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Linda Love  
#1 Posted : Tuesday, January 28, 2020 6:12:13 PM(UTC)
Linda Love

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I have over 30 years of experience in the legal field and took a hiatus from it to attend culinary school and work for a few years, but the pay was so low, I had no choice, but to return to the legal field. I have my diploma for Legal Secretary & Business Management/Supervision diplomas from accredited colleges. Legal Secretary/Paralegal for 30 years and 20 years as a manager/supervisor. Without tipping my hat, I am very good at my job and still love what I do.

I was offered the job, but as a GS-7, Step One. I asked the HR Officer why the pay was so low and she said "everyone who starts work for the government, must start at Step One. I kept her on the phone for about 45 minutes, telling her I provided my salary history and they even waived the waiting period because they wanted me to start right away. This was over 3 years ago and I've never let it go. Every few weeks I inquire about it and finally received a promotion to GS-8, Step Three, but it is still very low compared to what I made as a civilian. This HR Officer said she went by my sous chef's salary and not my legal secretary's salary, which makes no sense at all. I didn't apply for a cook's job. She also told me the CFR 5 states that the government will only take your last salary. Yes, as a legal secretary, not the cook's salary. That's apples and oranges. I qualified for the job, but you are paying me a cook's wages. Assistants in the office far less experienced than me are making almost 1.5x more than me. The promotion to GS-8, Step 3 was because I was on the verge of leaving. It is also based on an erroneous base salary.

I have filed a formal inquiry with Washington requesting regulations that state they must disregard my legal secretary's salary and go with the cook's because it was the most recent. Nonsensical in my book.

Any takers on this?
Endless Summer  
#2 Posted : Tuesday, January 28, 2020 6:58:52 PM(UTC)
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Originally Posted by: Linda Love Go to Quoted Post
I have over 30 years of experience in the legal field and took a hiatus from it to attend culinary school and work for a few years, but the pay was so low, I had no choice, but to return to the legal field. I have my diploma for Legal Secretary & Business Management/Supervision diplomas from accredited colleges. Legal Secretary/Paralegal for 30 years and 20 years as a manager/supervisor. Without tipping my hat, I am very good at my job and still love what I do.

I was offered the job, but as a GS-7, Step One. I asked the HR Officer why the pay was so low and she said "everyone who starts work for the government, must start at Step One. I kept her on the phone for about 45 minutes, telling her I provided my salary history and they even waived the waiting period because they wanted me to start right away. This was over 3 years ago and I've never let it go. Every few weeks I inquire about it and finally received a promotion to GS-8, Step Three, but it is still very low compared to what I made as a civilian. This HR Officer said she went by my sous chef's salary and not my legal secretary's salary, which makes no sense at all. I didn't apply for a cook's job. She also told me the CFR 5 states that the government will only take your last salary. Yes, as a legal secretary, not the cook's salary. That's apples and oranges. I qualified for the job, but you are paying me a cook's wages. Assistants in the office far less experienced than me are making almost 1.5x more than me. The promotion to GS-8, Step 3 was because I was on the verge of leaving. It is also based on an erroneous base salary.

I have filed a formal inquiry with Washington requesting regulations that state they must disregard my legal secretary's salary and go with the cook's because it was the most recent. Nonsensical in my book.

Any takers on this?


How was the job posted, did they set a range of GS levels? If the posting was for a GS7 slot, you don't have too much to lean on. Unfortunately, they will fall back on the defense that they made you an offer, and you accepted it.

Now that you are a fed you can apply for other jobs open to current feds, using your background and education.
Linda Love  
#3 Posted : Tuesday, January 28, 2020 9:07:35 PM(UTC)
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I understood the grade and salary range. I also believed the HR Officer that "everyone starts at Step One". This is certainly NOT true. Why pay me a cook's salary when I'm a Legal Assistant? Makes no sense.

Edited by user Tuesday, January 28, 2020 9:09:56 PM(UTC)  | Reason: Editing Nut!

ex-military  
#4 Posted : Wednesday, January 29, 2020 4:30:20 AM(UTC)
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1. Its been three years. At this point you are out of luck.
2. They made an offer, you accepted. At this point you are out of luck.
3. Many feds are underpaid compared to civilian counterparts. Its a trade-off we accept. At this point, you are out of luck.
frankgonzalez  
#5 Posted : Wednesday, January 29, 2020 5:16:35 AM(UTC)
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Originally Posted by: Linda Love Go to Quoted Post
I understood the grade and salary range. I also believed the HR Officer that "everyone starts at Step One". This is certainly NOT true. Why pay me a cook's salary when I'm a Legal Assistant? Makes no sense.
Let's see..
If I was making $180k a year as a Mediator for 30 years, then was unemployed for 2 years, so I took a job making $25k a year so I can pay bills and not starve. Been there for a year. Then, I apply to a federal position as a mediator..I should expect them to come close to my previous salary as a mediator?

Nope. The reality is you no longer wanted to be a cook, and wanted to get back into a more lucrative field with benefits. The issue is you could have said "I accept the tentative offer with a counter of GS-7 step 10 as that is closer to my salary as a paralegal." They could have still said "Sorry, we start everyone at step 1 unless they are coming from another federal position." You could have declined the offer. You didn't, and now have buyer's remorse. And some agencies (or subcomponents) do not negotiate on starting grade. At the lower grades there is enough competition, that if you say "no, thank you" to the offer, there is at least a dozen equally capable and qualified people right behind you. Get to the GS11 and up level...different story.

You have supervisors who have employees who due to being a high step can be making more than they are. (ie a GS11 step 7 and above makes more than a GS12 step 1. If the GS11 is at step 10, it would take that GS12 3 full years before they make more.

If you want a higher paying position, apply to a higher graded position. And you want to get away from the single grade increment positions (ie the ones that go 5-6-7-8-9-10-11) to the 2 grade increment series (ie 5-7-9-11-12-13) if you really want to progress a little more quickly. All series become single grade increment after GS11. Not all series require a degree to get into and be successful, so don't say that is holding you back. Heck, find a way to combine both your differing careers into one. Health and Safety perhaps? Quality control? Ask for suggestions where some legal background (especially research...most of the paralegals I know are research experts with Lexis, etc) and food prep, etc. would be useful to be successful.

You do know we also have kitchens in the federal government (though most are filled with contractors), that need people to run them (and those that are managed by contractors, need a COR who is a civil servant). having some knowledge of food prep and cooking and speaking legalese may be an advantage for an applicant to those positions.

You should have voted Cthulu...the greatest of all Evils
Linda Love  
#6 Posted : Wednesday, January 29, 2020 6:30:09 PM(UTC)
Linda Love

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I understand your point and partially agree with it. The problem is, I did not wait 3 years to confront the issue with HR. This has been an ongoing battle up to date. This is due to a male, who was a contractor when I began working there, became a federal employee the following year, has 1/4 of my experience, yet was paid $15,000 more than me. That contradicted what the HR Officer told me during my employment offer. I was never given the chance to negotiate my salary and was told everyone comes in at step one. But, it is not true.

Even during the government shut-down, I exchanged emails with HR about my rate of pay and was told by HR that Washington was going to say no. Because I was going to quit last year, I was promoted GS-8, Step 3. I recently applied to the career-ladder position of Supervising Legal Assistant 9-11. I have the credentials and experience. I must render a negative to your statement that my job is teaming with potential candidates willing to take my place. The problem is, there is a severe shortage of qualified Legal Assistant or the pay is not equivalent to the private sector. They've tried hiring many times in the past years, and no seems to pass the background check or so I'm told.

In any case, I will not let it rest nor do I see myself allowing this disparity to continue. I just a fair wage. I qualified for it, didn't I? They waived the waiting period for me. Where is the regulation that states that this is the hiring policy. Three years may have come and gone, but during that three years, I kept my head high and continued to address it. I will not let this go, until I prevail.

Edited by user Wednesday, January 29, 2020 6:43:06 PM(UTC)  | Reason: Not specified

ex-military  
#7 Posted : Thursday, January 30, 2020 4:43:27 AM(UTC)
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You can try to fight this all the way to retirement, you will not win this battle. They made you an offer and, right or wrong, you accepted the offer as made. Your time to negotiate salary was before you came on board. You WERE given the opportunity to negotiate, and you accepted what was offered. I agree you were given bad information, but that doesn't change anything.

The government pay structure is very rigid and rules based. Very few exceptions are made for anything, and if these aren't handled correctly at the time, recourse after the fact is basically non-existent. If the pay was such an issue, why did you apply for a govt job? Why not go back into the private sector legal world?

It has been three years and you have already been promoted once. Whether you want to admit it or not, this horse is dead. You might as well stop beating on it.
Linda Love  
#8 Posted : Thursday, January 30, 2020 4:57:09 AM(UTC)
Linda Love

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I was NOT given the opportunity to negotiate. Please read my posts correctly. This salary inquiry has been continuous the entire 3 years.

I said when I received the telephone call with the offer of employment, I questioned why the pay was so low and she said "everyone starts at step one". I also stated that I kept her on the phone for 45 minutes, telling her about my salary history and about how I submitted my letters of recommendation and my scholastic accreditations, coupled with my experience. It would have been fine, but she paid a male contractor the following year who has far less experience than I do, $15,000 more to start. She did not give me a fair chance. I did not know I could have negotiated. My only experience in federal government was as a soldier in the Army.

So please don't tell me I accepted something right or wrong. I was given erroneous information and I relied on it as fact/policy/mandatory practice. I know NOW that I could have negotiated the salary. Even when I received my promotion, this woman tried to cheat me by removing one step from my grade increase. I had to enlist the Chief for assistance to ensure I received my full 3-steps. The HR Officer has a history of short-changing government employees. I know because I did an inquiry.

At my last meeting with the Chief, he told me the decision had been discretionary. Discretionary is not mandatory and is not policy. He also said as a result of my inquiry, because it has happened to a number of people, the HR Officer will no longer handle salary negotiations. Everything will be done by the executive office in Washington, D.C. What does that tell you? I'm saying the same thing to you that I said to the Chief, "That means there is a flaw in the system". The Chief said he will re-submit my packet to Washington. It may not mean I'll get it, but I'm fine because I do love my job and the people I am blessed to work with. Thank you for your input, but know this, I am not a quitter and, at least by my efforts, I did make some type of impact.

SIDE NOTE: It never ceases to amaze me why people WILL short-change others as if it were coming out of their own pockets, without regard for their financial welfare.

Edited by user Thursday, January 30, 2020 5:14:59 AM(UTC)  | Reason: Because I'm an editing nut!

DaVinci95  
#9 Posted : Thursday, January 30, 2020 6:14:12 AM(UTC)
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Originally Posted by: Linda Love Go to Quoted Post
I was NOT given the opportunity to negotiate. Please read my posts correctly. This salary inquiry has been continuous the entire 3 years.

I said when I received the telephone call with the offer of employment, I questioned why the pay was so low and she said "everyone starts at step one". I also stated that I kept her on the phone for 45 minutes, telling her about my salary history and about how I submitted my letters of recommendation and my scholastic accreditations, coupled with my experience. It would have been fine, but she paid a male contractor the following year who has far less experience than I do, $15,000 more to start. She did not give me a fair chance. I did not know I could have negotiated. My only experience in federal government was as a soldier in the Army.

So please don't tell me I accepted something right or wrong. I was given erroneous information and I relied on it as fact/policy/mandatory practice. I know NOW that I could have negotiated the salary. Even when I received my promotion, this woman tried to cheat me by removing one step from my grade increase. I had to enlist the Chief for assistance to ensure I received my full 3-steps. The HR Officer has a history of short-changing government employees. I know because I did an inquiry.

At my last meeting with the Chief, he told me the decision had been discretionary. Discretionary is not mandatory and is not policy. He also said as a result of my inquiry, because it has happened to a number of people, the HR Officer will no longer handle salary negotiations. Everything will be done by the executive office in Washington, D.C. What does that tell you? I'm saying the same thing to you that I said to the Chief, "That means there is a flaw in the system". The Chief said he will re-submit my packet to Washington. It may not mean I'll get it, but I'm fine because I do love my job and the people I am blessed to work with. Thank you for your input, but know this, I am not a quitter and, at least by my efforts, I did make some type of impact.

SIDE NOTE: It never ceases to amaze me why people WILL short-change others as if it were coming out of their own pockets, without regard for their financial welfare.


It sucks that the HR person you were dealing with was shady, but the bottom line is that the agency made you an offer and you accepted it. There was a negotiation. You said the salary is too low. They said too bad, that's what we're offering. And you accepted it. The agency could have offered you a higher starting salary based on your previous experience, but it wasn't required to. If the offer didn't meet your needs, you could have declined it and kept looking.

It's good that management is trying to rectify it, both with the promotion and with resubmitting your packet to DC. They must value you as an employee. Your best bet for higher pay is still applying for higher grade jobs. Good luck!
FS0201  
#10 Posted : Thursday, January 30, 2020 5:26:28 PM(UTC)
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Claim of relying on erroneous information or guidance is not sufficient. While there may not have been an agency-wide policy of offering step 1, it could have been specific to the person making the offer.

You accepted, you could have continued as a cook. Nothing wrong with accepting, but it was a choice.

Since you seem intent on beating this horse, you should also try to get credit for all of your private sector experience. You could have started with 8 hours of leave accrual if you had negotiated that.

https://www.opm.gov/poli...n-the-uniformed-service/

Edited by user Thursday, January 30, 2020 5:28:14 PM(UTC)  | Reason: Not specified

The excuse of, "I read it on FederalSoup..." won't work. Please do your due diligence.
thanks 1 user thanked FS0201 for this useful post.
frankgonzalez on 1/31/2020(UTC)
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