A merit salary adjustment (MSA) is typically a one-step (5 percent) salary increase, not to exceed the salary range, for an employee meeting their position’s required standards of efficiency. The employee should meet normal expectations and efficiencies for employees with equal experience.

The new salary rate is effective on the first of the next monthly pay period following completion of:

  1. Twelve months of qualifying service or completion of 1,920 hours (for intermittent employees) after their:
    • appointment; or
    • last merit salary adjustment; or
    • last special in-grade salary adjustment (SISA); or
    • movement between classes which resulted in a salary increase of one or more steps; or
  2. The number of months of qualifying service as provided by California Department of Human Resources (CalHR) after movement between classes, which resulted in a salary increase of less than one-step.

MSA Approval/Denial Process

Supervisors and Attendance Clerks receive an Activity Based Management System (ABMS) email alert stating a MSA or SISA review is due for their employee. It is important to ensure the Project Accounting and Leave (PAL) reflects the correct supervisor or the alerts could be misdirected. These alerts generate approximately two months before an employee’s anniversary date and have a Supervisor Certification of Salary Adjustment (DGS OHR 609) form attached for convenience.

MSA approvals require a Supervisor Certification of Salary Adjustment form (DGS OHR 609) indicating the employee has met the quality and quantity of experience the position requires. The Supervisor will return the approved DGS OHR 609 form to the Personnel Specialist (PS) by the end of the month preceding the salary increase effective date.

Pursuant to CalHR Rule 599.684, when employees have not met the standards of efficiency required for the position, their supervisor shall deny the employee’s MSA.

The Supervisor must:

  1. Consult with their Classification and Pay (C&P) analyst regarding the denial and supporting documentation.
  2. Notify the employee of the denial, in writing, no less than ten days before the salary adjustment effective date. The denial must include evidence to substantiate why the employee has not met the standards or has a poor work product. Attach the notification to the DGS OHR 609 and document the date the employee was notified.
  3. Indicate the employee does not meet the level of quality and quantity expected for the position on the DGS OHR 609. Specify when the MSA will be reconsidered, if applicable. (No less than three months.)
  4. Submit the DGS OHR 609 and substantiation to the PS for processing.
  5. If the employee’s performance improves after the subsequent review, submit a DGS OHR 609 to the PS indicating approval.

Supervisors should consult their C&P analyst regarding extending a MSA effective date if an employee’s inability to meet the standards of efficiency was due to a permanent or temporary separation. A copy of the memo notifying the employee and the reason for the extension must be submitted to the PS.

Note: Employees on permanent or temporary disability shall have the time counted towards their MSAs and SISAs.

Employees on an approved workers' compensation claim for over a year continue to receive MSAs as though they were still working. MSA denials are only applicable for attendance or performance issues before or after an approved workers' compensation claim.

A MSA qualifying pay period is any pay period where an employee, except for intermittent employees, is paid for 11 or more days.

However, unpaid absences for more than 11 days that run from the end of one qualifying pay period into another qualifying pay period shall disqualify the second pay period.

Employees may appeal within ten days, after receiving the denial, by following their bargaining unit grievance procedure. The employee may appeal to CalHR within fifteen days after having exhausted the departmental remedy, as outlined above.

The ability to grant/deny a MSA to a limited-term employee, with no prior civil service, is at the appointing power’s discretion (CalHR Rule 599.682, GC section 19836).


Responsible Control Agency

  • California Department of Human Resources

Laws and Regulations

  • Government Code section 19832, 19834, 19835, 19836, 19888, 19991.4
  • CalHR Rule 599.608, 599.682-599.684, 599.687, 599.689

Other Resource Materials


Personnel Transactions Unit

Department of General Services
Office of Human Resources

707 3rd Street, 7th Floor
West Sacramento, CA 95605
Contact your assigned Personnel Specialist.