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Order
Subject
FHWA Personnel Management Manual; Part 1: Personnel Systems & Procedures, Chapter 3: Assignment and Utilization of Employees, Section 6: Reduction in Force
Classification Code Date
M3000.1C April 15, 2004  

Par.

  1. What is the purpose of this section?
  2. Does this directive cancel an existing FHWA directive?
  3. What are the pertinent references regarding RIF?
  4. What are the definitions of key terms used in this section?
  5. What preliminary procedures must be completed in conducting a RIF?
  6. What are the competitive areas in the FHWA?
  7. How are retention registers prepared?
  8. What are employees' assignment rights?
  9. How are ties broken?
  10. What notices are provided to employees in a RIF situation?
  11. What grade and pay retention benefits are available to employees impacted by RIF?
  12. What severance pay is a separated employee entitled to?
  13. What placement assistance is available for displaced or surplus employees?
  14. What appeal rights does an employee have who is affected by a RIF?

 

  1. What is the purpose of this section? This section revises the Federal Highway Administration's (FHWA's) procedures for conducting a Reduction in Force (RIF). This section must be used in conjunction with the documents listed in paragraph 3.

  2. Does this directive cancel an existing FHWA directive? Yes. This directive cancels FHWA Personnel Management Manual (PMM) Chapter 3, Assignment and Utilization of Employees, Section 6, Reduction in Force, dated May 4, 1998.

  3. What are the pertinent references regarding RIF?

    1. Title 5, U. S. Code (U.S.C.), Section 3502.

    2. Title 5, U.S.C., Section 5364.

    3. Title 5, Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Part 351, Reduction in Force.

    4. Title 5, CFR, Part 536, Grade and Pay Retention.

    5. Title 5, CFR, Part 550, Pay Administration.

    6. Title 5, CFR, Part 330, Subparts B, F, and G.

    7. Title 5, CFR, Part 630, Absence and Leave.

    8. Title 5, CFR, Parts 1200 and 1201, Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB).

    9. Departmental Personnel Manual (DPM) Letter No. 351-4, dated October 22, 1998, Reduction In Force, as amended, supplemented, or superseded.

    10. DPM Letter No 330-9, dated September 8, 1997, Mandatory Placement Programs for Displaced and Surplus Employees, as amended, supplemented, or superseded.

    11. DPM Letter No.300-22, dated September 8, 1997, DOT Career Transition Program (Revised), as amended, supplemented, or superseded.

    12. FHWA Career/Interagency Transition Assistance Plan, dated January 13, 2004, as amended, supplemented, or superseded.

  4. What are the definitions of key terms used in this section?

    1. Adjusted service computation date. This is the date that reflects an employee's total creditable Federal civilian and military service with additional service credit for the three most recent annual performance ratings of record received during the four-year period prior to the date of issuance of a specific RIF notice. If the annual performance rating of record is based on five factor rating levels, Outstanding ratings (or the equivalent) are credited with twenty additional years of service; Exceptional ratings (or the equivalent) are credited with sixteen additional years of service; and Fully Successful ratings are credited with twelve years of service. If the annual performance rating of record is based on three factor rating levels, Outstanding ratings are credited with twenty additional years of service, and "Meets or Exceeds Requirements" ratings are credited with twelve additional years of service. The additional years of service credit for performance are averaged, and they are added to the total creditable service to arrive at the adjusted service computation date. If there are less than three annual ratings of record within the four-year period prior to the date of issuing the specific RIF notice, one or more presumed rating(s) of "Meets or Exceeds Requirements" (equivalent to Fully Successful) will be credited with twelve years of additional service for each rating to produce a total of three annual ratings of record.

    2. Annual performance rating of record. This is an official performance rating under the FHWA performance appraisal system described in the PMM Chapter 5, Section 2.

    3. Available position. This is a position in the same competitive area that will last at least three months after the effective date of a RIF and which is occupied by an employee subject to displacement by the exercise of assignment rights ("bumping" and "retreating") by an employee with higher retention standing. The available position must be one that the released employee qualifies for and also be within the grade ranges specified in the definitions of "bump" and "retreat".

    4. Bump. This is an action to assign an employee from one competitive level to a position in another competitive level that is occupied by an employee in a lower tenure group or in a lower retention subgroup within the same competitive area. Bumping can be no more than three grades (or appropriate grade intervals or equivalent) below the position from which the employee was released.

    5. Competitive area. This is the geographic and organizational area within which employees compete during a RIF.

    6. Competitive level. This is a grouping of positions in the same grade (or occupational level) and classification series having the same characteristics in terms of qualification requirements, duties, responsibilities, pay schedules, and working conditions. These positions are sufficiently similar that an employee can successfully perform the duties of any other position upon entry into it, without any loss of productivity or undue interruption beyond what is normally expected in the orientation of any new but fully qualified employee. A single position may occupy a competitive level by itself. Separate competitive levels shall be established by: competitive or excepted service, appointment authority in the excepted service, pay schedules, work schedules, and trainee status.

    7. Displacement. This is the release of an employee from his/her competitive level caused by another employee with a higher retention standing.

    8. Furlough. For purposes in this section, a furlough is the placement of an employee in a temporary nonduty and nonpay status for more than thirty calendar days (or more than twenty-two workdays if done on a discontinuous basis), but not more than one year when the placement is based on RIF reasons.

    9. Local commuting area. This is a geographic area that is usually comprised of a population center (or two or more neighboring areas) and its surrounding localities in which people live and can be reasonably expected to travel back and forth daily to their normal duty station.

    10. Qualified. In order to be "qualified" for assignment to a position means that an employee meets Office of Personnel Management (OPM) standards and requirements for the position, including any education, experience (when appropriate), any selective factors established by the agency, physical (with reasonable accommodation), or other requirements. The employee must be able to satisfactorily perform the duties and responsibilities of the position upon entry into it without undue interruption to the work activity and without any loss of productivity beyond what is normally expected in the orientation of any new but fully qualified employee.

    11. Reduction in Force (RIF). This is the process through which an organization releases a competing employee from his/her competitive level by separation, furlough for more than thirty calendar days (or on a discontinuous basis for more than twenty-two workdays), demotion, or reassignment requiring displacement. This release is required by lack of work or funds, insufficient personnel ceiling, reorganization, reclassification due to erosion of duties when the action is effected after an agency has formally announced a RIF that will be effected within 180 calendar days, or the need to place a returning employee with reemployment or restoration rights.

    12. Retention register. This is a list of employees assigned to a single competitive level within a competitive area, and it is ranked by tenure group, subgroup, and adjusted service computation date.

    13. Retention standing. This is an employee's relative position on a retention register with respect to tenure group, subgroup, and adjusted service computation date.

    14. Retreat. This is an action to assign an employee to the same or an essentially identical position that the employee previously held in a Federal agency when the position is occupied by someone with lower retention standing in the same tenure group and subgroup. Retreating is limited to not more than three grades (or appropriate grade intervals or equivalent) below the position from which the employee was released, except that for a preference eligible employee with a compensable service-connected disability of thirty percent or more the limit is five grades (or appropriate grade intervals or equivalent).

    15. Screen. This is an action to release from a competitive level the employee with the least retention standing when a position in that competitive level is abolished.

    16. Service computation date. This is the date that reflects an employee's total creditable Federal civilian and military service.

    17. Subgroups. These are subdivisions of tenure groups. Subgroups include:

      (1) Subgroup AD that includes employees entitled to veterans' preference who have a compensable service connected disability of thirty percent or more.

      (2) Subgroup A that includes employees entitled to veterans' preference for RIF purposes, other than employees in Subgroup AD.

      (3) Subgroup B that includes employees not entitled to veterans' preference during RIF.

    18. Surplus employee. This is an employee who is likely to face displacement through anticipated RIF or internal reorganization/realignment to a different position.

    19. Tenure groups. These are groupings of employees based on type of appointment and civil service retention rights. There are two major categories of tenure groups, and each is further subdivided.

      (1) Competitive Service Tenure Groups.

      (a) Tenure Group I is composed of career employees who are not serving under initial probationary periods.

      (b) Tenure Group II is composed of career-conditional employees and career employees serving initial probationary periods.

      (c) Tenure Group III is composed of indefinite employees, employees serving under temporary appointments pending establishment of registers, employees serving under status quo or term appointments, and employees under any other non-status non-temporary appointments.

      (2) Excepted service tenure groups.

      (a) Tenure Group I is composed of permanent employees whose appointments do not contain a restriction or condition such as definite or indefinite, a specific time limitation, or a trial period.

      (b) Tenure Group II is composed of employees serving a trial period and whose tenure is equivalent to a career-conditional appointment in the competitive service.

      (c) Tenure Group III is composed of employees whose tenure is indefinite, whose appointment has a specific time limitation of more than one year, or who complete one year of current continuous service under a temporary appointment limited to one year.

  5. What preliminary procedures must be completed in conducting a RIF?

    1. Verifying records. Personnel records must be verified and updated, as needed, to ensure proper crediting of civilian and military service and the three most recent annual performance ratings of record (during the four year period prior to the date of issuance of a specific RIF notice) in determining the adjusted service computation dates. This is necessary for proper assignment of employees to competitive levels and determination of assignment rights during a RIF.

    2. Establishing competitive area, competitive levels, and retention registers. Establishment of competitive areas, competitive levels, and retention registers must be completed prior to identifying employees for release from their competitive levels because of job abolishment. If competitive areas are changed less than ninety calendar days prior to the effective date of a RIF, they must be approved by OPM.

    3. Freezing personnel actions. A freeze on personnel actions may be necessary to prevent the movement of employees from one competitive level or area to another during preparations for a RIF. Such movement could adversely affect the retention standing or assignment rights of the employees being moved or other employees.

    4. Identifying abolished positions. All positions to be abolished should be identified as soon as possible. Delay in identifying abolished positions results in delays in delivery of RIF notices, and thereby delays in effecting the RIF in a timely manner.

  6. What are the competitive areas in the FHWA?

    1. Basic competitive areas. The basic competitive area during a RIF in the FHWA will be the local commuting area of an employee's permanent duty station, within each of the basic organizational elements listed below. When two or more of these organizational elements are collocated in the same local commuting area, each one constitutes a separate competitive area. These basic organizational elements are: (1) the Washington Headquarters; (2) each Resource Center office location; (3) each Federal-aid division office; and (4) each Federal Lands Highway Division office.

    2. Exceptions. Exceptions to the local commuting areas as a competitive area within an organizational element are: (1) each foreign country constitutes a separate competitive area, as does each United States territory or possession; and (2) trainees in formal training programs (such as the Professional Development Program) who are on the rolls of, and administratively controlled by, the Career Entry and Student Outreach Programs Group are in a separate FHWA-wide competitive area.

  7. How are retention registers prepared? When it is necessary to prepare for a RIF in the FHWA, retention registers will be prepared for all competitive levels for all grade levels at or below the highest grade level involved in the RIF. These registers will be used to determine employee assignment rights. Employees are listed in retention order beginning with group I AD and ending with Group III B. Within each subgroup, employees are listed in order based on their adjusted service computation dates with the oldest (i.e., earliest) date listed first.

  8. What are employees' assignment rights? When a Group I or Group II employee in the competitive service is released from his/her competitive level, the employee is offered an available position (e.g., through bump or retreat) in another competitive level, if one exists. If no such position exists, the employee shall be separated. An employee who refuses to accept a position that is offered in accordance with his/her rights shall also be separated. Competing Group III employees in the competitive service are entitled to bump other employees in tenure group III. Competing excepted service employees in Groups I and II under Schedule A or Schedule B are entitled to assignment rights in the second round of competition (which consists of bump or retreat) similar to those that apply to competitive service employees, except that an eligible employee is entitled to bump or retreat only to an occupied position held by an employee appointed under the same authority.

  9. How are ties broken? When one or more, but not all, employees who have the same adjusted service date and who are in the same subgroup must be released from their competitive level, the tie will be broken at the discretion of the appropriate Associate Administrator, the Chief Counsel, the appropriate Director of Field Services, Resource Center Manager, Division Administrator, or Federal Lands Highway Division Engineer. This tie breaking will be based on consideration of factors such as: (a) which employee's position is most essential to the accomplishment of the mission of the organization, (b) which employee has the longest service in the FHWA, and (c) which employee is likely to do the best work in the continuing position.

  10. What notices are provided to employees in a RIF situation? Each employee selected for release from his/her competitive level under RIF procedures must receive a specific written notice at least 120 calendar days (excluding the day of delivery of the notice) before the effective date of release. A Saturday, Sunday, or a legal holiday may not be the effective date of the RIF action if it is the 120th day of the notice period. Exceptions may be made to the 120 day advance notification requirement to establish a shorter notice period only as a result of budget, full-time equivalent (FTE), legislative, or other circumstances outside of FHWA management's control. A notice period of less than sixty calendar days requires the prior approval of the Office of the Secretary, Department of Transportation (DOT), and the OPM. The specific RIF notice shall include a notification to employees of their right, where applicable, to elect to use annual leave and remain on the agency's rolls after the effective date the employee would otherwise have been separated in order to establish initial eligibility for immediate retirement and/or to acquire eligibility to continue health benefits into retirement. A Certification of Expected Separation (CES) may also be issued to employees if it is found that the employee would likely to be separated within six months by RIF. The CES allows employees to register early for internal and external outplacement assistance.

  11. What grade and pay retention benefits are available to employees impacted by RIF? Employees who are placed in a lower graded position as a result of a RIF are entitled to grade retention and/or pay retention as described below.

    1. Grade retention. Employees who are placed in a lower graded position as a result of a RIF, and who have served at least fifty-two consecutive weeks at a grade or grades higher than the position in which placed, are entitled to grade retention for a period of two years. This eligibility is terminated prior to the expiration of the two year period if the employee (1) has a break in service of one work day or more, (2) is placed in a position the grade of which is equal to or greater than the retained grade, (3) declines a reasonable offer of such a position, (4) is demoted for personal cause or at his/her own request, (5) elects in writing to have this benefit terminated, or (6) refuses to enroll in programs that provide priority consideration.

    2. Pay retention. Employees who are placed in a lower graded position as a result of a RIF, and whose pay cannot be set within the salary range of the lower graded position, are entitled to pay retention upon expiration of the two year period of grade retention, or when they do not meet the criteria for grade retention. Under pay retention, the rate of basic pay is set in accordance with 5 CFR Part 536. Pay retention ceases when the employee (1) has a break in service of one workday or more, (2) is demoted for personal cause or at his/her request, (3) declines a reasonable offer to a position the rate of basic pay which is equal to or higher than the rate to which the employee is entitled to under pay retention, or (4) when the employee becomes entitled to a rate of basic pay that is equal to or higher than the rate of pay that the employee is entitled to under pay retention.

  12. What severance pay is a separated employee entitled to? Generally, employees involuntarily separated under RIF procedures, who have been employed for a continuous period of at least twelve months and who are not serving under an appointment with a definite time limitation, are entitled to severance pay. Employees who are eligible for an immediate annuity beginning within thirty-one calendar days of separation are not entitled to severance pay. Severance pay is computed on the basis of one week's basic pay for each year of civilian service up to and including ten years, and two week's basic pay for each year of civilian service beyond ten years for which severance pay has not already been received. For employees who are over the age of forty at the time of separation, severance pay is increased by ten percent of the total basic allowance for each year over the age of forty. The basic pay used as the basis for severance pay computation is the rate of basic pay an employee received immediately before separation. Employees are limited to a lifetime entitlement of fifty-two weeks severance pay.

  13. What placement assistance is available for displaced or surplus employees?

    1. FHWA priority consideration program. Employees who are entitled to grade and/or pay retention under the provision of 5 U.S.C. 5364 are eligible for consideration under this program. Additional information and procedures for this program can be found in PMM Chapter 3, Section 5, paragraph 3. Employees who are downgraded and are not eligible for grade/pay retention are eligible for concurrent consideration in accordance with PMM Chapter 3, Section 5, paragraph 4.

    2. DOT Reemployment Priority List (RPL). In accordance with 5 CFR , Part 330, Subpart B, career and career-conditional employees who have received a notice that they are scheduled to be separated under RIF or have received a CES are eligible to be entered on the DOT RPL for all DOT positions in their local commuting area for which they are qualified and available. Eligible employees should furnish their servicing human resources office a current resume, Optional Form (OF) 612, or Standard Form (SF) 171, and indicate the types and grade levels of positions for which they are available. The maximum eligibility period is one year from the date of separation for career-conditional employees and two years for career employees (see PMM Chapter 3, Section 5, paragraph 4).

    3. Career transition assistance program. In accordance with 5 CFR, Part 330, current FHWA (and other DOT) career and career-conditional employees, who are identified as surplus or displaced employees, are eligible for special selection priority for positions within DOT and career transition services under the DOT Career Transition Assistance Plan (CTAP).

      (1) To be eligible for special selection priority under the CTAP, an employee must be a surplus or displaced employee at grade level General Schedule (GS)-15 (or equivalent) or below in the competitive service. This employee must have received a specific RIF notice, a CES, or a Certification of Surplus Status (CSS). The employee must also:

      (a) Apply for a position in the same local commuting area as the position from which the employee is being separated that is at or below the grade level of the employee's current position with no greater promotion potential;

      (b) Have a current performance rating of record of at least "meets or exceeds" (fully successful or the equivalent);

      (c) File an application for a specific vacancy within the time frames established for the position;

      (d) Submit proof of eligibility; and

      (e) Be determined as well-qualified for the position.

      (2) Surplus and displaced employees will also receive career transition services, such as career counseling, networking, job information, and financial planning as well as retraining to close skill gaps. Surplus employees (i.e., those in receipt of a CSS or CES) must be provided an orientation on career transition assistance within ten working days of receipt of certification. Displaced employees (i.e., those in receipt of a RIF separation notice) must receive orientation within two working days of receipt of the notice. Surplus employees will receive sixteen hours of official time each pay period in order to pursue career transition services. Displaced employees will receive thirty-two hours of official time each pay period to pursue career transition services.

      (3) CTAP eligibility begins on the date FHWA issues the employee a CSS, CES, or RIF separation notice, and ends on the date the employee is separated by RIF, the date the CSS, CES, or RIF separation notice is canceled, or the effective date the employee receives a permanent career, career-conditional, or excepted appointment.

    4. Interagency Career Transition Assistance Program. In accordance with 5 CFR, Part 330, current and former FHWA (and other DOT) employees who are separated (or being separated) through RIF, or removed (or being removed) for declining a directed reassignment or transfer of function outside of the local commuting area, are eligible for special selection priority for positions in other Executive Branch agencies. These positions are those that are announced outside of those agencies under each agency's Interagency Career Transition Assistance Plan (ICTAP). In addition, former FHWA (and other DOT) and current or former employees from other Federal agencies are eligible for special selection priority for DOT positions that are announced outside DOT under the DOT ICTAP.

      (1) To be eligible for special selection priority, an employee must be a displaced employee who has, or had, a career or career-conditional appointment in the competitive service at grade level GS-15 (or equivalent) or below. The employee must also:

      (a) Apply for a position in the same local commuting area as the position from which the employee has been (or is being) separated that is at or below the grade level of the employee's last (or current) position with no greater promotion potential;

      (b) Have a last (or current) performance rating of record of at least "meets or exceeds" (fully successful or the equivalent);

      (c) File an application for a specific vacancy within the time frames established for the position;

      (d) Submit proof of eligibility; and

      (e) Be determined as well-qualified for the position.

      (2) ICTAP eligibility within DOT for DOT employees begins on the date the employee is separated by RIF. ICTAP eligibility for DOT employees begins in other Federal agencies when the employee is issued a RIF separation notice or a notice of proposed removal for declining a directed reassignment or transfer of function outside the local commuting area. ICTAP eligibility ends:

      (a) one year after separation or other covered action affording ICTAP eligibility;

      (b) on the effective date the employee receives a permanent career, career-conditional, or excepted appointment;

      (c) on the date the employee resigns or retires on non-discontinued service retirement before the effective date of the RIF; or

      (d) on the date the employee declines an official job offer. (The employee's eligibility ends only in the agency in which the official job offer was declined.)

  14. What appeal rights does an employee have who is affected by a RIF? Employees who have been furloughed for more than thirty calendar days, separated, or demoted by a RIF action may appeal to the MSPB. Appeals may be filed with the MSPB during the period beginning with the day after the effective date of the action, and ending thirty calendar days after the effective date. Employees who are affected by a RIF action will be given specific information on time limits for filing an appeal, the address of the appropriate MSPB office, a copy of MSPB's regulations (found in 5 CFR, Part 1201), and a copy of the appropriate appeal form.

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