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FHWA Order 3451.1

Awards and Employee Recognition
Classification Code Date Office of Primary Interest
3451.1, Chart 3 June 25, 2010 HAHR-10

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Order 3451.1 - Chart 3, Special Achievement Awards

Type of Award Who is Eligible? Purpose of Award Type of Recognition Criteria Nomination Procedures

Special Achievement Award based on a Special Act or Service




All General Schedule (GS) or Wage Grade (WG) employees

All GS, WG, or Career Senior Executive Service (SES) employees

All GS or WG employees

To recognize the superior acts, services, contributions, or efforts of individual employees or teams of employees.


Team cash awards up to $9,500. Individual cash awards up to $4,000. The amount is in proportion to the benefits realized by the Federal government. When the award is to a group or team, all members should share in the recognition. The amount may be shared equally or the total may be divided in proportion to the individual contribution.


Up to 40 hours of time-off may be granted to an employee for an accomplishment or contribution.

When the award is to a group, all members should share in the recognition. The amount of time-off may be shared equally or divided in proportion to the individual contribution. No employee in the group may receive more than 40 hours.


Special Act Awards may be a combination of cash and time-off. The combination of the two should not exceed the value of the contribution to the FHWA.

Performance of a particular project or assignment or a detail of either short of long duration, which warrants special recognition.

A significant individual accomplishment that management wishes to recognize immediately rather than waiting to recognize with a performance award at the end of the rating period.

A significant team/group contribution that management wishes to recognize.

An unusual, one-time employee accomplishment that merits only a small award.

Superior contributions, which warrant a one-time bonus.

Supervisor should prepare recommendations for awards on Form FHWA-1156. The recommendation should describe:

(a) the importance or significance of the contribution to the organization;

(b) the amount of independent thought or unusual insight, imagination, or effort involved;

(c) the impact or benefits derived from the contribution; and

(d) obstacles that had to be overcome in making this contribution.

Recommendations should be made within 30 days of the accomplishment or contribution.

Employees may only receive one award per accomplishment or contribution.

Award recommendations must be forwarded to the appropriate manager for approval.

Performance based

Special Achievement Awards




All Performance Management System (PMS) employees who receive a rating of “Outstanding” or "Meets or Exceeds Requirements;”

have occupied a PMS position for 90 days prior to September 30;

and have not been in a non-pay status for 90 days or more during the rating period.

This award is meant to recognize performance based on the employee’s rating of record.


An employee with a rating of “Outstanding or Meets or Exceeds Requirements” may be granted an award not exceeding 10 percent of the employee’s annual rate of basic pay upon the recommendation of the supervisor and the approval of the award pool manager.


An employee may be granted up to 40 hours of Time-Off in recognition of a rating of “Outstanding” or “Meets or Exceeds Requirements.” The number of hours granted should be based on an assessment of the value of the employee’s work accomplishments, relative to the goals of the organization, the grade level of the position, and impact on mission.


An employee may be granted a combination of cash and time-off in recognition of an “Outstanding” or “Meets or Exceeds Requirements” rating. The combination of the two awards should not exceed the assessment of the value of the performance to the organization.

A rating of Outstanding or Meets or Exceeds requirements based upon at least 90 days of performance.

After the PMS employees in an award pool have been assigned a rating of record for the PMS appraisal period, a determination may be made as to their eligibility for a performance based Special Achievement Award. The award recommendations can be documented on the FHWA-1552 or the FHWA-1552a. Each fall the Office of Human Resources will provide award pool managers with a rating list for the recording of performance ratings. Any monetary and Time-Off awards based on the rating of record can be included on the list.





All GS and WG employees

It is meant to recognize a one time accomplishment or contribution that merits only a small award.

Cash Awards from $50 not to exceed $300, not to exceed two in a year;


Time-off not to exceed 1 work day;


A combination of the two: e.g., an on‑the‑spot award can be $150 and half a day in time-off.

An individual effort or contribution of limited value to the organization.

Recommendations may be made on FHWA-1156 or may be in the form of a memorandum from the supervisor to the employee. In either situation, a brief description of the accomplishment or contribution should be provided.

Quality Step Increases (QSI)

All GS employees who are not at the end of the pay band.

The purpose of the QSI is to recognize outstanding performance by granting faster than normal step increases.

Within-grade Increase

The employee must have a current performance rating of outstanding. A brief narrative should be included which:

(a) highlights the employee’s outstanding accomplishments, and

(b) supports the conclusion that the highest quality of work is characteristic of the employee’s performance and is expected to last into the future.

The employee has not received a QSI within the past 52 weeks.

The employee is not at the end of the pay band.

A recommendation for the QSI should be made on FHWA-1156 by the first level supervisor within 60 days of the end of the rating period.

A copy of the approved performance appraisal should be attached.

A narrative discussion of the performance, which clearly identifies the outstanding performance and explains why the performance is worthy of a QSI. NOTE: The description of performance on the appraisal form may be sufficient. Supervisors are reminded to consider this point when preparing the recommendation.

All QSI recommendations must be approved by the appropriate Award Pool Managers. Due to monetary considerations, the Office of Human Resources will review advise on all approved and requested QSI’s.

Page last modified on October 19, 2015