling to correct the position description, the federal employee can still pursue a desk audit and the inaccuracies will be reviewed by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) later in the appeal process.

Desk Audit Process for General Schedule (GS) Employees

Usually, the first step in pursuing a desk audit is to speak with the individual’s supervisor to discuss the issue of whether their position is properly classified. It is important to stress the major areas of daily work and how these duties fit into the overall agency’s structure.

The federal employee will want to review their position classification standards prior to this discussion. If a federal employee’s supervisor believes that the individual’s position should be possibly re-classified, they can contact the federal agency’s human resources office to request a desk audit. The federal employee can also try contacting human resources directly if the supervisor is not receptive to the request.

The agency must, in theory, make a decision on the desk audit request within 60 days. If an appeal to the agency does not result in a favorable decision, the employee can submit an appeal to the OPM Classification Appeals office. A GS employee can bypass the Agency and go to OPM directly from the beginning, but it’s a good idea to appeal to the agency first. That way, if the employee doesn’t get the desired result, the employee can still appeal to the OPM.

If the employee goes directly to the OPM and is unsuccessful, there is no option to then go back to the Agency, the employee will have exhausted the appeals process. A GS employee is not permitted to pursue appeals with both the Agency and OPM at the same time.

Desk Audit Process for Federal Wage System (FWS) Employees

The process for FWS employees is generally the same as that for GS employees, but an FWS employee must first appeal to the agency. Unlike a GS employee, an FWS employee cannot appeal directly to OPM from the outset. If an FWS employee is dissatisfied with the agency’s decision, the employee may appeal to OPM. The appeal with OPM must usually be filed within 15 calendar days of the date the employee receives the agency’s decision. Each appeal is different, but it is very important that an FWS employee keep track of their deadlines and file their appeal to OPM on time.

Desk Audit Appeal Process at OPM

In terms of filing an appeal with OPM, for both GS and FWS employees, each appeal must be in writing, should be sufficiently detailed, include a copy of the position description, and be filed with the OPM office serving the area in which the federal employee works.

In addition, OPM’s decision regarding a desk audit is final. If OPM rules in favor of the employee, then that decision is generally binding on the employee’s federal agency subject to a few exceptions.

If you are a federal employee in need of employment law representation, please contact our office at 703-668-0070 or through our contact page to schedule a consultation. Please also visit and like us on Facebook and Twitter.

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