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​Frequently Asked Questions: Exemptions of Professionals from the State Personnel System  

1. What does it mean to be exempt from the state personnel system?

Certain positions are included in the class of employees called Officer and Exempt Professionals (OEP) or university staff, which are eligible under the Colorado exemption statute (C.R.S. 24-50-135) to be exempted from the rules, procedures and regulations that govern the state of Colorado personnel system (or classified system). OEP positions are not governed by the State of Colorado Personnel Board Rules and Personnel Director’s Administrative Procedures. OEP/university staff positions are subject to all other applicable federal and state law and regulations, as well as laws and policies set forth by the University of Colorado Board of Regents and other University and Boulder campus policies.  

2. What in the exemption statute (C.R.S. 24-50-135) regarding professional positions changed as of August 11, 2011?

The previous statutory language caused confusion for higher education institutions across the State, so in an effort to simplify and clarify the statute, the new language clarifies that all professional positions in higher education shall be exempt from the state personnel system. This means that as new professional positions are created or become vacant, they must be exempted from the state personnel system. 

3. What is the definition of “professional” pursuant to the statute?

Positions are  “professional” if they involve “the exercise of discretion, analytical skill, judgment, personal accountability and responsibility for creating, developing, integrating, applying, or sharing an organized body of knowledge that characteristically is:  (a) acquired through education or training that meets the requirements of a bachelor's or higher degree, or equivalent specialized experience; and (b) continuously studied to explore, extend, and use additional discoveries, interpretations, and application and to improve data, materials, equipment, applications, and methods.” 

4. How can I find out if a position is eligible for exemption pursuant to the professional definition?

The easiest way to find out if a position is eligible is to review the Classified Professional Titles document on the HR website. This is a list of classified job titles on the Boulder campus that have been determined to meet the professional definition.  

5. What if a job class is not on the list?

If a job class title is not on the list, it is probably not eligible for exemption under the definition of “professional.”  However HR is responsible for determining which positions shall be exempt under the statute and will review all position descriptions on a case-by-case basis to make this determination. 

6. Will I be eligible for overtime if I accept an OEP/university staff position?

It depends on the position. HR is responsible for reviewing each individual position for overtime eligibility pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act. While many OEP/university staff positions are exempt from overtime, there are also positions that based on the job responsibilities, salary level or pay status are required to be eligible for overtime. The determination is made at the time of position review and approval. It should NOT be assumed that all OEP/university staff positions will be exempt from overtime. 

7. What are the differences between OEP/university staff and classified staff?

For a complete chart comparing these two employment groups, please review the Classified/OEP Comparison Chart.  

8. Do I have to change from a classified to an OEP/university staff position if my position is professional?

Absolutely not. Current classified employees are not required to transfer to an OEP position even if their positions now meet the exemption criteria.  

9. What should I do if I want to transfer from a classified position to an OEP/university staff position?

You should discuss your interest with your supervisor/appointing authority. If you wish to transfer to an OEP/university staff position pursuant to the clarified professional criteria, a new position description must be developed and submitted to HR for review pursuant to all current processes. If you have questions, the OEP Process Guide provides the necessary information pertaining to creating or updating OEP/university staff positions. 

10. Will I need a background check?

In accordance with the campus procedure “Background Checks for Applicants for Employment,” current employees who transfer or promote require a criminal history background check UNLESS they are transferring/promoting into a non-security sensitive position and have had a background check within the past three years. 

11. Will I get a salary increase if I transfer from a classified to an OEP/university staff position?

Probably not.  However, if the position responsibilities of the new OEP/university staff position to which you transfer or promote support a higher salary within the approved range, your department may increase your salary accordingly but is not required to do so. 

12. How is the salary range for OEP/university staff positions determined? Is there a list of job titles and salary ranges?

At the time a new OEP/university staff position is created, HR conducts a comprehensive salary review of comparable positions in the relevant job market (both internal and external) to identify an appropriate salary range. This review is done on a position-by-position basis. As a result, there is not a list of OEP/university staff job titles with corresponding salary ranges. To review the current list of OEP/university staff job titles, see the OEP page of the HR webiste. 

13. How do annual salary increases work for OEP/university staff positions?

Compensation for officers and exempt professionals is reviewed each year and is based on performance and available budget. Any adjustment to salary will be recommended by the dean or department head and approved by the appropriate campus senior officer and the Chancellor, typically on July 1st each year. For additional information on salaries for OEP/university staff positions, refer to the OEP Salaries web page. 

14. If I transfer to an OEP/university staff position will I be eligible for a salary increase if there is one?

It depends.  If hired into an OEP/university staff position between July 1 and January 31, your compensation will be reviewed during the annual merit and performance management process.  If merit increases are approved, you would be included in that year's salary adjustment cycle.  If hired into an OEP/university staff position between February 1 and June 30, you will not be eligible for a salary increase during that year's salary adjustment review cycle.  However, you would be eligible during the next year's review cycle, as well as all subsequent years. 

15. Can I stay in PERA? Do I have to stay in PERA?

Employees currently in PERA may stay in PERA. When an employee decides to transfer to an OEP/university staff position, there may be a one-time opportunity to leave PERA and participate in the University’s Optional Retirement Plan (ORP) if the employee has not already made this one-time election.  Please contact Employee Services regarding questions about PERA impacts from transferring or promoting from a classified to an OEP/university staff position. 

16. What about the impact on my other benefits if I transfer to an OEP/university staff position?

Please contact Employee Services regarding questions about the benefits impacts from transferring or promoting from a classified to an OEP/university staff position. 

17. Will my current leave balances transfer?

All leave balances will be transferred. Any vacation (annual) leave above the OEP/university staff accrual maximum will be forfeited the following July 1st. Please refer to the Boulder campus Leave Guidelines for University Staff, Section 3 on “Leave Balances when Terminating or Transferring” between classified and OEP employment groups for more information. 

18. I’ve heard that OEP/university staff employees are “at-will.”  What does this mean?

At-will employment is an employment relationship where either party can terminate the employment for any reason. Unlike the classified system, there is no job protection nor are there any retention rights. However, any OEP/university staff termination must be approved by the Chancellor.  

19. If I accept an OEP/university staff position and don’t like it, can I go back to a classified position?

If you choose to transfer to a new OEP/university staff position pursuant to the exemption criteria, you have no right to be transferred back into a classified position, even if one is vacant.  However, you always have the option of applying for other positions in the classified system, whether you hold a classified position or not.  Further, you are eligible to reinstate to any classified positions in which you were previously certified. 

20. Can I get a promotion to an OEP/university staff position?

Yes, like in any position, if your position changes significantly and reflects higher level responsibilities, it is possible that the position title and/or salary may change. HR review and approval is required. You may also apply for other OEP positions that could result in a promotion. 

21. Will I be promoted if I remain classified and don’t transfer into an OEP/university staff position? For example, if I’m in a General Professional I position, can I be promoted to General Professional II?

Yes, the reallocation will be processed in the classified system pursuant to standard processes.  

22. Do I have to have a bachelor’s degree to qualify for an OEP/university staff position?

Not necessarily, but the position must meet the definition of “professional” as outlined in the exemption statute. The statute states that equivalent specialized experience may substitute for education attainment or training that meets the requirements of a bachelor's or higher degree. HR, in collaboration with appointing authorities, determines the minimum requirements at the time an OEP/university staff position is created. The decision whether to allow a degree substitution will be made prior to any recruitment. Refer to question 3 above for the definition of “professional.”