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Order
Subject
FHWA Personnel Management Manual; Part 1: Personnel Systems & Procedures, Chapter 3 Assignment and Utilization of Employees, Section 1 Merit Promotion Plan
Classification Code Date
M3000.1C February 14, 2006  

Par.

  1. What is the purpose of this section?
  2. Does this directive cancel an existing FHWA directive?
  3. What references were used when writing this section?
  4. What is the FHWA policy on merit promotion?
  5. What are the major definitions?
  6. How does the plan affect FHWA employees and positions?
  7. What actions are covered by competitive promotion procedures?
  8. What actions are excluded from the competitive promotion procedures?
  9. What methods are used for filling positions?
  10. How do applicants apply for merit promotion consideration?
  11. How are candidates evaluated?
  12. How are candidates certified?
  13. What are the selection procedures?
  14. How long are merit promotion records kept?
  15. What information is made available to applicants?
  16. Can the promotion files be audited?

 

  1. What is the purpose of this section? This section revises the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Merit Promotion Plan (MPP).

  2. Does this directive cancel an existing FHWA directive? Yes. This directive cancels FHWA Personnel Management Manual (PMM), Part 1, Chapter 3, Section 1, dated May 22, 2000.

  3. What references were used when writing this section?

    1. Title 5, United States Code (U.S.C.), Chapter 33, Subchapter V, Promotion.

    2. Title 5, Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Part 335, Promotion and Internal Placement.

    3. Departmental Personnel Manual (DPM) Chapter 335, Merit Promotion Plans.

    4. FHWA PMM, Chapter 3, Section 7, Technical Career Tracks Program, dated January 6, 2005.

  4. What is the FHWA policy on merit promotion?

    1. Merit and non-discrimination. Under the MPP, selections and promotions throughout the FHWA are based on job-related criteria and on merit principles. All actions are to be taken without regard to political, religious, or labor organization affiliation or non-affiliation, marital status, race, color, sex, national origin, non-disqualifying physical or mental disability, age, sexual orientation, or any other nonmerit factor.

    2. Selection. Management has the right to fill or not fill a specific vacancy, to determine the most appropriate method for filling a vacancy, and to select or not select from a group of best qualified candidates on a properly constituted selection certificate. Management also has the right to select from other appropriate sources, such as from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) certificates or registers, delegated examining authorities, reemployment priority lists, the Interagency Career Transition Assistance Program, the Career Transition Assistance Plan, reinstatement, reassignment, repromotion, transfer, excepted appointments, and special appointing authorities (such as Veterans Readjustment Appointment (VRA), Selective Placement). In choosing the appropriate source, management will consider FHWA mission objectives, organizational diversity, and affirmative employment goals contained in the Multi-Year Affirmative Employment Program Plan.

    3. Mobility

      1. A geographically mobile workforce is beneficial to the FHWA effectiveness as well as to employees' career development. Supervisors and high-level management officials should encourage their employees to diversify their work experience in order to enhance their career opportunities. The FHWA managers may actively foster movement by exercising their option to competitively advertise vacant career-ladder positions when circumstances warrant.

      2. Geographic and functional diversity of experience may be considered in the FHWA merit promotion process, but only in positions where such diversity is job-related.

  5. What are the major definitions?

    1. Ad Hoc evaluation panel. This is a panel consisting of at least 2 or more members, at or above the grade level of the vacancy, convened for the evaluation of candidates for a specific competitive action.

    2. Best qualified. This describes those candidates who are placed on a selection certificate for consideration by the selecting official. The best qualified candidates are those individuals who have responded to recruitment efforts and whose knowledge, skills, and abilities most closely match the requirements of the position to be filled. The qualifications of these candidates are evaluated by a human resources specialist based on their responses to questions contained in an automated staffing system, and they may be further evaluated by an ad hoc evaluation panel or by a subject matter expert (SME).

    3. Career promotion. This is a promotion without current competition when, at an earlier stage, an employee was selected from an OPM register or under competitive promotion procedures for an assignment intended to prepare the employee for the full performance level of the position being filled.

    4. Department of Transportation (DOT) Careers In Motion. This is the “brand" name for the automated Web-based application system that is used by employees and candidates to apply for FHWA positions by means of submitting a resumé and answering job related questions. The Careers In Motion system can score applicants' responses to questions, develop selection certificates, provide status notifications electronically to applicants, and maintain the required documentation for merit promotion case files. As used in this section, the “Careers In Motion" designation refers to whatever automated staffing system is currently being used by the FHWA, regardless of the brand or specific product name associated with it.

    5. Re-promotion. This is a promotion of an employee to a grade previously held on a permanent basis in the competitive service from which an employee was separated or demoted for other than performance or conduct reasons.

    6. Selective factors (screen out questions). These are the job-related qualification(s) essential for satisfactory performance on the job. These are in addition to the basic qualification standards for a position. (Example: Ability to speak, read, or write a language other than English.)

    7. Unit manager. This is a position held by any of the following: an Associate Administrator, Chief Counsel, Chief Financial Officer, Director of Field Services, Resource Center Director and Operations Manager, Division Administrator, or Federal Lands Highway Division Engineer.

  6. How does the plan affect FHWA employees and positions?

    1. Employees. All career, career conditional, and temporary employees with competitive status are eligible to compete for promotion and other competitive opportunities. Employees on term appointments may compete for promotions and other competitive opportunities within the limits of the provisions of the term authority.

    2. Positions

      1. Positions in the competitive service, i.e., General Schedule (GS)-1 through GS-15, and all Federal Wage System positions are covered under MPP procedures.

      2. The MPP procedures are used for filling FHWA excepted service positions overseas, unless the Executive Director specifically exempts these positions from coverage.

      3. Senior Executive Service (SES) positions are not covered under this MPP.

  7. What actions are covered by competitive promotion procedures? Competitive promotion procedures must be followed for promotion actions and for other actions. These actions are summarized in the Attachment 1, Chart of Actions Covered by or Excluded from Competitive Merit Promotion Procedures.

  8. What actions are excluded from the competitive promotion procedures? These actions are summarized in Attachment 1.

  9. What methods are used for filling positions?

    1. General. The selecting official should consider various recruitment sources and methods for filling a position by taking into consideration organizational and occupational diversity, under-representation/affirmative employment goals, and the effective use of employees. Procedures may include actions such as placing a candidate with priority consideration, reassigning an employee, or announcing a merit promotion opportunity.

    2. Merit promotion vacancy announcements. When a position is being filled through the competitive merit promotion procedures, the servicing human resources office will issue a merit promotion vacancy announcement.

      1. Posting of announcements. All announcements will be posted in a timely manner using the Careers In Motion or other automated staffing system. Postings will be easily accessible to all potentially interested employees within the designated area of consideration.

      2. Areas of consideration. The area of consideration for eligible applicants should be large enough to provide an adequate supply of well-qualified candidates. In determining the organizational and geographic area, the grade level, specialized qualifications needed for successful performance, and the nature of the position being filled should be considered.

    3. Minimum area of consideration

      1. The minimum area of consideration cannot be smaller than a resource center location or division office in the field, or an office or a comparable organizational unit within the Washington Headquarters.

      2. For excepted service positions overseas, the individual office may be used as the minimum area of consideration for promotion actions at grades GS-13, GS-14, and GS-15 or equivalent positions in the Foreign Service.

      3. FHWA-wide is the mandatory minimum area of consideration for all grade GS-15, GS-14, and GS-13 positions.

      4. The Director, Office of Human Resources (HAHR-1), may approve exceptions to the minimum area of consideration in cases where there are unusual circumstances which provide compelling business reasons to do so, provided those reasons meet the regulatory requirements of 5 CFR 335.103, Requirement 2.

    4. Length of open period for announcements. The minimum open periods for vacancy announcements may vary by the area of consideration in which candidates are being sought. Announcements must be open long enough to obtain an adequate number of well-qualified candidates.

  10. How do applicants apply for merit promotion consideration? Specific application procedures will be stated in the Careers In Motion vacancy announcement. Applicants must adhere to those procedures to be considered for the vacancy.

  11. How are candidates evaluated?

    1. Eligibility. All applications will be screened by the Careers In Motion system, based upon the applicant's answers to the questions contained in the announcement, and then by a human resources specialist to determine whether minimum qualification requirements, including specialized experience, pertinent selective factors, and other eligibility requirements are met for the vacant position.

    2. Rating of candidates

      1. All qualified candidates will be further evaluated on the relevance of their experience, education, training, performance, honors, awards, and outside activities in relation to the job-related criteria of the position(s) to be filled as reflected in their resumés and answers to the job-related questions contained in the announcement.

      2. In addition, selecting officials, in consultation with the servicing human resources specialist, will determine whether the qualified candidates are further evaluated against the criteria established for the position by an ad hoc evaluation panel, a SME, or other appropriate individual. For a technical career discipline vacancy, selecting officials are encouraged to use a senior technical specialist to evaluate the qualifications of candidates for positions in the discipline. Regardless of who evaluates the qualified candidates, his/her evaluation will be documented in the case file or will be retrievable from the Careers In Motion system as needed.

      3. The qualifications of non-promotion candidates responding to a Careers In Motion announcement and who are not required to compete (see Actions Excluded from Merit Promotion Procedures in Attachment 1) will be evaluated by their responses to the questions. All non-promotion candidates who meet the basic qualifications requirements will be placed on the certificate. In addition, they may also be evaluated by an ad hoc evaluation panel, SME, technical specialist, or other appropriate individual, if requested by the selecting official. They will be considered separately from the promotion candidates.

  12. How are candidates certified? Applicants are certified as follows:

    1. Candidates certified in different categories (i.e., promotion/nonpromotion, different grade levels) must be clearly identified.

    2. All candidates placed on the certificate will be listed in alphabetical order within their respective categories, regardless of whether an ad hoc evaluation panel is held.

    3. Only those promotion candidates rated as best qualified will be considered for selection.

    4. The selection certificate is valid for 90 days. However, the Director of Human Resources may grant extensions for international positions, where medical and security clearances are required, and for other cases where there are compelling business reasons. This authority may be redelegated by the Director of Human Resources.

  13. What are the selection procedures?

    1. Selecting official. The Federal Highway Administrator is the selecting official for Division Administrator and Resource Center Director and Operations Manager positions as well as for any positions above the GS-15 grade level, upon recommendation of the Executive Director. The appropriate unit manager or his/her designee is the selecting official for all other positions under his/her jurisdiction. See Attachment 2, Selection Authority by Organization, for a detailed presentation of selection authorities and concurrences.

    2. Actions by the selecting official

      1. The selecting official is responsible for taking timely action on the selection certificate, in accordance with instructions contained on the certificate.

      2. Upon receipt of the certificate, the selecting official is strongly encouraged to interview his or her top candidates. The selecting official has the flexibility to distinguish among candidates and determine who should be interviewed. Interviews may be conducted in person or by other means. The selecting official may also request that other qualified individuals interview the candidates.

      3. The selecting official is encouraged to obtain information from the current and former supervisors, peers, colleagues, or other professional and personal references.

      4. The selecting official may choose any candidate from among those who have been certified and rated as best qualified, based on his or her judgment of how well candidates will perform in the position being filled. The selecting official will ensure that fair consideration has been given to all candidates.

    3. Clearances

      1. Unit managers must obtain the concurrence of the Executive Director before making a final selection for a position at, or with promotion to, the GS-14 level or above. In addition, the Resource Center Director must consult with the appropriate Associate Administrator about the selection of a Technical Service Team Leader in the Resource Center. Division Administrators also must consult with the appropriate Director of Field Services about the selection for an Assistant Division Administrator position.

      2. The Directors of Field Services, at their discretion, may provide further guidance to their Division Administrators regarding consultation on other selections.

      3. The Chief Counsel and the Office of the General Counsel must concur in the employment or promotion of attorneys at any grade level.

      4. The DOT Chief Financial Officer (Assistant Secretary for Budget and Programs) must concur in employment or promotion of individuals to GS-15 and above grade level financial management, budget, or accounting positions in the FHWA Office of the Chief Financial Officer.

  14. How long are merit promotion records kept? Servicing human resources offices will maintain the Merit Promotion case files for 2 years, or after the program has been formally evaluated by OPM (whichever comes first), or until the time limit for grievances has elapsed, in accordance with 5 CFR Part 335.

  15. What information is made available to applicants?

    1. The servicing human resources office is responsible for notifying all applicants regarding the disposition of their application for an announced vacancy. This should normally be done within 2 weeks after the selection is made.

    2. An employee having questions or concerns about the filling of a particular vacancy should first discuss them with his/her supervisor or servicing human resources office. If not satisfied, the employee may file a grievance under the procedures in PMM Part 1, Chapter 11, Disciplinary Actions, Adverse Actions, Grievances and Appeals. Non-selection from a group of properly ranked and certified candidates is not an appropriate basis for an informal complaint or grievance. There is no right of appeal to OPM.

    3. If an employee believes that his or her nonselection under the merit promotion process was based on a nonmerit reason (such as race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, or retaliation), the employee may consult with an Equal Employment Opportunity counselor about the discrimination complaint process. Any discrimination complaint should be filed in accordance with 29 CFR Part 1614, Federal Sector Equal Employment Opportunity.

  16. Can the promotion files be audited? Merit promotion files are subject to post audit by the OPM, the Office of the Secretary of Transportation (OST), and the FHWA as provided by statute.

Attachment 1
CHART OF ACTIONS COVERED BY OR EXCLUDED FROM COMPETITIVE MERIT PROMOTION PROCEDURES
Type of Action Competitive Merit Promotion Procedures are Required for: Actions Excluded from Merit Promotion Procedures
Promotions Non-career promotions
  1. Career promotions, when at an earlier stage the employee was selected:

    1. through competition under a vacancy announcement which indicated that the position had known promotion potential;

    2. from an OPM register or delegated examining authority for a career-ladder position (see Attachment 1a); or

    3. under a formal training program, including upward mobility.

  2. Promotion when the job was reclassified at a higher grade based on accretion of duties.

  3. Promotion resulting from a change in classification standards or classification error.

Temporary promotions Over 120 calendar days to a higher grade position 120 calendar days or less to a higher grade position.

Extensions for up to five years, if previously filled competitively. Can become permanent without further competition under certain conditions.
Term promotions To a higher grade position Can become permanent without further competition, if previously filled competitively.
Details--to a higher grade or to a position with greater known promotion potential than present position. Over 120 calendar days 120 calendar days or less.

Extension of detail for up to one year in 120 day increments, if previously filled competitively.
Selections for training Part of authorized training agreement or promotion program or required for promotion consideration.  
Reassignment/
demotions
Reassignment/demotion to position with greater promotion potential than the last position held. Reassignment/demotion to a position with no known promotion potential or having no greater promotion potential than current position.
Transfers/
reinstatements
Transfer to higher grade position or one with greater known promotion potential.
Reinstatement to a higher grade position than previously held in the competitive service.
Reinstatement/transfer to a position at no higher grade or with no greater promotion potential than previously held in the competitive service, provided that the candidate has not been removed from the grade for performance reasons or "for cause."
Miscellaneous  
  • Position changes permitted by RIF regulations.

  • Non-competitive conversion of a student in the Student Temporary Employment Program or the Student Career Experience Program to a higher grade position.

  • Non-competitive conversion of a VRA, 30% disabled veteran, physically or mentally disabled, Student Career Experience Program, or Presidential Management Intern appointee.

  • Selection from the Reemployment Priority List.

  • Promotion or repromotion to a grade previously held on a permanent basis under a career or career conditional appointment.

  • Promotion or repromotion to a level included in an FHWA career-ladder position even though the employee never reached the full performance level of the career ladder. A re-promotion occurs when an employee is noncompetitively promoted to a grade level previously held and for which the employee competed at an earlier time.

  • Re-promotion to a grade or position from which demoted without personal cause and not at the employee's request.

Corrective Action   One-time special consideration of a candidate not given proper consideration in a previous promotion action.

Attachment 1a

CAREER-LADDER POSITIONS

The positions listed below have been identified as career-ladder positions in the FHWA. The listing reflects the maximum potential grade level to which promotions may be effected under career promotion procedures. The listing should not be construed as a commitment to promote employees who occupy these positions within the indicated grade range.

At any time, unit managers may elect to competitively announce a vacant career-ladder position at or below the established maximum grade level. When there is not sufficient work at the full performance level within an organization to support all potential career promotions to that grade level, then promotions to that level should be advertised competitively.

SERIES TYPES OF POSITIONS GRADE LEVELS FROM-THROUGH
GS-020 Community Planner 5 12
GS-028 Environmental Protection Specialist 5 12
GS-110 Economist 5 12
GS-201 Human Resources Specialist 5 12
GS-203 Human Resources Assistant 3 6
GS-260 Equal Employment Specialist 5 12
GS-303 Program Clerk/Assistant 4 6
GS-305 Mail and/or File Clerk 1 4
GS-312 Clerk-Stenographer 2 5
GS-326 Office Automation Clerk 1 4
GS-335 Computer Clerk/Computer Assistant 3 5
GS-341 Administrative Assistant/Officer 5 12
GS-343 Management and Program Analyst 5 12
GS-360 Equal Opportunity Specialist 5 12
GS-408 Ecologist 5 12
GS-500 Financial Management Positions (includes GS-501, GS-510, & GS-560) 5 12
GS-503 Fiscal Clerk/Assistant 3 6
GS-525 Accounting Technician 4 6
GS-540 Voucher Examiner 2 6
GS-800 Professional Engineering Position (includes GS-801, GS-806,GS-810, GS-819, GS-830, GS-850 & GS-855) 5 12
GS-802 Engineering Technician (Federal Lands) 2 11
GS-817 Surveying Technician (Federal Lands) 2 11
GS-818 Engineering Draftsman 4 6
GS-1000 Information and Arts Positions (includes GS-1001, 1035, 1082, 1083 & 1084) 5 12
GS-1102 Contract and Procurement Specialist 5 12
GS-1170 Realty Specialist 5 12
GS-1350 Geologist 5 12
GS-2100 Transportation Positions (includes GS-2101 & GS-2125) 5 12
GS-2102 Transportation Clerk/Assistant 3 6
GS-2210 Information Technology Specialist 5 12

Attachment 2

SELECTION AUTHORITY BY ORGANIZATION

Organization Office of the Federal Highway Administrator Associate Administrator (AA)
(including Chief Counsel)
Field Services
Selecting Official Federal Highway Administrator;
Deputy Federal Highway Administrator;
Executive Director
Associate Administrator and Chief Counsel Director of Field Services (DFS)
Grade Level of Positions GS-1 through GS-15, for personal staff members of each official. In addition, the Administrator is the selecting official for Division Administrators (DAs) and the Resource Center Director and Operations Manager (RCD) upon recommendation of the Executive Director. GS-1 through GS-15 GS-1 through GS-15, for personal staff members
Consultation/
Concurrences
Required
None GS-14/15 requires concurrence of the Executive Director.

See Note 1.
See Note 2.
GS-14/15 requires concurrence of the Executive Director.
Organization Resource Center Federal-Aid Division Federal Lands Highway Division
Selecting Official Resource Center Manager Division Administrator Federal Lands Highway Division Engineer
Grade Level of Positions GS-1 through GS-15 GS-1 through GS-14 GS-1 through GS-15
Consultation/
Concurrences
Required
RCD must consult with appropriate AA about selection of a Technical Service Team Leader.
GS-14/15 requires concurrence of the Executive Director.

See Note 3.
DA must consult with the appropriate DFS about selection for an Assistant Division Administrator position.
GS-14 requires concurrence of the Executive Director.

See Note 3.
GS-14/15 requires concurrence of the Executive Director.

Note 1. Office of the General Counsel must concur in the employment or promotion of attorneys at any grade level.

Note 2. Department of Transportation Chief Financial Officer (Assistant Secretary for Budget and Programs) must concur in employment or promotion of individuals to GS-15 and above grade level financial management, budget, or accounting positions in the FHWA Office of the Chief Financial Officer.

Note 3. The Administrator is the selecting official for DAs and RCDs upon recommendation of the Executive Director. The Directors of Field Services, at their discretion, may provide further guidance to their DAs regarding consultation on other selections.

Note 4. Consistent with Personnel Management Manual Chapter 3, Section 1, Merit Promotion Plan, selection authority may be re-delegated at the discretion of the selecting officials designated above.

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