SF 50 Codes (Nature of Action & Legal Authority)

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While it is true we could not have come up with a more boring title for this article, we frequently field questions concerning the SF-50 Notification of Personnel Action, and more specifically, the enigmatic Nature of Action and Legal Authority codes used in blocks five and six under the heading First Action.  Many employees are often concerned the Nature of Action Code secretly conveys negative aspects of an employee’s work performance or conduct while others simply have no idea what it is and don’t really care.  The fact is these codes say and mean a lot; however, there are no secrets.


The completion of the SF-50 and associated workflow is heavily regulated by both your agency and the Office of Personnel Management (OPM); particularly by OPM, since they are the controlling and final authority for any documents placed in your Official Personnel Folder (OPF). Both the Nature of Action Code and the Legal Authority are strictly prescribed by OPM as outlined in it’s Guide to Processing Personnel Actions (GPPA).  Some agencies may “convert” proprietary agency codes back and forth, but the final product will always be in accordance with OPM regulations and guidelines.

The Bottom Line on SF-50 Codes

Any employee can lookup the codes and legal authority contained in any SF-50 and clearly see what it indicates.  For example, if you are separated for reasons other than retirement, you would simply go to the OPM Guide to Processing Personnel Actions and view Chapter 31, Separations by Other than Retirement.You will find explanatory information as well as a set of tables.  The tables will contain rules, NOAC codes, Authority Codes, and Legal Authority for various situations.  Match up your situation to the information and your SF-50 should reflect your determination.

SIDEBAR:  There may be instances in which your determination does not match how the agency documented your SF-50.  This could be for a variety of reasons.  For example, you may wrongly interpret your initial type of appointment which could effect a legal authority.  You may believe you, for example, resigned under a certain set of circumstances whereas the agency believes otherwise,  Or, the agency could simply be wrong.

Situations Requiring Greater Scrutiny

Special attention to the SF-50 should always be made as a wrongly coded SF-50 could affect you far into the future and are extremely difficult to correct as time goes on.  However, there are certain situations that, without question, require very close scrutiny as the situation is developing.  These situations include,

  • Resignations during probationary period when probationary termination was mentioned
  • Resignations made prior to a notice of proposed disciplinary or adverse action
  • Probationary period terminations
  • Resignations made after receiving a notice of proposed disciplinary or adverse action
  • Resignations made subsequent to a request for reasonable accommodation
  • Conversion from excepted appointment to competitive status
  • Reinstatement
  • Cancellation of prior removal actions
  • SF-50 coding required subsequent to some type of settlement agreement
  • Resignations made in exchange for a “clean slate” or “clean” SF-50

If you are in a situation in which you find yourself concerned about the accuracy of your SF-50, InformedFED provides a service in which our consultants will review your SF-50 for a $100 flat rate fee and provide the following:

  • Review the SF-50
  • Research the OPM GPPA and apply research to your situation
  • Based on information you provide and in conjunction with the SF-50, determine whether the SF-50 is accurate
  • Advise you as to the accuracy and provide recommendations in seeking correction if applicable

If you are interested in this special service, you may contact a consultant by clicking here.


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