Time Grades & Separation from a Federal Position- Can You Be Rehired?

Federal Time Grades and General Schedules

Federal employees enjoy many privileges with their unique employment status. Prominent benefits federal employment offers range from supplemented social security to significantly more vacation time offered.

There is often a lot of competition for federal employment positions due to the unique opportunities that these federal government jobs offer. From an inspector general to employees in a civil service position, there are multiple diverse federal jobs available.

Federal employees, as opposed to private-sector employees, commonly adopt unique language when discussing their pay scales. 70% of federal employees are paid in accordance with the most common pay scale, the General Schedule (GS).

The General Schedule contains 15-grade levels and 10 steps within each grade. As a federal employee rises on the grade pay scale they are compensated more.

A generalized breakdown of the GS grade levels looks like-

  • GS-3 to 4- Internships or student positions
  • GS-5 to 7- Entry-level jobs
  • GS-8 to 12- Mid-range positions
  • GS-13 to 15- High-level supervisors
  • GS-15 and higher- Senior executive services
Federal career planning is relatively simple with the majority of federal employees rising a step each year. However, it is important to note that federal employees do not necessarily need to enter their federal career at the internship level.

When a candidate applies for their first federal job position their education and experience may make them eligible for a more senior role. Additionally, there are roles that are considered career ladder positions in which a federal employee can be promoted to a higher grade without separately applying for a new position.

The two pay benefits categories within the GS system are base pay and locality pay adjustments. A locality pay adjustment would necessitate that federal workers in Los Angeles would be paid a higher total salary than those working in Kansas City-based on a cost of living adjustment (COLA).

Different pay scales are utilized by over 40% of agencies and agency subcomponents. Alternative pay scale examples include-

1. Federal wage system- The federal wage system attempts to match the private sector employee rate and is generally paid hourly.
2. Senior executive service- The senior executive service compensates based on individual employee performance levels.
3. Foreign service- The foreign service contains 9 pay grades, descending in rank as compensation increases. Within each foreign service grade, there are 14 steps.

Even beyond these pay scales, multiple agencies have their own specialized pay plans such as the Federal Reserve System. Different pay plans may choose to incorporate GS scale components with performance based payments.

Separation and Reemployment with Federal Positions

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You may be wondering... what happens if a former federal employee was let go from their position? Can a fired federal employee be rehired or must they resort to a private sector position?

Employee policy states that fired federal employees are still permitted to apply for federal job vacancies under some circumstances. Those in charge of hiring employees then judge whether or not the termination deems the former federal employee as ineligible for the position they are applying for.

If a former federal employee secured competitive status prior to their termination they may have advantages over private sector applicants. One advantage is that a former federal employee would not need to take the same examination for a status position that a non-federal employee would need to take.

There are also benefits for a former federal employee who possessed career tenure status. Career tenure former federal employees can apply for positions at, or below, the pay level or grade that they previously occupied.

One notable exception to the rehiring policy is former employees who obtained eligibility through fraud. In this circumstance, the Office of Personnel Management can prescribe appropriate consequences to the former federal employee.

The Office of Personnel Management holds a lot of power over a former federal employee. In fact, the Office of Personnel Management decides whether an employee is eligible for employment in any other government department or agency.

Even if a federal worker voluntarily resigns while a charge is pending that may have resulted in their termination, the Office of Personnel Management can decide that former employee is not eligible for another federal job position. Often a department or agency will request the Office of Personnel Management to confirm reeligiblity of a former federal employee in writing.


  • Federal employment provides unique benefits in comparison with private sector positions. From the inspector general to the employee in a civil service position, there are many different federal jobs available.
  • Most federal jobs use the General Schedule (GS) payscale which contains 15-grade levels, each with 10 steps. The two pay benefits categories in the GS system are locality pay adjustments and base pay.
  • Over 40% of agencies and subcomponents of agencies use pay scales outside the GS system, ranging from the federal wage system to the senior executive service system. Other federal employers such as the Federal Reserve System use their own specialized employee compensation plans.
  • Employee policystates that a fired federal worker can be rehired for a federal role barring specific misconduct. The Office of Personnel Management decides if a federal employee is eligible for rehire.

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