What federal employees need to know about challenging a denial of grade increase (WIGI)

By: Mathew B. Tully, Esq.

When denied a class increase (WIGI), it is essential that federal employees know the appeal process and timeline so that they can defend themselves properly. Any issues regarding pay and compensation should not be taken lightly, and frequently resolving these issues as early as possible will not only be more effective, but also more beneficial to the employee.

The United States Office of Personnel Management (OPM) advises: “Each grade in the General Annex has 10 steps. Within-grade or step increments are periodic increases in the basic rate of pay of a GS employee from one step in the grade of his post to the next higher step in that grade. “

There are certain deadlines or waiting periods established by law between salary increases which range from 52 weeks to 156 weeks. In addition to waiting times, other conditions must be met before becoming eligible for a WIGI. OPM lists the three conditions necessary for employees in permanent positions – not designated as temporary or having a duration of less than one year – to obtain a WIGI. They are:

· “The employee’s performance must be at an acceptable level of competence. To meet this requirement, an employee’s most recent performance score must be at least Level 3 (“Total Pass” or equivalent). “

· “The employee must have completed the required waiting period to move up to the next level.”

· “The employee must not have received an ‘equivalent increase’ in salary during the waiting period. (See 5 CFR 531.407.) “

If you have been denied a raise, you may be wondering if you can challenge that decision and what this process looks like.

Federal employees can generally appeal their WIGI denials either directly with the agency they work for or with OPM. However, to go through the OPM, the employee must first have a written decision from the agency. Routine payment requests that do not correspond to grade or salary reductions are handled by the OPM in accordance with the Legislative Appropriations Act 1996. 535. As a result, the OPM was given the authority to settle claims against the United States relating to compensation and leave of federal employees. See Public Law 104-316, 110 Stat. 3826.

When submitting a complaint, there are a few rules that an employee must follow. First, the employee must submit their complaint in writing. There is no specific form required by regulation, but in their application, federal employees should describe the basis for the application and indicate the amount requested, as well as include: all contact details of the applicant and the person who made the request. refused the request; a copy of the denial of the complaint (i.e. decision at agency level – here it would be the decision denying WIGI); and any other relevant information. Federal employees, or any other claimant for that matter, can submit on their own or with the help of a representative, such as a private attorney.

Typically, employees still have the option of filing direct appeals of Agency decisions with the Agency itself, usually by requesting reconsideration of the decision. Title 5 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) in section 178.102 (a) states that the employing agency must review and render a written decision on a compensation claim before it is submitted to the OPM for decision. . The employee is then responsible for preserving the claim period by demonstrating that the signed and written claim was filed within the applicable limitation period. Which, unless otherwise provided by law, all claims against the United States government are subject to the 6-year limitation period contained in 31 USC § 3702 (b). Therefore, to file a complaint in a timely manner with the OPM or directly with the Agency, the employee must file the complaint within 6 years from the date of the WIGI denial.

However, if your position is part of a collective bargaining unit, your rights to challenge a WIGI refusal may be governed by the applicable collective agreement (CBA). You should consult the CBA or contact your union representative to find out if your CBA covers WIGI’s denials. If the employee meets the following conditions, they must follow the Negotiated Grievance Procedure (NGP) as an exclusive administrative remedy:

· (1) Member of a bargaining unit; and

· (2) The bargaining unit is covered by a collective agreement; and

· (3) The collective agreement did not specifically exclude compensation and leave matters from the scope of the negotiated grievance procedure.

In addition, compensation claims may be made under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) – 29 USC § 203, et seq.

It is important to immediately address the issues surrounding refusal to pay and compensation. It may be to your advantage, before filing an appeal, to consider working with a lawyer when contesting your WIGI denial. Often, these issues can be resolved by speaking directly with the Agency, rather than going through the appeal process.

Mathew B. Tully is a founding partner of Tully Rinckey PLLC. He focuses his practice on representing federal government employees and military personnel. To schedule a consultation with one of the firm’s federal employment lawyers, call (202) 787-1900 or visit www.tullylegal.com.

* The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views, policies or position of this publication.

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