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Federal HR Policies Affecting Schedule A Appointment

Personnel Recordkeeping

Background

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has government wide responsibility for policies on Federal employment records (including CES employees with Federal benefits).  An Official Personnel Folder (OPF) is kept on each former CES Federal appointee to document the employee's Federal employment and benefits history. The OPF is maintained at the individuals Cooperative Extension college/university while actively employed.

Resource

OPM provides guidance and instructions for personnel records on employees employment and benefits history.  These instructions can be found in OPM's operating manual, The Guide to Personnel Recordkeeping.

Personnel recordkeeping regulations can be found in Part 293 of Title 5, Code of Federal Regulations.  These regulations establish minimum standards of accuracy and relevancy for the personnel records that the Office of Personnel Management requires agencies to maintain.

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) administers the Federal records management program and their regulations for civilian personnel records are in General Records Schedules 1 (GRS 1).  The NARA regulations include procedures for determining how long agencies must keep records and when they may dispose of records.

The Privacy Act of 1974, as amended (5 U.S. Code 552a) applies to records about an individual that contain the individual's  name or some other item that identifies that person and from which information is retrieved by the name or other particular assigned to the individual. OPM’s  regulations implementing the Privacy Act are in Part 297 of Title 5, Code of Federal Regulations.

The CES Personnel Action System section of this guidance provides additional information on the CES personnel reporting system and its relationship to OPM’s recordkeeping systems.

General  Recordkeeping Policies

The Office of Personnel Management publishes Government wide systems of records for a number of human resource management functions. These include, but are not limited to, General Personnel Records (OPF), Recruiting, Examining, and Placement Records, and Employee Medical File System Records. These records are OPM’s records, although they are in the physical custody of the employing agencies. Agency payroll records may contain personnel information but payroll records are not covered by OPM’s Government wide systems of records.

Records means all papers, maps, photographs, machine-readable materials or other documentation, regardless of physical form, made or received by the Government in connection with the transaction of public business and preserved as evidence of decisions, operations, or other activities of the Government. Civilian personnel records are records that relate to the supervision over and management of Federal civilian employees. These include records on the general administration and operation of human resource management programs and functions as well as records that concern individual employees.

Agencies may establish their own personnel recordkeeping requirements to meet special needs.  If an agency establishes a system of records as defined in the Privacy Act, the agency is responsible for ensuring that the Act's requirements are met following the Office of Management and Budget's (OMB) guidance.

The CES organizations follow OPM’s system of recordkeeping with some variations.  These variations, specific to CES and USDA, are necessary to meet the needs of CES and the Schedule A appointment authority and appropriate benefits. CES organizations, like other agencies, should have management controls to ensure that personnel records are established, safeguarded, accessed,  maintained, retained, and disposed of as directed in The Guide to Personnel Recordkeeping.

Personnel Records

Certain personnel records are considered Interagency Personnel Records (IPR’s).  IPR’s are those that are transferred with the employee as he or she moves from agency to agency.  The three kinds of IPR’s are:

  • the Official Personnel Folder (OPF);
  • employee performance records; and
  • the Employee Medical folder (EMF).

The Official Personnel Folder, (Standard Form 66) is a file containing records that cover an individual's employment history.  The long-term records included in the file are chosen to protect the legal and financial rights of the government and the employee. The Official Personnel Folder is part of the Government-Wide System of Records, OPM/GOVT-1.  OPM owns the personnel folder and its contents. The Guide to Personnel Recordkeeping contains OPM’s rules for creating, maintaining, using, and disposing of the Official Personnel Folder.

CES organizations that use automated personnel records systems must comply with the procedures and guidelines in The Guide for Personnel Recordkeeping that pertain to storing OPF’s in media other than paper. Note: Automated payroll systems are not considered automated personnel records systems, however, automated systems that include CES 436's and related Federal benefit forms must be maintained in both paper form and the CES automated system.

Some Federal agencies have recordkeeping systems outside of OPM’s recordkeeping authority. Records documenting that service are not filed as instructed in The Guide to Personnel Recordkeeping and are not kept in an Official Personnel Folder. Table 2-A of the guide shows the agencies and types of employment that are not under OPM’s recordkeeping authority.  The guide also explains the procedures for transferring records created outside of OPM’s recordkeeping authority. When employment records created under OPM’s recordkeeping authority are mixed in the same file with employment records created outside of OPM’s recordkeeping authority, they are generally kept in a Merged Records Personnel Folder (Standard Form 66-C). These files are called Jointly-Owned Personnel Folders and the procedures for establishing and maintaining Jointly-Owned OPF’s are included in the guide.

The performance of CES employees with Federal benefits are not evaluated under the general Federal performance review and rating cycles.  The performance standards and rating process, for CES employees with Federal benefits, are defined by the CES organization and college/university policies and procedures.  Employee performance problems must be discussed with the USDA, HRD CES team, to ensure that  Federal processes, procedures, and required documentation are included in the process.  Performance records required by the Federal employer may or may not be transferred to other agencies.  In most cases, the documents will not be transferred since CES does not evaluate their employee's performance under a Federally approved performance evaluation system.  Performance records that are transferred from agency to agency will be on the left side of the personnel folder.

The Employee Medical Folder (EMF), Standard Form 66-D is used to transfer long-term occupational medical records when an employee separates from the agency. Occupational medical records are defined in The Guide to Personnel Recordkeeping and these documents may never be filed in the Official Personnel Folder.  Agencies decide what medical records to maintain and where to store such records during the employee's service with the agency. Agencies may use the EMF to store medical records during the employee's service but must use the EMF to transfer long-term occupational medical records when the employee separates. See the Guide for information on the establishment, maintenance, filing, and transferring of long-term occupational medical records.

Requesting, and Reviewing Personnel Records 

All employees should have a single personnel folder which documents their entire period of Federal civilian service.  These records are transferable from agency to agency when an  employee moves from one agency to another or, the records are transferred to the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis, Missouri when an employee leaves the active rolls of the Federal government, or transfers to another government agency whose record keeping system is outside of OPM’s record keeping authority.  Medical folders and certain performance documents are transferable from agency to agency or sent to the NPRC.  Request should be sent on the appropriate request form, i.e. SF-127, Request for Official Personnel Folders, which includes transferable performance records, or SF-184,  Request for Employee Medical Folders, to the National Personnel Records Center, Annex, 1411 Boulder Boulevard, Valmeyer, IL 62295.

Federal civilian service includes appointments with and without pay in the Executive, legislative, and judicial branches of the Federal Government. In addition, there are periods of service that are not Federal civilian service but may be creditable for certain purposes, such as reduction-in-force and retirement.  (Information on creditable service can be found in the Creditable Service Chapters 20 and 22  of OPM’s CSRS and FERS Retirement Handbook.)  Records covering these periods of service are retained by the agency or organization for which the service was performed and are not to be combined with personnel records covering Federal civilian employment. Official transcripts, records of military service (DD-214), and memo's verifying and/or certifying prior creditable service are filed in the OPF.

Applications submitted by prospective employees must be reviewed to determine if the applicant has prior service that is creditable if they were appointed by the Federal agency, i.e., CES.  The Department of Agriculture requires that OPF’s or some other official source of information, e.g. transcripts of service, must be requested and in the possession of the employing office or their Human Resources office before the employee reports to duty. This information is vital to the  processing of the appointment action and the applicants’ eligibility for certain benefits.

Records on separated employees may be requested from the last employing Human Resources Office if the employee was recently separated, i.e., 3-6 months.  A request for the OPF should also be sent to the National Personnel Records Center to make sure that all prior service records are filed together and to save time IF the employee's OPF has already been forwarded to the NPRC.   Records will generally be with the previous employer if the person:

  • is or has been on that employer's rolls within 90 days prior to the new appointment;
  • is receiving severance pay;
  • is on the previous employer's reemployment priority list;
  • was last employed in the Foreign Service and has separated within the year prior to the new appointments.

The type of service and reporting system determines the procedure for requesting information on prior creditable service. Federal employers that are not within OPM’s record keeping authority do not transfer personnel records.  These employers provide a transcript of service and documents on benefits. The benefits documents generally include the OPF copy of health insurance, life insurance, retirement, and Thrift Savings Plan documents. The different processes, procedures, forms and methods for requesting records for prior service, along with additional information on the employers who provide transcripts of service, can be found in The Guide to Personnel Recordkeeping.

Establishing, Merging, and Filing Personnel Records

The performance records and medical records for CES employees with Federal benefits are established, maintained, and transferred in accordance with agency instructions and the guidelines and other information in The Guide to Personnel Recordkeeping.  The Official Personnel Folder must be established, reviewed, combined, maintained, filed, and closed out in accordance with OPM’s instructions in The Guide.  Chapter 3 of the guide provides detailed instructions on Filing Documents in the Personnel Folder. Click on this hyperlink to download some general OPF filing procedures as a PDF file.

Request for Information and Transferring Records

There are numerous types of request for information on current and former employees.  The amount and type of information that can be provided depends on the nature of the request and the person making the request.  Chapter 6 of the guide provides detailed information on "How to Respond to Requests for Information" and Chapter 7 includes detailed information on the processing and transferring of records.

Request for the transfer of OPF’s/transcripts come in various forms. CES uses the CES-436 Notification of Personnel Action, an OPM approved form that serves as CES’s exception to  OPM’s Standard Form (SF) 50, Notification of Personnel Action form, and the SF-52, OPM’s Request for Personnel Action form.  The SF-50's and SF-52's are the official personnel action forms used by most, but not all, of the Federal government agencies and a copy of a SF-52, Request for Personnel Action, and/or SF-50, Notification of Personnel Action, are submitted to the former employer to request information or the transfer of the official records. The CES-436 serves as both a Request for Personnel Action and Notification of Personnel Action for CES Federal appointees. See the sections on CES Personnel Action System and Schedule A Appointments  for additional information on the CES Personnel System. When CES offices request official files from other agencies they should use the CES- 436 in the same manner that the SF-50 and SF-52 can be used. Problems with other agencies on the use and purpose of the CES- 436 should be directed to the USDA, HRD CES team.

All actions to reappoint an employee with prior Federal service must include the verification of prior creditable service before the selectee is appointed. The OPF should be requested and received before the applicant is appointed because the information in the file is used to determine the proper retirement coverage and eligibility for other Federal benefits and programs. However, OPF's for current employees cannot be transferred until the separation action is processed by the losing agency. Government agencies that use SF-50's and SF-52's usually use the SF-75, Request for Preliminary Employment Data, form which is the standard form used by most Federal agencies to request and/or provide information to losing and gaining agencies so they can effect their personnel/appointment actions and determine eligibility and/or transfer for Federal benefits. CES uses a modified version of the SF-75 form to request and/or provide preliminary employment information. If the OPF cannot be obtained, prior to the appointment, the gaining CES agency can use the attached CES Request for Preliminary Employment Data form to request the data necessary to make the appointment and determine eligibility for Federal benefits. The CES form should also be used to provide information to other agencies that plan to employ current CES employees with Federal benefits. Problems with other agencies on the use and purpose of the CES Request for Preliminary Employment Data form should be directed to the USDA, HRD, CES team.

CES OPF’s will be transferred to other Government agencies that are under OPM’s record keeping authority.  OPF’s maintained and in the possession of other Government agencies should be transferred to the requesting CES office. Since CES is not under the standard OPM reporting and record system, other agencies that are under OPM’s system may not transfer their OPF’s to CES organizations. Situations like this should be referred to the USDA, HRD CES team and every effort will be made to obtain the official folders. At a minimum the losing agency must provide CES/HRD with a Transcript of Service and the original or certified official copies of all applicable benefits forms.  Chapter 7 of The Guide to Personnel Recordkeeping Operations Manual provides a Sample Transcript Used in Lieu of Transferring Folders which shows the information that must be included in the transcript. Attached is a copy of the transcript that CES will use to provide employment information when OPF's cannot be transferred to the gaining agency. Information requested from an agency that will not transfer the OPF to CES should be in the same format and provide the same information shown on the sample transcript. See Chapter 7 in the Guide to Personnel Recordkeeping for additional information and the instructions for preparing transcripts.

CES will provide transcripts of service and certified/verified copies of benefits forms or the original copy of the benefits forms, whatever the norm is for the requesting offices, to agencies outside of OPM’s recordkeeping system that request information on current employees.  Note: The U.S. Senate sends transcripts but receives folders when employees move from employment under the Office’s recordkeeping authority to the Senate.  Request for information on inactive/separated employees should be referred to the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) or whatever agency or organization that has possession of the OPF.  The request can be referred to the organization that should have possession of the OPF and a note can be sent to the requester stating that the OPF has been forwarded to the NPRC or the appropriate agency/organization; or, the request can be returned to the requester advising them of the location of the OPF.

Request to verify credible CES service for Federal retirement purposes must be obtained from USDA, HRD CES team.  OPM’s CSRS and FERS Retirement Handbook, Chapter 20, Creditable Civilian Service, requires that request to verify the credibility of Cooperative Extension employment for Federal retirement, leave accruals, and Reduction In Force must be requested from and approved by USDA.  Cooperative Extension service performed after September 30, 1957 is creditable IF the employee was on a Federal appointment.

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