Human Capital

Frequently Asked Questions – Position Classification/Position Descriptions

  1. Whose responsibility is it to write a Position Description (PD)?
  2. Can the Human Resources (HR) Specialist help with the development of a Position Description?
  3. What is a major duty?
  4. Who determines the duties that are assigned to a position?
  5. What duties should be in a Position Description (PD)?
  6. Can supervisors add specific education requirements to professional position descriptions (e.g., requiring specific coursework or educational requirements for biology or hydrology positions)?
  7. What is the proper format for writing a PD?
  8. Can I establish an Interdisciplinary position for a position that is not in a professional/scientific series (e.g., budget and administration)?
  9. How do I set up a career ladder position?
  10. Why does HR sometimes change the recommended title on my PD and Form HC-08 (PD coversheet)?
  11. How is the series of a position determined?
  12. Can I change an existing position description without a full classification review?
  13. What is meant by a “Code 2” and “Code 4” supervisor?
  14. How do I amend a classified General Schedule Position Description to add Supervisory Duties that are 20% or less?
  15. What does it mean when the Form HC-08 PD coversheet indicates the position is “I/A”?
  16. Can I be assigned work that is not described in my position description?
  17. Are all Federal employees entitled to a copy of their Position Description?
  18. Why does an HR Specialist say the duties of the position “does not fully meet” a higher factor level?
  19. How is the position classification (i.e. title, series, grade) of my job determined?
  20. What are position classification standards, functional guides and job family standards?
  21. What is a Desk Audit?
  22. What do I do when I believe my PD is not accurate?
  23. What is a position classification appeal and what issues may be appealed?
  24. How does HR determine the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) coding of exempt or non- exempt for a position?

 

1. Whose responsibility is it to write a Position Description (PD)?

Supervisors/Managers write the PDs because the assignment of work is ultimately their responsibility. PDs must by written by someone knowledgeable of the occupational field, the organization, functions, programs, and procedures concerned. It must also be certified by the supervisor as an accurate representation of the work.

For information on writing a PD, visit Creating Position Descriptions on the Position Classification page.

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2. Can the Human Resources (HR) Specialist help with the development of a Position Description?

HR can only advise on content and factor level language. The Major Duties and Responsibilities of the position must be written by the supervisor/manager and/or subject matter expert (SME) since they are familiar with the work of the position.

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3. What is a major duty?

Major duties are statements identifying the most important, regular and recurring duties and responsibilities assigned to a position. Major duties are those that represent the primary reason for the position's existence and govern the qualification requirements. For the purposes of writing a PD, a position should typically have 5 to 7 major duties.

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4. Who determines the duties that are assigned to a position?

Managers/Supervisors are responsible for determining the duties and responsibilities that are assigned to each position.

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5. What duties should be in a Position Description (PD)?

A PD should identify the regular and recurring major duties and responsibilities assigned to a position. A PD does not describe in detail every possible activity performed by the employee in the position. DOI policy defines a PD as accurate if it represents at least 80% of the work of the position.

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6. Can supervisors add specific education requirements to professional position descriptions (e.g., requiring specific coursework or educational requirements for biology or hydrology positions)?

No. PDs describe duties, responsibilities, and reporting relationships of a position and cannot be used to add education requirements in excess of the OPM minimum qualification requirements.

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7. What is the proper format for writing a PD?

The format of a PD is dependent on the type of position. The USGS has PD templates for non- supervisory, supervisory, research, and equipment development PDs. Please visit the Position Classification page and view the PD templates for proper PD formatting. Use of these templates is strongly encouraged as they provide technical guidance for PD writing.

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8. Can I establish an Interdisciplinary position for a position that is not in a professional/scientific series (e.g., budget and administration)?

No. Classification of interdisciplinary positions is only appropriate for logically compatible professional/scientific work. The OPM’s Classifier’s Handbook states, “An interdisciplinary position involves duties and responsibilities that are closely related to more than one professional occupation. As a result, the knowledge and experience requirements can be met by persons qualified in either of the professional series involved. Interdisciplinary classification is used principally for positions in mathematical, scientific, or engineering disciplines.” The Handbook further states “In order to be designated interdisciplinary, the professions or disciplines involved must be logically compatible. There must also be an obvious degree of commonality in the core education, knowledge, and experience necessary to meet the qualification requirements of either profession.”

Position descriptions for these positions must state that they are interdisciplinary, and show the tentative classification (title, series, and grade) for each profession (normally limited to two or three series). For staffing purposes, the selected classification of an interdisciplinary professional position is based on the qualifications of the employee that was selected and is recorded on the position description once the position is filled.

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9. How do I set up a career ladder position?

When establishing a position at multiple grade levels (e.g., GS-9/11/12) a fully described Position Description and its own Form HC-08 (PD coversheet) is required for each grade. In the past, a Statement of Difference was often used to describe the difference between two grade levels in lieu of having a full PD, but that practice has been found to not meet the Standards of Adequacy as described in the Department of Interior’s Position Management and Position Classification Policy Handbook and is no longer an option.

The use of career ladders for code 2 supervisory positions (supervisory duties performed 25% or more) is prohibited by DOI policy.

The use of career ladders for code 4 supervisory positions (supervisory duties performed 20% or less) is rare. A full position management review of the position and surrounding organizational structures must be completed when using a career ladder for a code 4 supervisor position. (see below for additional information regarding code 4 supervisors)

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10. Why does HR sometimes change the recommended title on my PD and Form HC-08 (PD coversheet)?

HR Specialists are required to use OPM-prescribed titles. Only prescribed titles may be used as the official title for a position.

The requirement to use official titles, however, does not preclude submitting offices from using an ‘organizational title” for the position. HR can help construct appropriate organizational titles. These may be helpful for internal use or for recruiting purposes but are not always descriptive of the overall occupation for broader purposes. Note: Titles prescribed by OPM or restricted by DOI or USGS usage cannot be used as organizational titles. Organizational titles are documented on the HC-08 and in FPPS.

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11. How is the series of a position determined?

A variety of information is considered by the HR Specialist when determining the series of a position. Considered in making the determination are the type of organization in which the position is located, the qualifications used in recruiting for the position, and the primary type of work performed by the position. For most positions this determination is straight-forward; for example, a position performing lower-graded technical work in support of a stream gage network in a Water Science Center fits very neatly into the 1316 Hydrologic Technician series.

At times, however, it may be more difficult to determine the series. In situations where much of the work is administrative in nature, but the position requires a professional understanding of scientific principles, the qualifications for scientific positions will drive the series determination. A support position that performs a variety of clerical, property management, and purchasing tasks in an administrative organization would likely fit in the 0303 Miscellaneous Clerk and Assistant series, whereas a position performing similar work sitting in a facilities operation organization will fit better into the 1603, Equipment, Facilities, and Services Assistance series. The HR Specialist must make the series determination based on careful analysis of the position location, purpose, and duties and consistent application of OPM’s published standards and guidance.

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12. Can I change an existing position description without a full classification review?

Form DI-625, Position Classification Amendment, is the DOI form used to amend/make minor changes (impacting less than 20% of the duties) to an existing PD. This form cannot be used to make changes to the existing title, grade or series of a position.

Changes to positions impacting more than 20% of the duties or that impact the title, grade or series cannot be completed through the amendment process. Such changes require a fully described PD and full evaluation by a HR Classifier.

For DOI standard PDs – Supervisors may strike out minor words not applicable to the position but cannot add to them. The only modifications that can be made to the cover page of a DOI standard PD is the addition of organizational information or appropriate remarks. Signatures, titles, etc., cannot be altered. Any modifications, such as addition of minor collateral duties, must be documented on a DI-625.

For USGS standard PDs – Supervisors may amend a PD with a DI-625 to add collateral duty statements or to add specificity to a particular duty. An example of where this may be appropriate is the addition of duties related to a specific class of animals or to a specified type of hydrologic studies unique to the organization.

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13. What is meant by a “Code 2” and “Code 4” supervisor?

During the classification review process, the information contained in the position description relating to supervisory duties is reviewed along with the organizational chart. This information is compared to OPM published standards and guidance to determine the supervisory status of the position.

“Code 2” - Applies to supervisors who exercise supervisory responsibilities that meet, at least, the minimum requirements for application of the GSSG; i.e., requiring accomplishment of work through combined technical and administrative direction of others; occupying at least 25% of the positions time; and meeting at least the lowest level of Factor 3 in the GSSG. These positions

may have the prefix of “supervisory” added to their title in accordance with OPM’s titling guidance.

“Code 4” – Applies to supervisory positions that meet the legal definition of a supervisor as identified in 5 U.S.C. 7103(A), which defines "supervisor" as an individual employed by an agency having authority in the interest of the agency to hire, direct, assign, promote, reward, transfer, furlough, layoff, recall, suspend, discipline, or remove employees, to adjust their grievances, or to effectively recommend such action, if the exercise of the authority is not merely routine or clerical in nature but requires the consistent exercise of independent judgment.

Code 4 supervisors do not meet the minimum requirements for application of OPM’s General Schedule Supervisory Guide (GSSG) during the classification process. Code 4 supervisory positions exercise supervisory responsibilities 20% or less of their time and will not have the prefix of “supervisory” included in their title. Typically, code 4 supervisors are reserved for small organizations where no other supervisory options are practical and position management principles have been applied.

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14. How do I amend a classified General Schedule Position Description to add Supervisory Duties that are 20% or less?

1. The decision to add Code 4 supervisory duties to a position must be made in consultation with HR management to ensure appropriate use and consistency with law, regulation, and policy.

2. Note the specific percentage (The maximum percentage of time that can be spent is 20%, as duties performed at the 25% threshold may impact the classification of the position.) and the subordinate positions assigned to this position. (For example: Number of Positions, Title of Position(s), Series and Grade(s), Full Performance Level, and Type of Position - i.e. Permanent, Temporary, Seasonal, etc.)

3. Positions that have the addition of supervisory responsibilities should be reviewed for potential changes to data elements on the Form HC-08 PD coversheet.

4. A supervisory statement may be added to the body of the PD or through the use of a DI-625 Position Classification Amendment.

Sample Supervisory Statement: Exercises the full range of administrative and technical supervision for a supporting staff. Performs overall work planning, establishes work schedules and priorities and assigns and reviews work. Personally discusses with subordinates their work progress and problem areas as they arise. Interviews and recommends the hiring of subordinate staff. Recommends promotions, reassignments and other personnel changes, and approves leave. Develops/recommends performance standards and evaluates the performance of subordinates. Recommends awards, and counsels employees whose performance falls short of expectations. Identifies training needed by subordinates and ensures that training opportunities are provided. Carries out minor disciplinary measures such as counseling, written warnings, and reprimands and proposes other more sever discipline in more serious matters. Keeps employees informed of management policies and goals.

Equal Opportunity: As a supervisor, the incumbent is responsible for ensuring equal opportunity for employees supervised, including selection for training, promotions and awards.

Safety: Responsible for the on-the-job safety and health of all employees supervised and initiates efforts conforming to established local and bureau safety programs to satisfy the responsibility.

Labor-Management Relations: Responsible for being knowledgeable about management’s role and responsibilities in labor-management relations.

5. Submit the DI-625 to the Human Resource Office for classification review and approval.

Remember that while management decides how to arrange work in their organization, positions must be classified in accordance with OPM’s published standards and guidance as well as DOI policy.

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15. What does it mean when the Form HC-08 PD coversheet indicates the position is “I/A”?

I/A stands for Identical/Additional. A PD marked I/A “yes” is typically used in an office to assign more than one employee to a PD where they perform the exact same job functions. For example, an HR office with 4 Human Resources Specialists, GS-0201-11, employees would be assigned to the same PD marked I/A. Even though they may service different offices, the work performed is identical. Organizations should work with their servicing HR Office to establish I/ A PDs whenever practical. I/A PDs may be used for a single grade-level PD or for career ladder positions.

I/A PDs are only appropriate for supervisory positions when organizational structures are identical. Because supervisory positions are evaluated based upon factors such as the typical grade level of work being supervised, the organizational setting of the position, etc., I/A PDs for supervisory positions must be reviewed with extra care. The organizational structures and work being supervised must be identical as well as the work being performed by the supervisory position. Supervisory I/A PDs are rare. They are typically only found in large organizations with several sub-units of identical size, mission, and purpose.

I/A “no” positions represent work that is unique to a single position. These PDs often represent the work of a higher-level technical expert to whom others in an organization look for guidance and assistance. Such PDs should not be used to fill multiple positions without careful review by and authorization of the classifier.

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16. Can I be assigned work that is not described in my position description?

Yes. Managers and Supervisors have the right to assign work to employees under their supervision, and employees have the responsibility to perform the assigned work. Employees frequently perform work that is not described in their PD.

If assignments not described in the PD becomes regular and recurring or represent 20% or more of typical work of the position, management is responsible for properly documenting the duties in the official PD. HR must be consulted when adding significant duties to any PD.

Assignment of higher-graded duties to a position can impact the grade of a position, therefore, “fair and open competition” must be considered when assigning higher-graded duties to any employee. Failure to consult HR in such cases can result in a supervisor or manager unwittingly committing a prohibited personnel practice.

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17. Are all Federal employees entitled to a copy of their Position Description?

Yes. Employees should have access to their position description. If you need a copy of your position description, you should first look in your Electronic Official Personnel Folder (eOPF). If one is not filed in your eOPF, you should contact your immediate supervisor or your Servicing Human Resource Office.

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18. Why does an HR Specialist say the duties of the position “does not fully meet” a higher factor level?

Crediting a position at a particular factor level requires the HR specialist to evaluate the job duties by comparing the predominant work to the factor level description in the OPM Classification Standards. Each factor level description represents a minimum or "threshold" between each factor. If a position factor exceeds one level but fails to meet fully the intent of the next higher level, then the lower point value must be credited. Because factor level descriptions represent the lower range or threshold for a given point value, the position must fully meet the intent of the factor level to be credited.

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19. How is the position classification (i.e. title, series, grade) of my job determined?

The major duties and responsibilities of a position are analyzed and evaluated using position classification standards and guides issued by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). Applying OPM principles and rules, the HR Specialist determines the applicable pay system, title, series, and grade.

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20. What are position classification standards, functional guides and job family standards?

Position classification standards, functional guides and job family standards are the evaluation tools issued by the Office of Personnel Management and used by the HR Specialist when evaluating the work of positions.

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21. What is a Desk Audit?

A desk audit is a way of getting up-to-date facts about a position to ensure the duties are classified accurately. Changes in programs, new tools, different procedures, and organizational changes are only a few ways that duties and responsibilities of a position are affected. Other examples that may trigger a desk audit are:

  • Your position is identified during routine classification reviews.
  • Employee requests a review with supervisory concurrence.
  • New position classification standards need to be applied to your position.
  • The supervisor recommends a review of your position due to major changes in your job and to determine if revisions are in order.
  • Administrative review is required in conjunction with some other administrative function (such as a Science Center Administrative Review or a classification consistency review required by DOI or OPM).

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22. What do I do when I believe my PD is not accurate?

Employees should work with their immediate supervisor when they feel their PD is no longer accurate in clarifying any assigned duties. If needed, an updated description may need to be written and classified.

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23. What is a position classification appeal and what issues may be appealed?

An employee can appeal the classification of their position either through Department of the Interior (DOI) procedures or directly to the Office of Personnel Management. DOI guidance allows employees to appeal their positions either to the bureau (USGS) or the Department. For either of the Department methods, the employee can make a formal written request to either the USGS Office of Human Capital or DOI Office of Human Resources. An appeal request should include the reason for the appeal and the outcome the employee is requesting (for example, “my position should be credited at factor 1-6 and the final grade level should be GS-09” or “my position title should be changed to supervisory management analyst”). Additional information on the content of appeals, what can be appealed can be found on DOI’s Position Management and Position Classification Policy Handbook Frequently Asked Questions & Answers and on OPM’s Policy, Data, and Oversight web pages.

Note that DOI will not adjudicate appeals for DOI Standard PDs or positions graded on the Research Grade Evaluation Guide (RGEG) or the Equipment Development Grade Evaluation (EDGE) Guide. DOI Standard PDs must be appealed to OPM. Positions graded based on the application of either RGEG or EDGE may appeal either to USGS or OPM. As with other appeals, an appeal to OPM is final and cannot be then appealed to USGS.

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24. How does HR determine the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) coding of exempt or non- exempt for a position?

OPM, DOI, and USGS guidance on FLSA coding is extensive but comes down to two important rules. First, all positions are considered to be non-exempt (meaning they’re covered by specific provisions of the Fair Labor Standard Act) unless it can be clearly demonstrated that the work of the position meets one of the exemptions described at 5 CFR 551. Second, the determination of exempt or non-exempt from the provisions of the Act must be based on the duties and responsibilities of an operating position, not on titles, grade levels, or position descriptions that may or may not be accurate.

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