Claims of SSA Employees for Retroactive Promotions and Backpay

B-196216,B-196222,B-196223,B-196228,B-196247: May 16, 1980

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Sixteen Social Security Administration (SSA) employess appealed settlements which denied their claims for retroactive promotions and backpay. The GS-12 employees were Hearings and Appeals Analysts and were members of a union which was certified as their exclusive bargaining representative and was designated as their representative in this matter. After routine audits of positions within SSA, promotions of GS-12 employees to GS-13 were frozen. Unfair labor practices charges were filed by the union and upheld by the Department of Labor (Labor) because SSA failed to confer with the union on the freeze. The employees filed claims for backpay; alleged that they had been informed that the GS-13 level was the final step in the career-ladder positions; contended that once an analyst met the criteria for promotion to GS-13, SSA was required to promote him; alleged that they were performing the same duties as other employees within SSA who were classified at the GS-13 level; and asserted that SSA acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner by imposing an illegal moratorium on their promotion without just cause. The appeal was based on the ground that the disallowances were made without addressing any of the claimants' arguments or rebutting their proof. It has been held that in a career-ladder, the classification of a position depends on the grade the incumbent has reached through promotion. Unless an administrative regulation, instruction, or policy states otherwise, a career-ladder promotion is not mandatory. In this case, there was no evidence of any agency policy requiring that employees be promoted once they met the qualifications for promotion. Employees officially detailed to higher positions for more than 120 days, without Civil Service Commission approval, are entitled to retroactive temporary promotions with backpay starting with the 121st day of the detail. The record did not show that the claimants were ever detailed to higher-graded positions. GAO found that SSA had the discretion as to the time of promotion under the career-ladder, the Labor decision did not direct any retroactive promotions, and the mere existence of a higher-grade position did not entitle an employee to such a postion. The protest was denied.