The General Schedule or GS Pay System
Most EPA employees are on a General Schedule or GS pay system. The general schedule is the Federal government’s main pay system that sets pay rates for employees in most “white-collar” positions. This system covers approximately half of the federal workforce. In this system, there are 15 GS grades each with 10 steps. Employees start at step one and it takes 1 year to advance to steps 2, 3, and 4; 2 years to advance to steps 5, 6, and 7; and 3 years to advance to steps 8, 9, and 10. The law sets GS salaries. The OPM develops position classification standards that are the legal basis for determining the series and grade–and consequently the pay–for the vast majority of GS positions. Employees receive compensation that is specific to the series and grade of the position they hold. If a dispute arises over the classification of a GS position that an agency cannot resolve internally, the agency or the employee may refer the dispute to the OPM Management. OPM makes the final decision in such cases and there are no further appeal rights. Once in a position, an employee can request a desk audit to change the classification if deemed appropriate.
Overtime and premium pay for most GS employees is covered under Title 5 of the US code. Overtime pay is calculated at a rate of 1.5 times the employee’s basic pay (see 5 CFR §551.512, Overtime Pay Entitlement). The agency must pay employees for overtime unless the employees specifically request compensatory time. Vice versa, employees may not be required to take compensatory time in lieu of overtime pay. The law bars premium pay to an employee that would cause that employee’s total base pay plus the premium pay to exceed the maximum bi-weekly pay for GS-15 step 10. Typical premium pay for most USEPA bargaining unit employees may include hazardous duty pay where work involves unusual physical hardships or hazards unaccounted for in the job classification, Environmental Differential pay when employees are exposed to working conditions or hazards that fall within one of the categories approved by the Office of Personnel Management, Holiday pay which is pay equal to the basic rate of pay, and administratively uncontrollable overtime for jobs requiring substantial unpredictable and irregular or occasional amounts of overtime. Generally, employees are not entitled to overtime pay for hours spent for travel or overnight hotel stay.