Position Classification Appeals: What is a Desk Audit?

How do desk audits work? Although they may sound simple, there are many issues that can arise from them.

Commonly referred to as a desk audit, a position classification appeal is a procedure where your position and duties as a member of the federal workforce are evaluated to see if your position should be upgraded or downgraded in pay level, classification, and grade. Employees may seek to have a desk audit done through both their local agency and the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) later in the appeals process.

While seemingly simple, there are many issues that can arise when requesting and undergoing a desk audit.

Getting Started With Desk Audits

Traditionally, the first step in the desk audit process comes when you realize that you might be doing more work or have more duties than you used to, or when you have similar duties to a federal employee who performs a similar role but has a higher pay grade/salary.

While many might go to their supervisor first to discuss this matter—a good first thought—it may also be advisable to seek out your position classification standards used to classify your position, so that you can accurately compare your position and duties now to what they were originally. Typically, these are kept in your human resources office; however, not always. Regardless, since your supervisor can validate the accuracy of your position’s description, they can give you an explanation of its contents as well.

Your manager has the authority to ask the human resources department to conduct a review of your job if they feel that it needs to be updated without consulting you. To learn more about the kind and level of the job you are performing, the human resources professional may conduct a desk audit (in which they interview both you and your supervisor).

If your position is desk audited, you should focus on your core responsibilities and how your role fits into the overall operations of your unit and agency. Most importantly, avoid understating or overstating the scope of your tasks, and make sure the human resources professional has a thorough knowledge of your position during the interview.

The agency must then make a decision on the desk audit request within 60 days of the audit. Should the decision not be to your satisfaction, you would then have the option to submit an appeal to the OPM Classification Appeals Office.

What Can You Appeal?

You can seek to change your grade and the title of your position, as well as ask to have your General Schedule (GS) employment converted to a Federal Wage System (FWS) post or vice versa.

Some things cannot be appealed, however, including the accuracy of a classification standard, the proposed classification decision of an agency, the classification of positions to which you are not formally assigned, or the classification of positions to which you are temporarily promoted for a period of fewer than two years.

If you are a General Schedule employee, you may file an appeal with your agency or directly with the OPM at any time. You cannot, however, appeal to your agency and the OPM simultaneously. It is generally recommended that you appeal to your agency first, since if you appeal to your agency and the decision is unfavorable, you can still appeal to the OPM. However, if you appeal to the OPM first and the decision is unfavorable, you are not allowed to appeal to your agency.

If you are a Federal Wage System employee, you must file an appeal with your agency first. If you are unsatisfied with the decision, then you may appeal to the OPM, and the appeal must be filed within 15 days of receiving your agency’s decision.

Appealing to OPM

Should you choose to appeal to the OPM, whether it be first or after your agency’s decision, there are several pieces of information that you will need to provide in writing with your appeal. While further outlined on the OPM’s webpage, some information that should be listed include:

  • The city where you work and the installation’s mailing address;
  • Your name, mailing address, email address, and commercial office phone number;
  • The current classification of your position and the requested classification;
  • The name of the department or agency and the office where you work; 
  • Any additional information about your position that will help reviewers understand the full scope of the position; 
  • Arguments in favor of the requested classification by citing the appropriate classification standards, and
  • A copy of your official position description and either a statement affirming that it is accurate, or a detailed explanation of the inaccuracies and an explanation of the efforts made to correct the position description.

You may have a representative help you in preparing and presenting your appeal case, which is often recommended since the OPM appeal decision is binding to your agency. Further, even if the OPM chooses to reclassify your position, it might not necessarily be in your favor. Based on the information you supply and their own fact-finding, they may choose to either raise or lower the grade of your position. Further, any decision will not necessarily change your job duties either, since that control will always be held by the agency. 


While there are additional facets of a desk audit that are not discussed herein, it is important that if you are a federal employee who is considering moving forward with a classification appeal, you consider retaining or consulting with an experienced attorney who can help guide you through the process and represent you, so you get the proper employment classification and compensation you deserve. Our team of attorneys has experience helping federal employees with their classification appeals and is ready to assist you today.

About the Author

Mathew B. Tully is a founding partner of Tully Rinckey PLLC. He concentrates his practice on representing federal government employees and military personnel. To schedule a meeting with one of the firm’s federal employment law attorneys call (202) 787-1900. The information in this column is not intended as legal advice.