Performance appraisals can have ramifications beyond their immediate use in determining awards, etc. They can be used in later promotion actions, and are used to determine retention standing in case of a reduction-in-force (RIF). Therefore, a rating that is lower than you deserve may be something you want to challenge now, even thought you do not see any immediate harm.

If you are not covered by a union contract, then there are primarily two ways to challenge your appraisal. You can challenge the appraisal through your agency’s grievance process, or, if you believe that your appraisal was low because of discrimination, you can challenge it through the EEO complaint process. Generally speaking, the agency grievance process does not provide for review by a neutral third party. Check the time limits in your agency grievance process to learn the time deadline for an agency grievance. To timely initiate an EEO complaint, you must contact an EEO counselor within 45 days of receipt of your appraisal or of when you had reason to believe that it was based on discrimination.

If you are covered by a union contract, you can grieve your appraisal under the union contract’s grievance process. Only the union can decide to take your grievance all the way to a hearing before an arbitrator – a neutral third party who will decide your case. If you believe that discrimination played a role in your appraisal, you have a choice as to how to proceed. As long as the union contract does not exclude grievances covering discrimination, you can include a charge of discrimination in the union grievance. Alternatively, the challenge to the performance rating can be filed through the EEO process described above. However, you cannot file both a union grievance and an EEO complaint over the same issue. Your “election” to pursue one path or the other is made at the time you file either a timely written grievance or a formal EEO complaint. Seeing the EEO counselor is not considered an election to proceed down that path. Check the time limit for a union grievance under your union contract.

** This information is provided by the attorneys at Passman & Kaplan, P.C., a law firm dedicated to the representation of federal employees worldwide. For more information on Passman & Kaplan, P.C., go to http://www.passmanandkaplan.com. **