Supervisor Actions for Career Ladder Promotions

A career ladder promotion is a promotion to the next higher grade level to which an employee advances without competition, up to the full performance level (FPL) of their position. For example, if a position is classified at the GS-11/12/13, and an employee is hired at the GS-11 level, promotion to the GS-12, and then to the GS-13, are considered career ladder promotions.

To be eligible for a career ladder promotion, the following eligibility requirements must be met: employees must meet time-in-grade, possess the appropriate level of specialized experience, and have an official rating of record of at least fully successful. It is important to remember that a career ladder promotion is not an automatic entitlement and can be delayed. Other factors to consider in determining if an employee will receive a promotion include verifying there is an adequate amount of available work at the next higher grade level, funding, and whether or not the employee has demonstrated the ability to perform the higher graded duties. An employee may meet all of the eligibility requirements, but may not yet have the ability to perform the higher graded duties. In this case, it may be appropriate to delay the promotion until the employee displays the ability to perform at the next higher grade.

If an employee meets all requirements and will be promoted, supervisors must authorize the FPPS action and forward it to the servicing personnel office (SPO) prior to the effective date of the promotion. HR Recommends that supervisors authorize and forward these actions to SPO well in advance of the effective date in order to avoid any issues. Promotion actions cannot be made retroactively because a supervisor fails to authorize and forward the action timely.

If the promotion will be delayed, the rationale for the decision should be well documented and discussed with the employee, along with a strategy or plan that will help the employee make the improvements necessary for the promotion to be granted. Promotion actions should be authorized and forwarded to the SPO as soon as the employee meets all of the criteria.

HR encourages supervisors to provide timely, fair, and specific feedback to employees throughout the year. Supervisors should not wait until the progress review or end-of-year performance review to inform an employee of problems or concerns that may lead to a decision to delay the promotion. Timely feedback will allow an employee to make changes to improve.

The decision to delay a promotion should not come as a surprise to an employee at the time of the promotion determination.

When a supervisor has provided positive feedback to an employee throughout the year, and perhaps rated them “fully successful” or higher, but subsequently decides to delay the promotion, the decision can appear to be in conflict with the prior feedback given. This can make defending the decision troublesome. This situation is further complicated when an employee has received an award during the same time frame.

Contact your servicing Employee Relations Specialist for guidance related to performance concerns, or contact your servicing Staffing and Classification Specialist for general questions related to career ladder promotions.