Competitive Level

A competitive level (CL) is a group of positions, NOT PEOPLE,in a competitive area in the same grade and classification series which are similar enough in duties, qualification requirements, pay schedules, and working conditions so that the incumbent of one position can successfully perform the duties of any other position in the level without any loss of productivity beyond that normally expected in the orientation of any new but fully qualified employee. Generally, this means that the employee would need less than 90 days to perform the key tasks of the other position. Competitive level determnations are based on positions, not the personal qualifications of the incumbents of the positions. The competitive level is determined at the time the position is established and reviewed periodically to ensure it is consistent and correct.
Separate competitive levels must be established for:

  • (1) Positions in different pay schedules (e.g. GS/WG)
  • (2) Positions in the competitive service and in the
    excepted service
  • (3) Excepted service positions filled under different
    appointment authorities
  • (4) Positions filled on a full-time, part-time, intermittent, seasonal, or on-call basis. There is no authority to establish separate competitive levels based upon subsets of those five categories. For example, all seasonal employees in otherwise interchangeable positions are placed in the same competitive level; separate competitive levels cannot be established for full-time seasonal employees and part-time seasonal employees.
  • (5) Positions that are restructured as part of a special employment program which requires a formal training plan

After applying the four reduction in force retention factors (tenure, veterans' preference, length of service, and performance ratings), the competitive level becomes a retention register which lists employees in order of their relative retention standing. The first round of competition under reduction-in-force (RIF)is the competition that occurs between employees assigned to the same competitive level to determine who will be released from the competitive level and thus, impacted by RIF. This competition is driven by the retention standing of each of the "players".

The Office of Personnel Management has published two handbooks which provide an in depth discussion of all aspects of the reduction in force and transfer of function process. One handbook provides Guidance, and the other describes Required Procedures. For definitive guidance on any aspect of reduction in force, see the OPM Handbooks.

Content last reviewed: 6/8/2006-ALM


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This page was last revised: 6/8/2006