354 Assignment of Unassigned Employees

354.1 Policy

354.11 Bargaining Employees

Assignment of excess bargaining employees must be in accordance with the applicable provisions of the appropriate collective bargaining agreement.

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.

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

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:

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

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).

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

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

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.

354.216 Veterans’ Preference Entitlement

Veterans’ preference eligible employees are entitled to the following:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
354.22 Processing Requests for Organizational Change
354.221 Evaluating the Need for Change

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:

  1. Change in mission.
  2. Change in nature of work.
  3. Duplication of jobs, functions, or responsibilities within or between organizational structures.
  4. 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

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

  1. Notifies the business function of the new or modified structure and staffing changes to be implemented.
  2. 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.

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:

  1. Freeze hiring and promotion actions.
  2. Separate contract employees, temporary employees, and reemployed annuitants.
  3. 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.
    3. Note: Reassignments are not subject to RIF procedures when employees are involuntarily placed into same level positions.

  4. Cancel all detail and temporary promotion PS Forms 50, Notification of Personnel Action.
  5. Terminate probationary employees.
  6. Approve employee requests to voluntarily change to vacant positions at lower grades within the competitive area, including bargaining positions.
  7. Provide voluntary resignation incentives.
  8. Obtain approval from OPM to offer a voluntary early retirement option.
  9. Provide voluntary early retirement incentives.
  10. 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

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:

  1. A description of the new organization, including the job title and number of any new positions added, their grade levels, and reporting relationships.
  2. The number of positions by title and grade level in the organization being abolished.
  3. The position titles, grade levels, or organizational function that will be directly impacted by the RIF.
  4. The options available to impacted employees, including any RIF avoidance or minimization strategies that will be used (see 354.23).
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.

354.25 Implementing RIF Procedures
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:

  1. 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.
  2. Notification of how to obtain a copy of OPM’s RIF regulations at 5 CFR part 351.
  3. Information concerning saved grade and saved salary under the provisions of 415.1.
  4. 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.
  5. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

354.26 Making Post–RIF Employee Placements

Employees placed on a 30–day extension in a nonpay, nonduty status have the following options:

  1. Noncompetitive Consideration. Employees may apply noncompetitively for any vacancy at or below their current grade within the commuting area. Employees assigned to a lower grade position are entitled to grade and salary treatment in accordance with 415.4.
  2. Voluntary Bargaining Position Placement. If employees meet the qualifications for vacant bargaining positions, they may volunteer for placement into these vacancies subject to the approval of the manager where the vacancy exists. Seniority and pay provisions governing such placements are in accordance with the applicable collective bargaining agreement.
354.27 Establishing a Reinstatement List
354.271 Providing Priority Consideration to Employees

A reinstatement list (RL) identifies career preference-eligible employees who are eligible for priority consideration for reinstatement to the Postal Service because they have been separated as a result of a reduction-in-force (RIF).

An RL is established the day after the RIF effective date if one or more employees have been found eligible for placement on the RL. The RL remains in effect for 2 years following its establishment or until no eligible employees remain on the RL, whichever is earlier.

Note: Acceptance of an employee’s PS Form 999, Application for Reinstatement List, and placement on the RL does not guarantee the employee’s reinstatement to the Postal Service.

354.272 Determining Employee Eligibility

A career employee is eligible to be placed on an RL if all conditions listed below occur:

  1. The employee is preference eligible for RIF purposes, as defined in section 354.215.
  2. The employee received a specific RIF notice indicating that he or she will be separated from the Postal Service, and that notice has not been canceled or rescinded. An employee who retires on or before the RIF effective date is eligible for placement on the RL, provided he or she meets all other eligibility requirements.
  3. The employee does not refuse an offer of a position under 5 C.F.R. part 351, subpart G, with the same type of work schedule and with a representative rate at least as high as that of the position from which the employee was or will be separated.
  4. The employee’s last merit performance rating of record before separation was better than a non-contributor for RIF purposes or its equivalent.
  5. The employee submits an Application for Reinstatement List no later than the RIF effective date.
  6. The employee is at least minimally qualified for one or more of the positions identified on the Application for Reinstatement List.
354.273 Considering Employees on a Reinstatement List

Provisions for reinstatement list consideration are as follows:

  1. Eligible RL applicants are provided initial consideration before external advertisement of a vacant position within their competitive area and all other competitive areas within commuting distance not undergoing an organizational change/RIF action. Consideration is limited to those applicants who are at least minimally qualified for the vacant position.
  2. Note: A vacant position does not include positions that are filled through other special programs, such as the restoration of individuals who served in the uniformed services and the reemployment or reassignment of employees injured on duty who recover within one year.

  3. Human Resources maintains the RL and checks the list before publishing external job postings.
  4. Positions identified by eligible RL applicants on their Application for Reinstatement List form for which they are at least minimally qualified must be:
    1. Authorized positions.
    2. At the same or lower grade level (or representative rate) as the position held before separation due to a RIF action.
  5. If an otherwise eligible RL applicant is found to be at least minimally qualified for a position identified on his or her Application for Reinstatement List, he or she must be offered the position before external applicants are considered.
354.274 Removing Employees From a Reinstatement List

An employee’s name is removed from the RL in the following situations:

  1. The employee accepts a career appointment with the Postal Service or another federal agency;
  2. The employee voluntarily requests, in writing to Human Resources, to have his or her name removed from the RL;
  3. The employee fails to provide Human Resources with any changes in his or her address or telephone number, thereby preventing Human Resources from contacting the employee about potential employment opportunities; or
  4. Human Resources tries to contact the employee about a position with a representative rate at least as high as the representative rate of the position from which the employee was separated, and the employee declines the position, fails to respond, or fails to appear for an interview without having taken reasonable steps to reschedule the interview.

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.