Agencies turn to a Reduction in Force (RIF) when they need to separate or downgrade employees due to reorganization, lack of work, shortage of funds, insufficient personnel ceiling, or the exercise of certain reemployment or restoration rights.Â The agency has the responsibility to decide whether a RIF is necessary, when it will take place, and what positions are to be abolished.
Putting employees in RIFâ€™s retention order is commonly referred to in personnel as â€œrunning a register.â€ An agency normally run registers two ways: (1) within each competitive level; and (2) based on overall RIFâ€™s retention order regardless of series, grade, etc. Number (1) is usually called a competitive level register and number (2) is often referred to as an â€œabsoluteâ€ or â€œmaster retentionâ€ listing.
Many agencies run registers from computer programs specifically designed for reduction in force. The most common program is AUTORIF, created by the Department of Defense. This program is used by many civilian agencies as well.
Agencies determine how many positions in a given series and grade they need to abolish, and this begins the RIF process. If an employeeâ€™s position is abolished, this may result in their being â€œreleasedâ€, or cut, from their competitive level. Employees are released from the competitive level in the inverse order of their retention standing. (For example, the employee with the lowest RIF standing is the individual who is actually released from the competitive level.) Employees in Group III are released before employees in Group II, and employees in Group II are released before employees in Group I. Within tenure subgroups, employees in Subgroup B are released before employees in Subgroup A, and employees in Subgroup A are released before employees in Subgroup AD. Within each subgroup, employees with less service are released before employees with more service. Any employee reached for release out of this regular order must be notified of the reasons.
Rights to Other Positions: Bumping and Retreating
After employees are released from their competitive level, they may have rights to other positions by exercising assignment rights, which are commonly referred to as bumping and retreating.
â€œBumpingâ€ means displacing an employee in the same competitive area; who is in a lower tenure group, or in a lower subgroup within the released employeeâ€™s own tenure group. For example, an employee in Tenure group I can bump an employee in Tenure groups II or III, and an employee in Subgroup IAD can bump someone in Subgroups IA or IB. Although the released employee must be qualified for the position, it may be a position that he or she has never held. The position must be at the same grade, or within three grades or grade-intervals, of the employeeâ€™s present position.
â€œRetreatingâ€ means displacing an employee in the same competitive area and in the same tenure group and subgroup; who has less service. For example, a IA employee might be able to retreat to the position of another IA employee who has less service. The position must be at the same grade, or within three grades or grade-intervals, of the employeeâ€™s present position. The position into which the employee is retreating must also be the same position (or an essentially identical position) previously held by the released employee in any Federal agency on a permanent basis.
Employees in retention subgroup AD have expanded retreat rights to positions up to five grades or grade-intervals lower than the position held. In addition, an employee with a current annual performance rating of â€œMinimally Successfulâ€ only has retreat rights to positions held by employees with the same or lower current performance rating.
Employees in Groups I and II with current performance ratings of at least â€œMinimally Successfulâ€ are entitled to an offer of assignment if they have â€œbumpingâ€ or â€œretreatingâ€ rights to an available position in the same competitive area. An â€œavailableâ€ position must: (i) last at least 3 months; (ii) be in the competitive service; (iii) be one the released employee qualifies for; and (iv) be within three grades (or grade-intervals) of the employeeâ€™s present position.
Employees in Groups I and II with current performance ratings of â€œUnsuccessful,â€ and all employees in Group III, have no assignment rights to other positions. Employees holding excepted service positions have no assignment rights unless their agency, at its discretion, chooses to offer these rights.
The grade limits of an employeeâ€™s assignment rights are determined by the grade progression of the position from which the employee is released. The difference between successive grades in a one-grade occupation is a grade difference, and the difference between successive grades in a multi-grade occupation is a grade-interval difference. The grade limits are based upon the position the employee holds at the time of the RIF.
For example, an employee released from a GS-11 position that progresses GS-5-7-9-11 has bump and retreat rights to positions from GS-11 through GS-5. An employee released from a GS-9 position that progresses GS-6-7-8-9 has bump and retreat rights to positions from GS-9 through GS-6.
To learn more about RIF procedures and other federal employment issues, download theÂ 2013 Federal Personnel Handbook.