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Are you wrongly classified as a federal employee?

by | Jan 4, 2017 | Classification And Pay Issues, Developments At OPM

Government personnel have the right to appeal misclassification


The U.S. Department of Labor has cracked down on misclassifying private sector employees as exempt from overtime. Federal employees can be misclassified too, with ramifications for pay, benefits and career advancement.

Do you disagree with your classification or grading in your federal job? Have you been wrongly denied overtime as a federal agency employee? An attorney who specializes in federal employment law can help you explore legal remedies, through your agency or the Office of Personnel Management.


Classification appeals or challenging exempt status

In the private sector, misclassification can refer to independent contractor vs. employee status or exempt vs. non-exempt status. In federal government, misclassification has a somewhat different meaning.

  • Some federal agency employees are eligible for overtime despite being salaried. Many managers, administrators and technical personnel are incorrectly classified as exempt or are not compensated appropriately (time-and-a-half) for overtime hours. You could be entitled to back pay and penalties if you were routinely required to work more than 40 hours without corresponding compensation.
  • Are you incorrectly classified as General Schedule (GS) or Federal Wage System (FWS)? Do you believe you are entitled to higher pay because your grade and step do not match your job duties and performance? Have you been wrongly denied promotions, security clearance or senior executive positions because of misclassification errors? Were you wrongly denied a locality adjustment or special scale compensation?

Clerical errors can be corrected administratively through your Human Resources department. Many classification disputes are resolved by requesting a “desk audit” within your agency. If a desk audit is not favorable, you have the right to file for a Classification Appeal through OPM.

Temporary assignments or additional duties are not grounds for reclassification. But you may have a case if you have been demoted or denied advancement, if you have been subjected to discrimination or retaliation, if your position description was improperly classified or if your duties have permanently and significantly changed.

Speak softly and get yourself a big stick

You have specific career ladder rights, but classification appeals can be complex and political. Your first move should be to talk to an employment attorney who can gauge where you stand and how best to proceed. Documenting your actual job responsibilities and activities can greatly improve your case.