New guidance from OPM to agencies on carrying out the general hiring freeze repeats previous guidance stating that agencies still can make career ladder promotions despite the freeze; such promotions do not include filling a vacancy but rather upgrading a position after the employee has successfully completed a specified period of time. However, “Unless the position is otherwise exempted, an agency may not make competitive (i.e., other than career ladder) promotions during the hiring freeze.” Also, “Unless the position is otherwise exempted, an agency may not fill a vacancy with an individual from inside or outside of the agency’s workforce during the hiring freeze if filling such vacancy would require the use of competitive merit promotion procedures.” Further, the authority to “reallocate” existing positions despite the freeze “refers to certain internal placement actions (e.g., non-competitive reassignments, details, temporary promotions of 120 days or less, etc.) that an agency head may deem necessary to meet the highest priority needs of the agency or to ensure that essential services are not interrupted.” These internal placement actions are limited to specific types of actions for which competitive merit promotion procedures are not required, it says. Also: agencies “may extend temporary, term, or other time-limited appointments during the hiring freeze in order to meet the highest priority needs of the agency, ensure that essential services are not interrupted, or maintain national security”; agencies may take any personnel action necessary to comply with a settlement agreement it entered to resolve a claim or appeal against the agency, or to comply with an order of a court, the MSPB, the EEOC or other adjudicative agency; and OPM will continue to process SES candidates for qualifications review board certification if the offer was made before noon on January 22.
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