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August 15, 1985

CONSTANCE J. HORNER, Office of Personnel Management, Defendants

The opinion of the court was delivered by: PENN


 The plaintiffs, the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) and a number of individuals employed by the defendant United States Air Force, filed this action seeking declaratory, injunctive and monetary relief. They challenge the defendants' decision to classify their present jobs as Air Force Planners and Estimators under the General Schedule (GS) pay scales as Engineering Technicians rather than under the Wage System Production Facilitation Pay Plan (WD/WN). Specifically, the plaintiffs challenge a September 18, 1978, decision by the Civil Service Commission (CSC), now the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), concerning the proper classification of certain engineering technician positions in the Department of the Air Force (Air Force) under the Classification Act (Act), 5 U.S.C. § 5101 et. seq. The case is now before the Court on cross-motions for summary judgment.


 AFGE is a labor organization representing more than 750,000 federal employees worldwide. The individual plaintiffs are Air Force civilian employees holding engineering technician, GS-802, positions at the GS-7 grade level. All of the individual plaintiffs work as planners within Base Civil Engineering Squadrons located at various Air Force bases. Plaintiffs claim to represent a class composed of all individuals employed by the Air Force as GS-802, engineering technicians at the GS-7 grade level.

 At the time this action was brought, the Air Force employed approximately 1,095 individuals in the engineering technician series, GS-802, in grade levels GS-7 through GS-9. They perform a variety of functions in a variety of organizational units and approximately 338 of those individuals are at the GS-7 grade level. Approximately 780 of the Air Force engineering technicians work in base civil engineering squadrons. 480 of these individuals perform in a function described by the Air Force as the "planner" function. Approximately 177 of these civil engineering planners, including all of the individual plaintiffs, are at the GS-7 level. The Air Force has developed a series of standardized position descriptions for the Engineering Technicians located in its Civil Engineering Squadrons and prescribed that its local activities follow the applicable position descriptions in assigning duties, responsibilities and qualifications for such positions. Duties, responsibilities and qualifications for the remaining Air Force Engineering Technicians are established at the local level.

 The Department of the Navy (Navy) employs approximately 6,800 individuals under a prevailing rate wage system known as the Production Facilitating Pay Plan. These individuals work in various positions at approximately 130 Navy installations throughout the world. Approximately, 4300 of these individuals work at the WD-8 grade level, of whom a large but unspecified portion work in positions entitled "Planner and Estimator". In addition, Navy has a small number of General Schedule positions which perform planning and estimating work. Duties, responsibilities and qualifications for employment for all the positions in the Navy are determined at the local activity level.

 The Department of the Army (Army) has approximately 870 positions doing work in the nature of planning and estimating at approximately 75 Army installations. Of these, approximately 685 perform work in the facilities engineering area. Approximately 630 of these positions are currently classified under the Production Facilitating Pay Plan and the remaining 55 are classified under the General Schedule. Duties, responsibilities and qualifications for employment for all positions in the Army are determined at the local level.

 On September 18, 1978, OPM's Classification Appeals Office issued a classification decision concerning certain planner positions located in Air Force Base Civil Engineering Squadrons. The decision found that trade or craft experience was not the paramount requirement for such positions and that such positions were properly classified under the General Schedule in the Engineering Technician Series GS-802. In rendering its September 18, 1978 decision, OPM did not conduct a position-to-position comparison between the positions being considered and the allegedly similar positions in the Navy or Army.


 The statutory basis for classification of positions in the General Schedule is stated in the Act. Section 5106 provides for placement of each position in its appropriate class and grade, and Section 5104 states the general standards for classification of positions from Grade GS-1 to Grade GS-18. Section 5105 directs OPM to prepare standards for placing positions in their proper classes and grades. Sections 5112 and 5346 provide the basis for appeal to OPM in classification matters. They authorize OPM to ascertain the facts as to the duties, responsibilities and qualification requirements of a position; decide whether a position is in the appropriate class, or occupation and grade; and change a position from one class, occupation or grade to another class, occupation or grade when the facts warrant. OPM's decision concerning these classification issues are binding on other federal agencies. Section 5112 further provides that an affected employee or agency may request OPM to exercise its appellate authority concerning these issues. Finally, Section 5115 authorizes OPM to prescribe the regulations implementing these statutory provisions.

 The plaintiffs contend that their positions are similar to related positions in the Army and the Navy and that the decision of OPM was in error. "In reviewing a [OPM] determination that the employee's duties are in fact identical or similar in all significant respects to the duties of others at the sought position, the district courts are engaged in a limited judicial review, and their decisions are to be based on the agency record." Haneke v. Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, 175 U.S. App. D.C. 329, 337, 535 F.2d 1291, 1299 (1976) (citations omitted). The issue then is not whether the Court would have reached the same conclusion on the same facts, but rather, whether the administrative decision was arbitrary, capricious, or ...

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