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This Directive was canceled April 15, 2004.

Order
Subject
Personnel Management Manual: Chapter 3: Assignment and Utilization of Employees, Section 6: Reduction in Force
Classification Code Date
M3000.1B May 4, 1998  

Par.

  1. Purpose
  2. References
  3. Definitions
  4. Preliminary Procedures
  5. Competitive Areas
  6. Retention Registers
  7. Assignment Rights
  8. Tie Breaking
  9. Notices
  10. Grade and Pay Retention
  11. Severance Pay
  12. Placement Assistance
  13. Appeals

  1. PURPOSE. To set forth the Federal Highway Administration's (FHWA) procedures for conducting a reduction in force (RIF). This section must be used in conjunction with the documents listed in paragraph 2, References.

  2. REFERENCES

    1. Title 5, United States 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, C, F, and G.

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

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

    9. Departmental Personnel Manual (DPM) Letter No. 351-3, dated April 2, 1996, Reduction In Force, as amended, supplemented, or superseded.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dated September 8, 1997, Mandatory Placement Programs for Displaced and Surplus Employees, as amended, supplemented, or superseded.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 DPM Letter No. 300-22, dated September 8, 1997, DOT Career Transition Program (Revised), as amended, supplemented, or superseded.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 FHWA Career/Interagency Transition Assistance Plan, dated September 1997, as amended, supplemented, or superseded.

  3. DEFINITIONS

    1. Adjusted Service Computation Date - the date which reflects an employee's total creditable Federal civilian and military service with additional service credit for the 3 most recent annual performance ratings of record received during the 4 -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 are credited with 20 additional years of service; Exceptional ratings with 16 years of service; and, Fully Successful ratings with 12 years of service. If the annual performance rating of record is based on three factor rating levels, Outstanding ratings are credited with 20 additional years of service, and Meets or Exceeds Requirements ratings are credited with 12 years of additional service. The additional years of service credit for performance are averaged and added to the total creditable service to arrive at the adjusted service computation date. If there are less than 3 annual ratings of record within the 4-year period prior to the date of issuing the specific RIF notice, one or more presumed rating(s) of Meets or Exceeds Requirements (Fully Successful) will be credited with 12 years of additional service each to produce a total of 3 annual ratings of record.

    2. Annual Performance Rating of Record - an official performance rating under the performance appraisal system of FHWA covered under PMM Chapter 5, Section 2 .

    3. Available Position - a position in the same competitive area which will last at least 3 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 position must be one the released employee qualifies for and be within the grade ranges specified in the definitions of "bump" and "retreat. "

    4. Bump - to assign an employee who is reached for release from one competitive level to a position in another competitive level which is occupied by an employee 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 - the geographic and organizational area within which employees compete during a RIF.

    6. Competitive Level - 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 that 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 - release of an employee from his/her competitive level caused by another employee with higher retention standing.

    8. Furlough - the placement of an employee in a temporary nonduty and nonpay status for more than 30 calendar days but not more than one year when the action is based on RIF reasons.

    9. Local Commuting Area - a geographic area which 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 - to be "qualified" for assignment to a position means an employee meets Office of Personnel Management (OPM) standards and requirements for the position, including any education, recency of 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 that normally expected in the orientation of any new but fully qualified employee.

    11. Reduction in Force - the process through which an organization releases a competing employee from his/her competitive level by separation, furlough for more than 30 calendar days (22 working days), reassignment, or demotion, when the 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 - a list of employees for a single competitive level within a competitive area and ranked by tenure group, subgroup, and adjusted service computation date.

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

    14. Retreat - to assign an employee to the same or an essentially identical position which 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 30 percent or more the limit is five grades (or appropriate grade intervals or equivalent).

    15. Screen - 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 - the date which reflects an employee's total creditable Federal civilian and military service.

    17. Subgroups - subdivisions of tenure groups.

        (1) Subgroup AD - employees entitled to veterans preference who have a compensable service connected disability of 30 percent or more.

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

        (3) Subgroup B - employees not entitled to veterans preference during RIF.

    18. Tenure Groups - group of employees based on type of appointment and civil service retention rights.

        (1) Competitive Service Tenure Groups

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

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

          (c) Tenure Group III - 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 - 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 - employees serving a trial period; and whose tenure is equivalent to a career-conditional appointment in the competitive service.

          (c) Tenure Group III - employees whose tenure is indefinite; whose appointment has a specific time limitation of more than 1 year; or who complete 1 year of current continuous service under a temporary appointment limited to 1 year.

  4. PRELIMINARY PROCEDURES

    1. Verifying Records. Personnel records must be verified and updated, as necessary, 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, and for proper assignment of employees to competitive levels and determination of assignment rights during a RIF.

    2. Establishing Competitive Areas, 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 90 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 avoid 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.

  5. COMPETITIVE AREAS

    1. The basic competitive area during a RIF 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 Federal-aid regional office; (3) each Federal-aid division office; (4) each Motor Carrier regional office; (5) the Motor Carrier State Director or Officer-in-Charge and subordinate staff for each State , including detached offices; and (6) each Federal Lands Highway Division.

    2. Exceptions to the local commuting area 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 who are on the rolls of (and administratively controlled by) the Training and Executive Development Division are in a separate FHWA-wide competitive area.

  6. RETENTION REGISTERS. When it is necessary to prepare for a RIF in 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 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.

  7. 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 an offer which is 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 (bump or retreat) similar to those which 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.

  8. TIE BREAKING. 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 Staff Office Director, Associate Administrator, or Regional Administrator based on consideration of such factors as: (a) which employee's position is most essential to the accomplishment of the organization's mission, (b) which employee has the longest service in FHWA, and (c) which employee is likely to do the best work in the continuing position.

  9. NOTICES. 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 day of delivery of notice) before the effective date of release. However, a Saturday, Sunday, or 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, FTE, legislative, or other circumstances outside of management's control. A notice period of less than 60 calendar days requires the prior approval of the Department and the Office of Personnel Management. 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 be separated within 6 months by RIF. The CES allows employees to register early for internal and external outplacement assistance.

  10. GRADE AND PAY RETENTION

    1. Grade Retention. Employees who are placed in a lower- graded position as a result of RIF procedures, and who have served at least 52 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 end of the two-year period if the employee: (1) has a break in service of one workday 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 benefits terminated; or (6) refuses to enroll in program providing priority consideration.

    2. Pay Retention. Employees who are placed in a lower- graded position as a result of RIF procedures, 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 entitlement ceases when the employee has a break in service of one workday or more, is demoted for personal cause or at his/her request, declines a reasonable offer to a position the rate of which equal to or higher than the retained rate, or when the employee becomes entitled to rate of basic pay which is equal to or exceeds the retained rate.

  11. SEVERANCE PAY. Generally, employees involuntarily separated under RIF procedures who have been employed for a continuous period of at least 12 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 31 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 10 years, and two weeks' basic pay for each year of civilian service beyond 10 years for which severance pay has not already been received. For employees over the age of 40 at the time of separation, severance pay is increased by 10 percent of the total basic allowance for each year over the age of 40. 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 52 weeks severance pay.

  12. PLACEMENT ASSISTANCE

    1. FHWA Priority Consideration Program. Employees who are entitled to grade and/or pay retention under the provisions 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. Department of Transportation (DOT) Reemployment Priority List (RPL). In accordance with 5 CFR, Part 330, Subpart B, career or career-conditional employees who have received a notice that they are scheduled to be separated under RIF or a Certificate of Expected Separation are also 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 personnel office with a current resume, SF-171, or OF-612, 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 6).

    3. Career Transition Assistance Program. In accordance with 5 CFR, Part 330, current FHWA (and other DOT) career or 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) Eligibility. To be eligible for special selection priority under the CTAP, an employee must be a surplus or displaced employee (one who is issued a Certification of Surplus Status (CSS), a Certification of Expected Separation (CES), or a specific RIF separation notice), and must be at grade level GS-15 or equivalent or below in the competitive service. The employee must also (1) 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; (2) have a current performance rating of record of at least fully successful or equivalent; (3) file an application for a specific vacancy within the time frames established for the position; (4) submit proof of eligibility; and (5) be determined well-qualified for the position.

        (2) Career Transition Services. 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 skills gaps. Surplus employees, i.e., those in receipt of a CSS or CES, must be provided an orientation on career transition assistance within 10 working days of receipt of certification. Displaced employees, i.e., those in receipt of a RIF separation notice, must receive orientation within 2 working days of receipt of the notice. Surplus employees will receive 16 hours of official time per pay period to pursue career transition services, and displaced employees will receive 32 hours of official time per pay period to pursue career transition services.

        (3) Eligibility Dates. CTAP eligibility begins 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 the local commuting area, are eligible for special selection priority for positions in other Executive Branch agencies, which are announced outside 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 which are announced outside DOT under the DOT ICTAP.

        (1) Eligibility. 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 (1) 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; (2) have a last (or current) performance rating of record of at least fully successful or equivalent; (3) file an application for a specific vacancy within the time-frames established for the position; (4) submit proof of eligibility; and (5) be determined well- qualified for the position.

        (2) Eligibility Dates. ICTAP eligibility within DOT for DOT employees begins 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 notice of proposed removal for declining a directed reassignment or transfer of function outside the local commuting area. ICTAP eligibility ends (1) one year after separation or other covered action affording ICTAP eligibility; (2) the effective date the employee receives a permanent career, career- conditional, or excepted appointment; (3) the date the employee resigns or retires on non-discontinued service retirement before the effective date of the RIF; or (4) the date the employee declines an official job offer (eligibility ends only in the agency in which the official job offer was declined).

  13. APPEALS. Employees who have been furloughed for more than 30 calendar days, separated, or demoted by a RIF action may appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB). Appeals may be filed with the MSPB during the period beginning with the day after the effective date of the action and ending 30 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, as found in Title 5 CFR, Part 1201, and a copy of the appropriate appeal form.
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