How to pursue an upgrade

What is an upgrade?

An upgrade is the action to advance employee from their present grade level to a higher level. Simple as that.

But the confusion begins if you ask, "When is management required to give me an upgrade?" There are two different answers for the question depending on the situation.

Challenges in regard to Grade Level

Article 22 of the contracts provides that employees should be properly classified, this includes grade level.

22.5(e) Tech Contract / 22.5(d) Prof & WEU Contracts / 22.3 WTPU Contract

Challenges Concerning Individual Employee's Job Family, Level, or SMC. An individual employee may request a review of his or her job classification or level based on the contention the work assigned by the Company differs from the job classification or skills management code to the extent and in such a manner as to warrant reclassifying the employee to a different existing job classification or skills management code.

Frequently, there is confusion by managers and employees in addressing a level upgrade. Simply put, if you are doing the work already, management has an obligation to change your level accordingly. If you are not doing the work, but qualified, management has the option of granting you a promotion.

Some other considerations:


The Employee Classification Worksheet (ECW) is an important document in identifying an employee's actual duties, the level of those duties, and the percentage of the time they are performed. The supervisor is the one who submits the form to the Skill Team. However, you can provide your supervisor with a rough draft of the form and make your own assessment. This will give both of you something to discuss prior to submitting the form to the Skill Team.


The Supervisor is a key player. Unfortunately, if your Supervisor does not agree that you are performing at the higher level more than 50% of the time, the Skill Team will not agree to an upgrade based on proper classification. However, your supervisor can request an upgrade based on your ability to work at the higher level.


In some cases, management has assigned lower level duties to individuals. It's important to keep that in mind when developing your assessment of duties. In other words, just because you are doing the identical work of someone who is a Level 3, does not mean the work is Level 3. Take a look at the level guide for your job classification or skill code to determine whether your duties meet the criteria for a higher level.


With ongoing layoffs there have been fewer promotions as various organizations struggle to utilize employees at their current level and maximum potential. However, if an employee is performing at the higher level, the Company is obligated contractually to classify them appropriately.

The process for challenging proper classification is an "appeal" rather than a grievance. Again, the supervisor is the key player, if their assessment is that the employee is performing at the higher level more than 50% of the time, there is a strong likelihood you will be successful upon appeal. However, if the supervisor is not in agreement, it is unlikely that the appeal will succeed.

Overview of the Salaried Job Classification (SJC)

Under the Salaried Job Classification, each employee's job classification is comprised of an Occupation, a Job Family and a Level of responsibility within that particular Occupation and Job Family. Additionally, employees are assigned a Skills Management Code (SMC) that is used by workforce management for redeployment purposes.

The Occupation represents the broadest description of the work performed.

The Job Family is indicative of how the work is organized.

Levels of responsibility further delineate the Job Family. An individual's level is determined with the help of the Responsibility Guide established for each Job Family. These guidelines are used jointly by the employee and his/her manager to determine the appropriate current level for the employee. It is also used to develop opportunities for changes in the future.

The Upgrade Process

An employee's manager alone does not have authority to grant an upgrade.

Managers represent their employees within a Skill Team. The Skill Teams are comprised of managers of employees in a particular job classification within a particular geographic region. The Skill Team's decisions are final unless the grievance process is invoked. Managers' duties and responsibilities include discussions about upgrades with their employees.

SPEEA represented employees have the responsibility to provide their manager with all the necessary and available information to insure the manager can represent them adequately in the Skill Team. This is of particular significance when a manager is attempting to get an employee an upgrade.

How do I pursue an upgrade?

The Company assumes you are classified in the appropriate Occupation, Job Family, and SMC. If this is not correct, upgrading to the next level could be impossible.

It is up to you to make the case for an upgrade.

1) Make an appointment to discuss your SJC classification with your manager. Gather and organize all appropriate data prior to the meeting.

2) Talk with your manager regarding your job responsibilities. It doesn't do you any good if you are the only one who knows that you are performing at a level higher than you are currently rated. Performance Management is an excellent vehicle for these discussions, not to mention that it is required per the Collective Bargaining Agreements. Additional information should be documented using the Employee Classification Worksheets (ECWs) available online at (Attachment 4 of the conversion handbook), or downloadable from the SPEEA site here.

3) Attempt to understand your manager's assessment of your level. Ask your manager to explain their reasoning for placing you in your assigned level. Ask them to cite examples of actual work performed rather than feelings or perceptions.

4) Explain your assessment of an appropriate level. Reference the Responsibility Guidelines and give specific examples. Present applicable evidence (e.g. Performance Management, ECW, etc.). Focus on examples of actual work performed rather than feelings or perceptions.

5) Have your manager review the Responsibility Guidelines for your Job Family. If you and your manager do not agree on the appropriate level, focus the discussion around the responsibility guidelines for the appropriate Job Family. Make sure that he or she is aware of what it is you actually do for a majority of your time and the responsibilities associated with those tasks. Make notes during these discussions to determine what it is that your manager is disputing. Not only will this aid you in understanding the differences in interpretation of the responsibility guidelines, giving you insight on what to focus on in the future; it can also prove valuable if an appeal or grievance is later pursued. As a minimum, you should end these discussions with a clear understanding of the differences of interpretation and have specific examples illustrating these differences.

What can I expect out of the meeting?

There are three possible outcomes from the meeting with your manager:

1) You and your manager agree that you are properly classified and you have a clear understanding of what it will take to obtain an upgrade in the future.

2) You and your manager agree that an upgrade is in order, either immediately or with a little more data collection. If this is the case, you should be prepared to work with your manager to assure that he or she has the appropriate data to convince the Skill Team of the need for an upgrade. The ECW is very helpful in this regard.

3) You and your manager cannot agree on the appropriate level, but you now have an understanding of the basis by which your manager is evaluating your efforts. In some instances, employees and their managers will disagree on the appropriate level for the employee. In other situations, the Skill Team will decline an upgrade despite a manager's efforts to the contrary. In either case, SPEEA represented individuals have the ability to pursue an appeal or a grievance for an upgrade.

Upgrade Checklist:

The following are very helpful for pursuing an upgrade:


Copy of Responsibility Guide for the particular SJC Job Family.


Performance Management Define and at least Interim Review or some other documentation substantiating assigned responsibilities.


Employee Classification Worksheet (ECW) with detailed information relative to the employee's day-to-day responsibilities (e.g., what the employee does the majority of the time). This should be compiled over a significant period of time to adequately capture the overall responsibility level.


With ongoing layoffs there have been fewer promotions as various organizations struggle to utilize employees at their current level and maximum potential. However, if an employee is performing at the higher level, the Company is obligated contractually to classify them appropriately.


Awards and other indications of continuing success at the higher responsibility level.

If you decide an appeal is warranted,
contact your SPEEA Council Representative.

Look up your representative at:
Council Rep lookup