Pay Freeze Continues for Some Federal Officials

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has issued a notice about a continuing pay freeze for senior federal officials.

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has issued a notice about a continuing pay freeze for senior federal officials.

The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2017 was enacted on May 5, 2017. In it is a provision that continues the freeze on pay for senior political officials at 2013 levels for calendar year 2017.

Unless it is extended by new legislation, the pay freeze will end on the last day of the last pay period that begins in calendar year 2017 (i.e., January 6, 2018, for those on the standard biweekly payroll cycle).

Who is Affected by the Pay Freeze?

Senior political appointees covered by the continuing pay freeze include:

  • An employee serving in an Executive Schedule (EX) position, or in a position for which the rate of pay is fixed by statute at an EX rate, and who holds a position under a political appointment;
  • A chief of mission or ambassador at large;
  • A noncareer appointee in the Senior Executive Service (SES) paid at or above EX-IV;
  • A limited term appointee or limited emergency appointee in the SES serving under a political appointment and paid at or above EX-IV; and
  • Any employee paid at or above EX-IV who serves under a political appointment, except employees under the General Schedule or Foreign Service pay systems, employees appointed under 5 U.S.C. 3161, or employees appointed in other pay systems to positions that would be classified at GS-15 or below if they were subject to 5 U.S.C. chapter 51 (relating to General Schedule classification).

As a result of the 2017 increase in the official statutory executive schedule rates, the EX-IV trigger for determining pay freeze coverage increased to $161,900 on January 8, 2017.

An SES, SL, or other political appointee paid less than $161,900 may receive a pay increase up to this rate but may not receive an increase above this rate or any subsequent increase except as provided in the statutory pay freeze law.

Who is Not Affected by the Pay Freeze?

The freeze does not apply to:

  • General Schedule employees (including Schedule C employees),
  • Foreign Service employees,
  • Employees in another pay system whose position would be classified at or below GS-15, or
  • Noncareeer SES appointees and certain other political appointees paid below EX-IV.

The pay freeze also does not apply to SES career appointees who elect to retain SES pay provisions under 5 U.S.C. 3392(c) upon receiving a Presidential appointment that would otherwise be covered.

What About a Pay Freeze Continuing into 2018?

If the pay freeze provision is not extended to calendar year 2018, executive schedule officials will be entitled to the official statutory EX rate on January 7, 2018. This rate would also reflect the January 2014- January 2018 increases.

For other employees who do not have fixed statutory rates (e.g., noncareer SES appointees), the applicable pay range maximum will increase automatically, and any pay adjustments would be made under the normal pay system rules.

Detailed Guidance on Pay Freeze for Certain Senior Political Officials

About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47