OPM delays promotion rule again
Union calls for preservation of time-in-grade regulation, while nonprofit says it could create disparities among pay systems.
The Office of Personnel Management announced on Monday that it will delay until August a decision on whether to repeal a requirement that federal employees spend at least one year in a pay grade before they can be promoted.
The original rule, crafted during the Bush administration, was scheduled to take effect on March 9, but was delayed to allow for a longer comment period after the Obama administration asked agencies to take 60 extra days to consider regulations that had been published in the Federal Register but not yet implemented. OPM decided to postpone enforcement "to avoid the unnecessary expense of allowing a rule to take effect that may later be amended or revoked as a result of the rule-making proceeding."
The regulation would have eliminated the so-called time-in-grade rule, which requires that federal employees in jobs at the General Schedule 5 level or above, spend one year in that position before they are eligible for promotion to a higher pay grade. Those workers also must meet requirements related to job qualifications.
National Treasury Employees Union President Colleen Kelley said she hoped the announcement meant that OPM would study the impact of time-in-grade more closely, paying particular attention on the importance of basing promotions on experience rather than favoritism.
"A key element in an effective civil service is both the perception and the reality of fairness and objectivity in the treatment of employees," Kelley said in a statement. "The time-in-grade rules help foster such an environment."
But John Palguta, vice president for policy at the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service, said the time-in-grade regulation was an arbitrary distinction that should be eliminated because it has nothing to do with qualifications. For example, he said time-in-grade requirements could prevent the advancement of extremely qualified people from the private sector who chose to start second careers in government.
"It doesn't mean everyone's going to shoot to the full performance level, because they still have to meet the full qualification requirements," providing an appropriate check on favoritism in promotions, Palguta said.
He also noted that because time-in-grade rules apply only to employees who are covered under the General Schedule, those who work under alternative pay systems might be able to receive promotions quicker than their colleagues in other agencies, creating a disparity.
"You might end up having a situation where you have some haves and have-nots," Palguta said.
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