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Merit Promotion Handbook



Date: January 2014

Prepared by: Office of Human Resources

Disclaimer: Any use of trade, firm, or product names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.



Questions regarding the content of the Handbook may be directed to the USGS Bureau Human Resources Officer, Office of Human Resources, Mail Stop 601, 12201 Sunrise Valley Drive, Reston, Virginia 20192. 





1.  Actions Requiring Competitive Procedures

2.  Noncompetitive Actions



1.  Area of Consideration

A.  Responsibilities

B.  Appropriate Area of Consideration

C.  Impact of Career Transition Assistance Plan 

2.  Employee Absences

3.  Minimum Time

4.  Relocation Expenses

5.  Applicants Eligible for Excepted Service Appointments


1.  Automated Qualifications, Rating, and Ranking System

2.  Manual Qualifications, Rating, and Ranking System


1.  Job Analysis

2.  Automated Qualifications, Rating and Ranking System

3.  Manual Qualifications, Rating, and Ranking System


1.  OPM Qualification Standards, Time in Grade Requirements, and Job Element Examining

2.  Evaluation of Applications

A.  Rating and Ranking of Applications in an Automated System

B.  Rating and Ranking of Applications in a Manual System without a Panel

C.  Rating and Ranking of Applications in a Manual System with a Panel

D.  Merit Promotion Panel


1.  Referrals

2.  Life of the Referral List

3.  Interviews

4.  Effective Date of Selection

5.  Applicant Notification

6.  Release of Information to Applicants


1.  Merit Promotion File

2.  Retention of Files


1.  Grievances

2.  EEO

3.  Failure to Receive Consideration







Accretion of Duties – Noncompetitive promotion of an employee whose position is reclassified at a higher grade based on the performance of higher level additional duties and responsibilities. 

Agency – Refers to the Department of the Interior.

Area of Consideration – The organizational and/or geographic boundaries within which a search is made for eligible candidates for a specific merit promotion and placement action.

Basically Qualified (also referred to as minimally qualified) – Those applicants who meet the minimum education and experience requirements for the position.

Best Qualified – Those basically qualified applicants with the highest-ranking scores when compared to the other basically qualified applicants being considered and who are subsequently referred to the selecting official. 

Career Ladder – The range of grades for a position to which an employee may be promoted noncompetitively when basically qualified and eligible.

Career Promotion – A noncompetitive promotion when the employee competed earlier for the position and the full performance level (FPL) was higher than the grade for which initially selected. 

Change to Lower Grade – Reduction in an employee’s current grade level or representative rate. 

Competitive Service – All civilian positions that are: (a) in the executive branch of the Federal Government not specifically excepted from civil service laws by or pursuant to statute, by the President, or by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), and not in the Senior Executive Service; and (b) all positions in the legislative and judicial branches of the Federal Government and in the Government of the District of Columbia specifically made subject to the civil service laws by statute. 

Crediting Plan – A written guide with benchmarks that is used to rate and rank basically qualified applicants for the position advertised.  Crediting plans consist of the knowledge, skills, abilities and other characteristics (KASOCs), required by the position, developed through the process of job analysis, with typically three quality level descriptions (benchmarks) for each KASOC factor.  Crediting plans are used when a vacancy is advertised using a manual rating and ranking process. 

Career Transition Assistance Plan (CTAP) – A Federal placement program that provides priority consideration for job opportunities to certain individuals who have been or will be adversely impacted by Federal downsizing activities.

Competency – A measurable pattern of knowledge, skills, abilities, behaviors, and other characteristics that an individual needs to perform work roles or occupational functions successfully. 

Detail – A temporary assignment of an employee to a different position (a classified position description or an unclassified set of duties) for a specified period.  While on detail, the employee retains the same status and pay of their position of record. 

Excepted Service – All positions in the executive branch of the Federal Government which are specifically excepted from the competitive service by or pursuant to statute, by the President and by OPM.

Federal Equal Opportunity Recruitment Program (FEORP) – The FEORP program requires establishment of targeted recruitment programs for categories of positions where a determination of underrepresentation, manifest imbalance, or conspicuous absence of women and/or minorities has been made. 

Full Performance Level (FPL) – The highest grade level of a position to which an employee may be promoted through successive noncompetitive career promotions.

Job Analysis – The analysis of a position to identify the basic duties and responsibilities; the knowledge, abilities, skills, and other characteristics required to perform the duties and responsibilities; and the factors that are important in evaluating candidates for the position. 

KASOCs – The abbreviated version of knowledge, skills, abilities, and other characteristics.  These are attributes required to perform a job that are generally demonstrated through qualifying experience, education, or training.  Knowledge is a body of information applied directly to the performance of a function.  Skill is a present, observable competence to perform a task with ease and proficiency.  Ability is a present competence to perform an observable behavior or a behavior that results in an observable product. 

Management Official – Used synonymously throughout this chapter with the terms immediate supervisor and selecting official.

Noncompetitive Eligibles  Individuals who can be placed in a vacant position without competition, e.g., through promotion, reassignment, reinstatement, transfer, change to lower grade, or the use of a special appointing authority, based on meeting all qualification and eligibility requirements, e.g., education and/or experience, career ladder, time in grade, etc. 

Organization: Group of employees performing essentially the same duties and who report to the same first or higher level supervisor. 

Quality Ranking Factors – Job-related KASOCs (for a manual evaluation system) or KASOC-based application questions (for an automated evaluation system), documented through job analysis, used in rating and ranking all eligible candidates to distinguish the best-qualified ones. 

Rating and Ranking – The determination of best-qualified candidates based on the degree to which each candidate meets the quality ranking factors (KASOCs) of the position.  A human resources (HR) specialist, SME, automated system, or a merit promotion panel completes this process. 

Reassignment – A change of an employee from one position to another at the same grade in the same agency. 

Reinstatement – The reemployment of a former Federal employee with competitive status. 

Selective Factors – Mandatory KASOCs (for a manual evaluation system) or KASOC-based application questions (for an automated evaluation system) that have been identified as essential for satisfactory performance on the job, e.g., foreign language, Federal or State licensure, or certification requirements, in addition to the basic qualification standard(s) for a position.  Applicants who do not meet the minimum (acceptable) level specified for any selective factor are not basically qualified for the position and are, therefore, ineligible for further consideration.  Selective placement factors must be job related and their validity documented through job analysis.

Subject Matter Expert Panel – One or more Subject Matter Experts (SME) tasked with rating and ranking a group of basically qualified candidates.  An SME must be at an equivalent or higher grade level of the position to be filled.

Transfer – Movement of an employee, without a break in service of one full workday, from a position in one agency to a position in another agency. 

Time-Limited Promotion – A promotion to a higher graded position for a specified period of time to accomplish project work, fill positions temporarily pending reorganization or downsizing, or meet other temporary needs. 

Well Qualified - When the vacancy is advertised through an automated rating and ranking process, those applicants who score 85.0 or above are considered to be well qualified for CTAP purposes only.  When using a manual rating and ranking process, applicants must meet the basic qualification requirements for the position, all selective factors when applicable, and at least the “good” level identified in the crediting plan on all quality ranking factors to be considered well qualified for CTAP purposes only.



1.  Actions Requiring Competitive Procedures.  Competitive procedures apply to the following actions:

A.  Permanent promotion to a higher graded position or to a position with a higher FPL than previously held on a permanent basis in the competitive service.

B.  Time-limited promotions for more than 120 days or details for more than 120 days to a higher-graded position or to a position with greater promotion potential than previously held on a permanent basis in the competitive service.  Service during the preceding 12 months under noncompetitive time-limited reassignments, noncompetitive time-limited promotions, and noncompetitive details to higher graded positions or to positions with greater promotion potential than previously held on a permanent basis in the competitive service does count toward the 

120-day limit.  Time-limited promotions can be made in any increment up to a maximum period of 5 years.  Time-limited promotions may be made permanent when such a possibility was publicized in the original vacancy announcement.

C.  Selection for training which is part of an authorized training agreement required before an employee may be considered for promotion.

D.  Reassignment, transfer, or change to a lower-graded position with promotion potential greater than any position held on a permanent basis in the competitive service.

E.  Reinstatement to a permanent or temporary position at a higher grade or with a higher FPL than any position previously held on a permanent basis in the competitive service.

F.  Promotions due to the addition of substantive, new and higher-graded duties when the new position is not a clear successor to the old position or there are other employees serving in similar or identical positions within the organization to whom the new duties could have been assigned.

2.  Actions Not Requiring Competitive Procedures.  Competitive procedures do not apply to the following actions:

A.  Upgrading of a position due to application of a new classification standard without a significant change in duties.

B.  Upgrading of a position, resulting from the correction of an initial classification error.

C.  A promotion resulting from an employee's position being classified at a higher grade (with no further promotion potential) because of additional duties and responsibilities, commonly known as accretion of duties.  The noncompetitive upgrade requires the employee to continue to perform the same basic function in the new position that is a clear successor to and absorbs the duties of the old position.  In addition, there are no other employees within the organizational to whom the additional duties and responsibilities could have been assigned.

D.  Actions taken under reduction-in-force.

E.  Promotions without current competition when the employee competed earlier for an assignment intended to prepare the employee for the position being filled, and the intent was made a matter of record and made known to all potential candidates.  These are commonly called career-ladder promotions.

F.  Repromotion, permanent or time-limited, to a grade previously held on a permanent basis in the competitive service.

G.  Promotion, reassignment, transfer, change to lower grade, or reinstatement of an employee to a position having promotion potential no greater than the potential of a position an employee currently holds or previously held on a permanent basis in the competitive service and did not lose because of performance or conduct issues.

H.  Promotion to a position with a representative pay rate equal to or lower than that of any position previously held on a permanent basis in the competitive service.

I.  Details to higher-graded positions or time-limited promotions not to exceed 120 days.

J.  Details made in 120-day increments up to 1 year to unclassified duties.

K.  Details made in 120-day increments to the same grade or lower-graded positions.

L.  Time-limited promotions made permanent when such a possibility was publicized in the original competition notice.


M.  Selection of a candidate not given proper consideration in a previous competitive promotion action.



1.  The Department of Interior (DOI) Career Transition Assistance Plan (CTAP), dated 9/8/97, and subsequently revised 04/14/11, is a program that provides assistance to surplus and displaced employees to find other employment.  The CTAP has three components: (1) Special Selection Priority (SSP), (2) Reemployment Priority List (RPL), and (3) Interagency Career Transition Assistance Plan (ICTAP).

A.  Special Selection Priority.  The CTAP will have varying effects on staffing activities and there is an order of selection when filling competitive service vacancies that exceed 120 days, as noted in the CTAP.  All vacancies must be advertised unless the personnel action being taken is an exception (such as temporary appointments less than 121 days, details, reassignments, career ladder promotions, accretion of duties promotions, etc.), or a determination has been made by the servicing Human Resources Office (HRO), through contact with other Bureaus in the local commuting area of the vacancy, or by checking the latest DOI SSP List of Eligibles, that there are no SSP candidates available.  CTAP requirements must be stated in all vacancy announcements.  The selecting official must select a well-qualified, eligible applicant under the SSP component of CTAP before selecting any other candidate from within or outside the Department, unless doing so would cause another employee to be separated by reduction-in-force. 

B.  Reemployment Priority List.  The Reemployment Priority List must be cleared before filling any competitive service position from outside the Department, regardless of the duration of the appointment, and whether the organization plans to make a temporary, term, or permanent appointment.  Please refer to the DOI CTAP Plan at  complete guidance.

C.  Interagency Career Transition Assistance Plan. When filling competitive service positions from outside the Department any eligible well qualified ICTAP applicant within the local commuting area of the vacancy may be selected for the vacancy.  Please refer to the DOI CTAP Plan for complete guidance.



1.  Area of Consideration. 

A.  Responsibilities.  Management officials, in consultation with the servicing HRO, will determine the area of consideration and the length of time a vacancy announcement will remain open.

B.  Appropriate areas of consideration may be as small as a group of employees in a work unit in the local commuting area who report to the same immediate supervisor or as large as Government-wide.  Areas of consideration must be sufficiently broad to ensure the availability of high-quality candidates, taking into account the nature and level of the positions covered.  All areas of consideration must be set to promote fair and open competition and to attract and maintain a diverse workforce.

C.  Impact of CTAP.  If there are available SSP eligibles under the CTAP in the local commuting area (LCA), the minimum area of consideration will be department-wide unless applying Section 6 (g) of the DOI CTAP that states “For non-competitive actions, they must ensure that no displaced or surplus candidates are available on the CTAP listing maintained by the Department.”  When applying Section 6 (g)of the CTAP, the minimum area of consideration will be bureau wide in the local commuting area.  Determining whether there are SSP candidates in the local commuting area is accomplished by checking the DOI SSP List of Eligibles or by contacting other DOI Bureaus in the local commuting area.

2.  Employee Absences.  Management officials will ensure that employees within the area of consideration who are absent for legitimate reasons (detail, leave, training, military leave, etc.) receive appropriate consideration for positions for which they indicated in writing before departure that they wish to receive consideration.  The employee is responsible for informing their supervisor of those promotional opportunities for which they wish to be considered during periods of legitimate absence, and for providing their supervisor with an updated application; other required forms; and an email address, telephone number, or fax number that they can be reached at to request any other necessary application information.

3.  Minimum Time.  There is no minimum open period.  An adequate open period may vary depending on a recruitment plan, the nature of the position, promotional potential, available labor market, and other considerations.  An open period of less than five workdays must have clearly documented reasons in the case file for reconstruction purposes.  Reasons should be based on objective factors, such as the number and type of jobs to be filled, labor market conditions, and recent experience filling similar positions.

4.  Relocation Expenses.  The decision to pay or not pay moving and related expenses must be made prior to issuing the vacancy announcement.  A statement addressing the payment or nonpayment must be included in the vacancy announcement.  See the USGS guidance describing factors to consider when making such determinations at the following Web site:

5.  Applicants Eligible for Excepted Service Appointments.  

Generally, applicants who are eligible for certain excepted service appointing authorities or who are from excepted agencies that have an agreement with OPM which allows entry into the competitive service, may be considered for advertised positions.  Unless required by the specific authority, qualified excepted service applicants will not be rated and ranked with merit promotion applicants, and will be listed separately for each appointing authority.  Servicing HROs can provide more specific information concerning eligibility for excepted service appointments.  Applicants applying for consideration under an excepted appointing authority are responsible for identifying the particular appointing authority under which consideration is requested and providing evidence of eligibility for the particular appointing authority by the dates specified in the vacancy announcement.



1.  Vacancy Announcements Using an Automated Qualification, Rating, and Ranking System.  All candidates must submit applications (resume and answers to application questions) online by the closing date and time specified in the vacancy announcement.  If applying online poses a hardship, applicants must speak to the Human Resources (HR) representative listed on the vacancy announcement prior to the closing date of the announcement to request assistance.  In addition, applicants who meet hardship criteria must respond to the same questions as applicants applying online and submit a copy of their question responses, a copy of their resume, and all required supporting documentation as specified in the vacancy announcement to the servicing HRO by the closing date and time specified in the vacancy announcement. The HRO will input the data provided into the system on the applicant's behalf only for the specific job for which the applicant is applying.

2.  Vacancy Announcements Using a Manual Qualification, Rating, and Ranking System.  Applications (resume and narrative knowledge, skills, abilities, and other characteristics (KASOCs) or Competencies) and any other application materials specified) must be received in the servicing HRO by the closing date and time specified in the vacancy announcement.  The vacancy announcement will state whether the application may be forwarded by facsimile, electronic mail, or regular mail. 



1.  Job Analysis.  A Subject Matter Expert (SME) or the selecting official must conduct a job analysis when filling a position.  The job analysis is used to document the relationship between the duties and responsibilities and the knowledge, skills, abilities, and other characteristics (KASOCs) or Competencies required to perform the duties and responsibilities.  It is also used to document the associated KASOC/Competencies-based application questions for use in an automated rating and ranking system. The validity and propriety of selective and/or ranking factors must be clearly reflected and supported by a current position description of the job for which they are used. 

2.  Vacancies Using an Automated Qualification, Rating, and Ranking System.  

Applicant answers to the vacancy announcement’s application questions are used to qualify, rate, and rank the applicants.  The application questions include basic qualification questions and, based on the job analysis, selective and/or ranking factor questions that are derived from the KASOCs/Competencies.  The HR specialist selects the basic qualification questions.  The selecting official or SME selects and/or writes the selective and/or ranking factor questions and, in consultation with the HR specialist, determines and documents the numeric weights to assign to their response choices before the vacancy announcement opens.

3.  Vacancies Using a Manual Qualification, Rating, and Ranking system.  Crediting plans are used to rate and rank applicants that meet the basic qualification requirements, including any selective factors, against the KASOCs/Competencies identified through the job analysis.  The crediting plan is developed prior to applicants being screened for basic qualifications.  Typically three quality levels are included for each KASOC/Competency.  KASOCs/Competencies may be weighted when the selecting official or SME can document that a specific KASOC/Competency is more important than others in terms of a position’s requirements and in identifying the best qualified candidates.



1.  OPM Qualification Standards, Time after Competitive Appointment, and Job Element Examining.  To receive consideration, applicants must meet appropriate OPM qualification standards for General Schedule positions, including selective factors, and time after competitive appointment requirements by the closing date of the vacancy announcement.  For wage grade positions, applicants are evaluated using the OPM Job Qualification System for Trades and Labor Occupations and the job element examining method.

2.  Evaluation of Applications.  Regardless of the means of applicant evaluation, the rating must be based solely on the application material submitted by the applicant.

Manual qualification, rating, and ranking methods are typically used for advertised positions classified using the Research Grade Evaluation Guide and the Equipment Development Grade Evaluation Guide; and they may be used for advertised Senior Level and Scientific and Professional positions.

A.  When an automated system is used to qualify, rate, and/or rank applicants, an HR representative must conduct a quality review before the rating is finalized for the top candidates. 

(1)  When a quality review is conducted for an automated rating, an adjustment will only be made in the event that an applicant's answer(s) to the automated question(s) are not consistent with the applicant's resume or other documentation provided in the consideration package.  Applications not containing sufficient information to determine qualifications may not receive consideration. 

(2)  The HR specialist, in consultation with the selecting official, will determine the cut-off score for the group of candidates that will be designated as best qualified.  The best-qualified candidates will be referred to the selecting official for consideration.

B.  If a manual system is used to qualify, rate, and/or rank applicants, and the vacancy is not paneled, the HR specialist will determine the best-qualified candidates.  The HR specialist will rank the candidates as determined by the crediting plan to ascertain the best qualified.  The best-qualified candidates will be referred to the selecting official for consideration.  Management may request that appropriate noncompetitive applicants be referred without being evaluated for more than minimum qualifications. 

C.  If a manual system is used to qualify, rate, and/or rank applicants, and the vacancy is paneled, the best-qualified applicants are referred to the selecting official.  Among the factors that managers may want to consider in determining whether or not to panel the applications are: the number of applicants, the number of vacancies being filled from the announcement, past difficulty in filling similar positions, and the size of the pool of applicants the manager believes they can interview.  Management may request that appropriate noncompetitive applicants be referred without being evaluated for more than minimum qualifications.

D.  Merit Promotion Panels will consist of SMEs selected on the basis of their understanding of the requirements of the position being filled and must be of an equivalent or higher grade level of the position to be filled.  (A panel may consist of one or more SMEs who review and rate the applications.)  The selecting official of the position to be filled may not serve as a member of the promotion panel.  Exceptions will only be made in rare situations when no other SMEs are available to effectively and impartially assess the applicants’ qualifications.  Special efforts will be made to identify a group of diverse panel members with appropriate subject matter expertise.  The selecting official, in consultation with the servicing HRO, will identify individuals to serve as panel members.  Merit promotion panel members will evaluate the candidates’ qualifications, applying the quality level descriptions identified for the position in the crediting plan to determine the best-qualified group.  The servicing HRO will give panel members instructions.  See the Information Sheet for Merit Promotion Panel Members at  An HR representative will be available to advise the panel on policies and procedures.  



1.  Referrals.  Selecting officials should have the opportunity to make a choice from among an adequate number of candidates.  Names of referred candidates will be listed in alphabetical order by last name.

2.  Life of the Referral List.  The original life of the list is 30 calendar days.  An extension of up to 90 days may be granted by the HRO, at the written request of the selecting official, to accommodate unexpected delays.  All extensions should be kept to the minimum period of time necessary for a selection to be made.  Extensions beyond 90 days may be granted only to accommodate unusual circumstances, e.g., hiring freezes, reorganizations, budget limitations, etc.  If at any point during the life of the referral list the selecting official elects to fill more vacancies than was previously advertised, the vacancy announcement must be reopened, at a minimum, to candidates eligible for CTAP/ICTAP; and it must state the revised number of vacancies to be filled.  In no case will the life of the list extend beyond 180 days.

3.  Interviews.  Though not required, selecting officials are strongly encouraged to interview, either in person or by telephone, all of the referred candidates.  Interviews may be conducted by the selecting official or their designee(s).  At a minimum, selecting officials must:

A.  Review the application packages submitted by each of the referred candidates;

uniformly consider each of the referred candidates using job-related criteria appropriate to the position being filled and consistent with merit principles.

B.  Be prepared to explain and/or document the consideration given to referred candidates, in response to any inquiries.

C.  Briefly document the basis for selection or non-selection.

4.  Effective Date of Selection.  An employee selected should be released as promptly as possible to the new position.  Generally, this will be within 4 weeks after the signed merit promotion referral identifying the selection is received in the servicing HRO.  Some actions may be delayed due to required clearances, e.g., drug testing and security, or other circumstances, e.g., relocation.

5.  Applicant Notification.  Candidates who submit an application in response to merit promotion announcements will be notified in writing or by email from the servicing HRO of their status and results of their application.

6.  Release of information to Applicant.  The following information may be released to an applicant or their designee when requested:

A.  Whether the requesting applicant was qualified and referred and who was selected.

B.  The requesting applicant’s own rating and supervisory appraisal on the ranking elements, if applicable.

C.  Procedures used to arrive at the final scores and the cutoff score.

D.  Any other information allowed by the Freedom of Information and the Privacy Acts.



1.  Merit Promotion File.  At a minimum, the following information must be retained in a merit promotion file in the servicing HRO and/or in the Survey’s automated recruitment system database:


A.  Merit promotion announcement.

B.  Official position description.

C.  Names of all candidates and qualification determinations.

D.  Documentation of job analysis used to identify selective and quality ranking factors.


E.  Crediting plan or selected application questions.

F.  Documentation for selective factors and/or weights assigned to KASOCs/Competencies or application questions response choices, if applicable.

G.  Documentation for adjusting applicant answers when using an automated qualification, rating, and ranking system, if applicable.

H.  Any written guidance and instructions issued to the promotion panel, if applicable.

I.  Record of HR specialist, SME, or promotion panel ratings, both individual ratings and collective determination of best qualified, if applicable.

J.  Record of automated system ratings, rankings, and identification of best qualified, if applicable.

K.  Names of any candidates who received special consideration and the reason(s), if applicable.

L.  Application packages timely received from each applicant.

M.  Merit promotion certificate.

N.  Names of promotion panel members and chairperson, if applicable.

O.  Copy of notifications to applicants indicating their consideration and qualification finding for the position or their non-consideration for the position, if applicable.


2.  Retention of Files.  Merit promotion files will be retained for a period of 2 years from the effective date of the personnel action that resulted from a selection made from the merit promotion/referral certificate.  If no selection is made from the certificate, the merit promotion file will be retained for a period of 2 years from the date the selecting official certified that there was no selection.  In instances where some form of complaint has been filed concerning an action, the merit promotion file must be retained for a minimum of 2 years following resolution of the case.  Merit promotion files not required to be maintained for more than 2 years may be retained for periods of more than 2 years, at the discretion of the servicing HRO, when individual situations so warrant.



The USGS HRO shall respond promptly to questions about the merit promotion program or about a specific selection action.  There is no right of appeal to OPM on merit promotion actions.

1.  Grievances.  An employee of the Department may submit a grievance concerning merit promotion matters under the DOI Administrative Grievance Procedures (AGP) (370 DM 771) or under a negotiated grievance procedure, as appropriate, unless otherwise excluded from either process.  If bargaining-unit employees wish to grieve any merit action, they must use the negotiated grievance procedures rather than the DOI AGP.  If a negotiated grievance procedure does not exist, bargaining-unit employees may use the DOI AGP.  Where this Merit Promotion Handbook or the Merit Promotion Plan conflicts with a negotiated agreement, the agreement prevails, provided that its terms are not contrary to law or Government-wide regulations.  However, non-selection from a list of properly ranked and certified applicants is excluded from the grievance process.

2.  Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO).  An employee may not file both a formal grievance and an EEO complaint at the same time for the same issue.  However, if an applicant believes that they were not provided due consideration because of reprisal or their race, color, national origin, gender, religion, age (over 40), disability, or sexual orientation, they may file a complaint through the Bureau's Office of Diversity and Equal Opportunity.  To have complaints considered through the EEO process, individuals must contact an EEO counselor within 45 days from the date of the matter alleged to be discriminating or, in the case of personnel action, within 45 days of the effective date of the action.


3.  Failure to Receive Consideration.  If an applicant fails to receive proper consideration in a competitive action and the erroneous action is allowed to stand, the applicant will be given priority consideration for a period of 6 months for the next appropriate vacancy (same title, series, grade, full performance level, and duty station) before any recruitment action is initiated.  It will be the responsibility of the servicing HRO to ensure that the application of the individual receiving priority consideration is provided to the selecting official.  The selecting official must fully consider the individual based on the application referred, but is not obligated to select them.



1.  The upgrading of an employee’s position (with no higher promotion potential) because of additional duties and responsibilities is referred to as an accretion of duties promotion.  For all cases in which the reclassification of a position would result in the promotion of the incumbent, the supervisor over the position must identify the specific changes in the duties and responsibilities between the old and the new positions and the cause of the changes.

A.  All of the following factors must exist in order to support an accretion promotion:

(1)  There is demonstrated evidence of higher-level work.

(2)  The old job is absorbed into the new job and is a natural successor to the previous position.

(3)  The action will not result in a residual vacancy to be filled.

(4)  The position is determined to have no further promotion potential beyond the grade level to which the employee is accreted.

(5)  The promotion does not directly affect other employees in the organization who report to the same immediate supervisor 

B.  Documentation of accretion of duty promotions must provide ample evidence showing that factors 1 through 5 above apply.

C.  Supervisors who anticipate requesting a personnel action of this type should seek the advice and assistance of the appropriate HR specialist(s) before initiating such action.

D.  A noncompetitive promotion is not permitted when supervisory duties are added to a nonsupervisory position causing it to be classified to a higher grade. 

E.  See for more information on the conditions required and the accretion form. 



1.  Career ladders identify the range of grades for a position to which an employee may be promoted noncompetitively.  For example, if the career ladder for a position is identified as GS-5 through GS-11, an employee who competes for and is assigned to a position at the GS-5 grade level may be promoted to the GS-7, GS-9, and GS-11 grade levels without further competition.

2.  Career ladders are established based upon an assessment of work to be performed by individuals in each occupational series throughout the organization.  Career ladders are usually the same for positions within an occupational series, but differences can occur.  Differences may be based on a variety of situations that result in position or organizational differences that impact the position itself or the availability of higher level work.  If a career ladder is established that is different from the normal career ladder for a particular position, documentation that supports the determination is to be maintained by the HRO.

3.  Typically, an employee must compete for a position with a higher career ladder than their current position.  For example, a GS-9 hydrologist may work in an organization with project work that has been assigned a career ladder of GS-5 through GS- 11.  If the hydrologist competes and is selected for a position with project work that has a career ladder of GS-11 through GS-l3, then the GS-l3 will become the highest grade to which the employee may be noncompetitively promoted.  Specific exceptions to the requirement for competition are found at CFR 335.103(c)(3)(i) through (vii).

4.  An employee is not guaranteed promotion to all higher grades in the career ladder.  Changes to the work requirements of the position or the organization to which the position is assigned might affect the opportunity for promotion to a higher grade.  Noncompetitive promotions within the career ladders are not an automatic entitlement and every employee will not be promoted, necessarily, to the highest grade level.  Employees may be promoted, without competition, when work is available, assigned on a regular and recurring basis, satisfactorily performed at the next higher grade level, and all other regulatory requirements are met.

5.  For specific career ladders, see Appendix A of this Handbook, U.S. Geological Survey Career Ladders.



1.  Reassignments.  An employee may seek a reassignment or change to lower grade outside of an announced vacancy process, or a manager may seek to noncompetitively reassign an employee.  The employee must be eligible for noncompetitive consideration to a permanent internal assignment.  Employee requests may be for positions within or outside of the current organization and may involve a move from one geographic location to another.  Such requests will be considered based on USGS needs. 

A.  Any priority placement program requirements must be satisfied before selection.  The receiving organization must consult with the servicing HR specialist prior to selection and the following action must be completed before selection:

(1)  The receiving organization must submit a position description to the servicing HRO, and the position must be classified. 

(2)  The employee must meet the qualification and eligibility requirements for the position. 






/s/ Karen D. Baker                                           January 23, 2014


Acting Associate Director for Administration and Enterprise Information and

Acting Associate Director for Human Capital