When a federal agency has to conduct a reduction-in-force (RIF), it is
usually seen as an absolute last resort to save the agency itself. Does
this option sit in the back of the queue due to laws and regulations against
RIFs in general, though? Or, are there other reasons why an agency might
not want to make a RIF after having its budget cut or workload minimalized?
With the Trump Administration promising to cut the budgets of a large
number of agencies, questions about RIFs are fresh on many peoples’ minds.
Partner and attorney
Heather White of the Federal Practice Group recently spoke with a popular radio show,
Federal Drive with Jared Serbu on Federal News Radio 1500 AM, to talk about how agencies carry out RIFs.
She explained that an agency can start a RIF whenever necessary and rarely
needs to seek additional approval before doing so. However, it makes more
financial sense to try to avoid losing any labor force through terminations
and layoffs. In particular, when someone gets “RIF’d”,
they need to be paid a severance package that could be up to a year’s
salary. If an agency has to plan a great deal of RIFs, the cost of paying
out the severance packages can become incredibly expensive, and almost
counterproductive to its initial effort to save money.
Rather than going straight for a RIF, Ms. White explained, an agency will
likely explore other options first. Simply trying to encourage an employee
to “go out on their own” might be used; for example, an agency
could send out a newsletter to employees that states the budget has been
cut, jobs are not steady, and it might be prudent to start looking into
other forms of employment just in case. In other scenarios, a buyout or
early retirement program might prove cheaper than laying off an employee
and granting them severance. Also, management directed reassignment can
be used, which essentially lets management members fill preexisting openings
with an employee that would have been RIF’d. As Ms. White pointed
out on the radio program, this can lead to an awkward and inefficient
system as an employee is forced into a job position they did not want.
She also talked about how agencies need to develop a retention register
once a RIF is confirmed in the future. A retention register basically
lists employees in terms of who has most definitely earned retention after
downsizing and who has not. If an employee ranks high in the retention
register, he or she has more options to fight for a position, including
“bumping” a low-ranking employee out of a spot and taking
it over. Employees who do get RIF’d out of a job should be placed
into the Career Transition Assistance Program (CTAP), which prioritizes
them for new job openings in the future.
All in all, there are options if a federal employee is facing a layoff
or termination due to budget cuts,
agencies want to avoid this outcome, anyway. For more information about
RIFs and federal employment, you can listen to the full audio file by
and visiting the Federal News Radio website. You can also
contact The Federal Practice Group
to speak to a federal employment law attorney about your own concerns
about your agency conduction a reduction-in-force.