ELM Revision: Assignment of Unassigned Employees

Effective January 4, 2018, the Postal Service™ is revising the Employee and Labor Relations Manual (ELM), part 354, to provide clear and concise information for employees regarding reduction in force and reduction in force avoidance. We removed duplicate information if it was covered elsewhere and simplified technical jargon that might be unfamiliar to employees.

Employee and Labor Relations Manual (ELM)

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3 Employment and Placement

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350 Assignment, Reassignment, and Promotion

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354 Assignment of Unassigned Employees

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[Revise the title and text of 354.12 to read as follows:]

354.12 Non-bargaining Employees

Assignment of unassigned career non-bargaining employees must be in accordance with the procedures described in 354.2, as appropriate. Postal Service policy provides equal opportunities for all employees without discrimination because of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, or age.

[Revise the title and text of 354.2 to read as follows:]

354.2 Assignment of Non-bargaining Unit Employees Due to a Potential or Actual Reduction in Force

The Postal Service has the option to apply to any individual organizational change none, one, or more of the following provisions that are not required by reduction in force (RIF) statutes and Office of Personnel Management RIF regulations applicable to the Postal Service.

354.21 General

354.211 Definition of Reduction in Force

[Revise the text of 354.211 to read as follows:]

A reduction in force (RIF) is the administrative process through which the Postal Service eliminates positions and accounts for the employees who formerly occupied those positions. A RIF action occurs when an employee is released from his or her competitive level by separation, demotion, or a reassignment requiring displacement. Release from a competitive level must be caused by the following:

n Elimination or significant modification of existing work.

n Creation of new work.

n Reorganization.

n Transfer of function.

n An individual’s exercise of reemployment or restoration rights.

n Reclassification of an employee’s position based on the erosion of duties that will take effect after a RIF has been formally announced in the employee’s competitive area (i.e., the area in which the employee competes for retention during a RIF) and when the RIF will take effect within 180 days.

Note: With the exception identified above concerning the reclassification of an employee’s position, a change to lower grade based on the reclassification of an employee’s position due to a change in classification standards or the correction of a classification error is not a RIF.

354.212 Legal Basis for Reduction in Force

[Revise the text of 354.212 to read as follows:]

Laws governing RIF are found in Title 5, United States Code (U.S.C.), Sections 3501-3503. These laws are implemented in the federal government through regulations issued by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) (Title 5, Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), 351). In the Postal Service, these laws apply only to individuals entitled to veterans’ preference during a RIF. The legislative provisions making these laws and regulations applicable to preference eligible employees in the Postal Service are found in Title 39, U.S.C. Section 1005 (a)(2).

[Revise the title and text of 354.213 to read as follows:]

354.213 Management and Human Resources’ Responsibilities

Management plans and organizes the workforce based on the strategic direction of the Postal Service. That responsibility includes determining the type, number, and location of positions that are to be filled, abolished, or vacated (see 156). When changes are anticipated as a result of this responsibility, management determines whether a RIF is necessary and when such action will occur.

Human Resources is responsible for coordinating RIF avoidance strategies to exhaust all means of placement for a specific competitive area undergoing a RIF. This responsibility includes advising and assisting management in designing a RIF strategy and implementing management’s RIF-related decisions. Human Resources will work with all stakeholders and responsible managers to coordinate the process associated with a reinstatement list for preference eligible employees (see 354.27).

354.214 Coverage of Reduction in Force Procedures

[Revise the text of 354.214 to read as follows:]

RIF procedures apply to the assignment or separation of career non-bargaining employees who occupy positions that have the potential of being impacted by, or will be directly affected by, a RIF.

These procedures apply to non-career, non-bargaining employees serving in an indefinite appointment period only to the extent necessary to terminate their employment, or to avoid (or minimize) the impact of a RIF on career non-bargaining employees.

Exclusion: Bargaining employees are excluded from these procedures. The assignment or separation of excess bargaining employees is in accordance with the applicable collective bargaining agreement and applicable statutes.

354.215 Veterans’ Preference Status

[Revise the text of 354.215 to read as follows:]

Entitlement to veterans’ preference is based on the Veterans’ Preference Act of 1944, as amended, and is codified in various provisions of Title 5, U.S.C. Employees who are eligible for veterans’ preference for purposes of initial appointment are also eligible for veterans’ preference for RIF, except for employees who are retired members of the uniformed services. Employees who retired from the military must meet one of several special conditions before they can be granted veterans’ preference for RIF purposes. The conditions differ and depend on whether the employees retired below, at, or above the rank of major.

[Delete Exhibits 354.215a and 354.215b in their entirety.]

354.216 Veterans’ Preference Entitlement

[Revise the text of 354.216 to read as follows:]

Veterans’ preference eligible employees are entitled to the following:

a. Higher Retention Standing. A preference eligible employee is entitled to a higher retention standing (seniority) on a retention register than a non-preference eligible employee during a RIF.

b. Assignment Rights. A preference eligible employee is entitled to assignment rights if the employee’s last merit performance rating of record before separation was better than a non-contributor for RIF purposes or its equivalent under paragraphs (1) or (2) of this subsection.

1. Bumping. A preference eligible employee may replace an employee in the same competitive area who has a lower retention standing and occupies a position that is no more than three grade levels (or appropriate grade interval or equivalent) lower than the position from which the preference eligible employee is released.

2. Retreating. A preference eligible employee may replace an employee (in the same competitive area, tenure group, and veterans’ preference subgroup), who has a lower retention standing, occupies the same position, or a different position that was previously held by the preference eligible employee, that is no more than three grade levels (or appropriate grade interval or equivalent) lower than the position from which the preference eligible employee is released. A preference eligible employee with a compensable service-connected disability of 30 percent or more can retreat to a position that is up to five grade levels (or appropriate grade interval or equivalent) lower than the position from which he or she is released.

c. Appeal Rights. A preference eligible employee may file an appeal with the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) under the provisions of 5 CFR 351.901. For additional information, refer to the Merit Systems Protection Board’s website at mspb.gov.

[Delete 354.217 in its entirety.]

354.22 Processing Requests for Organizational Change

354.221 Evaluating the Need for Change

[Revise the text of 354.221 to read as follows:]

Requests to change a Headquarters or field organizational structure are initiated by the business function with approval of the functional organization vice president. An organizational change is made to meet one or more of the following objectives:

a. Change in mission.

b. Change in nature of work.

c. Duplication of jobs, functions, or responsibilities within or between organizational structures.

d. Ensure the relevance and consistency of organizational structures and staffing.

Human Resources, in consultation with the business function, reviews and evaluates the specific needs for change with the functional organization vice president to provide possible solutions (see 140 for more details).

Human Resources evaluates how the proposed changes will affect specific competitive areas and determines whether a RIF may be necessary. If the potential for a RIF exists, Human Resources provides the business function with a preliminary placement plan that outlines the strategies to minimize or avoid the need for a RIF.

354.222 Implementing the Change

[Revise the text of 254.222 to read as follows:]

Following completion of the evaluation process and final approval, Human Resources takes the following actions:

a. Notifies the business function of the new or modified structure and staffing changes to be implemented.

b. Develops qualification standards (knowledge, skills, and abilities) for any new positions and assigns the positions to the appropriate competitive levels. If placement of competitive area employees into the new organization based on competitive levels and qualification standards does not result in a potential RIF situation, the vice president and competitive area management are advised to proceed to fill any vacant positions under the normal EAS selection procedures.

If the organizational change does result in a potential RIF, Human Resources is responsible for coordinating RIF avoidance or minimization strategies, conducting the RIF process, and, if necessary, coordinating with competitive area management other placement opportunities that may be available.

[Revise the title and text of 354.23 to read as follows:]

354.23 Minimization Strategies for RIF Avoidance

To minimize or avoid the impact of a RIF, Human Resources, in coordination with the business function, may implement some or all of the following actions:

a. Freeze hiring and promotion actions.

b. Separate contract employees, temporary employees, and reemployed annuitants.

c. Reassign employees:

1. To vacant positions in the same competitive area or other competitive areas.

2. To positions within or outside the commuting area. This may be voluntary (e.g., where an employee has responded to a vacancy announcement) or directed by management.

Note: Reassignments are not subject to RIF procedures when employees are involuntarily placed into same level positions.

d. Cancel all detail and temporary promotion PS Forms 50, Notification of Personnel Action.

e. Terminate probationary employees.

f. Approve employee requests to voluntarily change to vacant positions at lower grades within the competitive area, including bargaining positions.

g. Provide voluntary resignation incentives.

h. Obtain approval from OPM to offer a voluntary early retirement option.

i. Provide voluntary early retirement incentives.

j. When circumstances warrant, implement other RIF avoidance measures, provided such measures comply with regulations and, if appropriate, the applicable collective bargaining agreements.

354.24 Providing Initial Notification and Making Preliminary Placements

354.241 Notifying Employees of a Potential RIF

[Revise the text of 354.241 to read as follows:]

If the potential for a RIF exists, management at the competitive area must meet with employees to advise them of the situation, either individually or in groups. This meeting occurs after approval is received from Human Resources, but before issuance of the specific RIF notice. The information provided to employees includes, if applicable:

a. A description of the new organization, including the job title and number of any new positions added, their grade levels, and reporting relationships.

b. The number of positions by title and grade level in the organization being abolished.

c. The position titles, grade levels, or organizational function that will be directly impacted by the RIF.

d. The options available to impacted employees, including any RIF avoidance or minimization strategies that will be used (see 354.23).

[Revise the title and text of 354.242 to read as follows:]

354.242 Establishing Employee Job Profile

Employees who may be impacted by a RIF must update and maintain their employee profile to apply for any available vacant positions.

[Delete 354.243 in its entirety.]

354.25 Implementing RIF Procedures

[Delete 354.251 in its entirety. Renumber current 354.252-354.255 as new 354.251-354.254 and revise the text of the renumbered sections to read as follows:]

354.251 Issuing Specific RIF Notices

Human Resources issues specific RIF notices to all impacted employees within the competitive area no less than 60 days before the RIF effective date. Each specific RIF notice either advises an employee that he or she has been placed in the new organization, giving the position title, grade level, occupational code, and duty station location, or that he or she did not receive a placement offer and will be separated from the Postal Service. The specific RIF notice also contains the following:

a. Information used to determine an employee’s assignment rights in the RIF, including the competitive area, competitive level, tenure group, veterans’ preference subgroup, RIF service date, and the four most recent merit performance ratings of record.

b. Notification of how to obtain a copy of OPM’s RIF regulations at 5 CFR part 351.

c. Information concerning saved grade and saved salary under the provisions of 415.1.

d. PS Form 999, Application for Reinstatement List, if the employee is preference eligible, did not receive a placement offer, and was notified that he or she would be separated from the Postal Service.

e. If the employee is preference eligible and was separated or changed to a lower grade level as a result of the RIF, information about his or her right, if any, to appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board.

354.252 Placing Unplaced or Displaced Employees

Procedures for placing employees before the RIF effective date are as follows:

a. Preference eligible employees who are not placed based on their RIF rights and non-preference eligible employees who are considered for any appropriate and available vacant positions remaining in their competitive area as follows:

1. Following the issuance of the specific RIF notice, Human Resources provides the business function with a list of employees not placed during the specific RIF action (see 354.251), and a list of vacant positions within the competitive area undergoing the RIF, if any. In the case of closure of an entire competitive area, all positions are abolished and no placement opportunities remain within the competitive area.

2. The business function may place the remaining impacted employees into vacant positions as a RIF assignment based on RIF retention standing. This process is strictly optional.

3. If the business function elects to place remaining impacted employees into vacant positions as a RIF assignment, it must return the entire placement file to Human Resources. If it chooses not to place remaining impacted employees, it must notify Human Resources in writing.

b. Career bargaining employees, displaced in order to afford a preference eligible employee his or her RIF assignment rights, are reassigned in accordance with the applicable collective bargaining agreement.

354.253 Advising Employees of Options

Before the RIF effective date Human Resources meets individually, or in groups, with employees who remain unplaced to discuss in detail the following options:

a. Non-pay, Non-duty Status. Employees who do not expect to be placed by the RIF effective date may request to be placed in a 30-day non-pay, non-duty status, as an extension to the RIF effective date. The placement administrator must receive this request before the RIF effective date. During the 30-day extension, employees may continue to seek a position with the Postal Service based on the conditions specified in 354.26.

b. Compensation Alternatives. An overview of the compensation programs available to employees who will be separated can be found in the Organizational Change/RIF FAQs on the Organizational Changes website.

354.254 Separating Remaining Employees

Employees who decline or fail to request a 30-day extension in a non-pay, non-duty status by the RIF effective date are separated on that date.

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354.274 Removing Employees From a Reinstatement List

[Add the following text at the end of 354.274:]

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For additional information or to learn more about RIF under OPM’s regulations, refer to OPM’s website; links are available via the Organizational Change website at liteblue.usps.gov/humanresources/organizationalchanges/oc_home.shtml.

[Delete 354.3 in its entirety.]

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We will incorporate these revisions into the next online update of the ELM, which is available on the Postal Service PolicyNet website:

n Go to blue.usps.gov.

n In the left-hand column under “Essential Links,” click PolicyNet.

n Click Manuals.

The direct URL for the Postal Service PolicyNet website is blue.usps.gov/cpim.