Rehire and grade, step


Q. I am a former federal employee who left government service after 23 years. I have held competitive and excepted service positions. I work as a federal contractor and have held this position for 15 months. I was recently offered a federal job, and the human resources department told me that they could only rehire me at the grade and step level I was at when I left (GS-13/Step 2). However, my current contracting job pays more than that, and I thought they could rehire me at a higher step rate to match what I am making, but the federal agency said they cannot offer any more money since I left at a GS-13/2. Is this accurate? I know other people who left government service and came back were hired at a much higher grade and rate than what they held previously.

A. There isn’t anything in law or regulations that would require that you be rehired at a step no higher than the one you previously occupied. Therefore, unless there is a specific agency policy or practice, there is no bar to your asking for and their agreeing to a higher step.


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Reg Jones was head of retirement and insurance policy at the Office of Personnel Management. Email your retirement-related questions to


  1. Additionally, if you are away from federal service for 12 or more months, you can be considered for higher positions if you qualify for the announcement. My wife took a job as a GS-5 thinking she could move up fast because she had two masters degrees. Once in the system, she couldn’t move faster than one grade per year. She had to quite her job and reapply in 12 months. She qualified for a GS11 position and was hired for that position. If you are a GS13 and left government service, if you have the experience, you can apply for GS15 or higher positions and be hired for that position.

  2. Mr. Jones,

    Good Morning. I am currently a GS13 step 10, and was delivered a tentative offer for a GS13 at a different agency. I have seen different comments about lateral transfers. Some say that the new agency doesn’t have to honor my current step, and others say they do. I am looking for something official on the subject. OPM is vague on lateral transfers and negotiated pay. I have sent back to HR my current salary requirements with all of the supporting documentation. Will this be a sticking point with the new agency? BTW DoD to NASA is where I’m transferring.

    • I’m not aware of any official statement on the subject. Agencies are free to make an offer; potential employees are free to accept or reject it. If they reject it, they can make a counteroffer. However, in my experience, not transferring an employee from one agency to another at the same grade and step is virtually unheard of.

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