Furloughed feds won’t be RIFed if government shutdown extends past 30 days, OMB says

Federal statute instructs agencies use reductions-in-force (RIFs) if employees have been furloughed for 30 days or longer, but regulations don't apply to worker...

Agencies won’t need to consider targeted layoffs, otherwise known as reductions-in-force (RIFs), if the current partial government shutdown continues for another few days.

While federal statute typically instructs agencies to RIF targeted groups of employees who have been placed on furlough status for 30 days or more, the regulations don’t apply to emergency furlough situations, the Office of Management and Budget confirmed Tuesday.

Some astute Federal News Network readers had questioned whether their agencies could RIF furloughed employees if the current government shutdown, now at 25 days and counting, hits the 30-day mark.

There are two kinds of furloughs. “Administrative furloughs” are planned events by an agency “designed to absorb reductions necessitated by downsizing, reduced funding, lack of work or any budget situation other than a lapse in appropriations,” according to the Office of Personnel Management.

“Shutdown furloughs,” also called “emergency furloughs,” occur during lapses in appropriations.

OPM’s 2015 guidance on shutdown furloughs also clarifies the matter.

“Reductions in force furlough regulations and SES competitive furlough requirements are not applicable to emergency shutdown furloughs because the ultimate duration of an emergency shutdown furlough is unknown at the outset and is dependent entirely on congressional action, rather than agency action,” OPM guidance reads. “The RIF furlough regulations and SES competitive furlough requirements, on the other hand, contemplate planned, foreseeable, money-saving furloughs that, at the outset, are planned to exceed 30 days.”

Title 5 statute describes how and when agencies should consider laying off certain groups of employees from their competitive levels if a furlough lasts more than 30 says, or due to a demotion, separation or reassignment requiring job displacement. Agencies can also consider layoffs if there’s a lack of work, shortage of funds or reduced personnel ceiling. Agency reorganizations or position reclassifications could also prompt a layoff, according to federal statue.

RIFs typically go into effect within 180 days.

But Title 5 RIF regulations apply to situations where an agency knows how long it plans to furlough its employees. Some agencies in 2013, for example, were forced to furlough their employees due to the effects of sequestration. The possibility of targeted layoffs was real for some agencies at the time, including the Defense Department, which warned of RIFs in 2014 if sequestration had continued.

The American Federation of Government Employees said it had also received questions about the possibility of RIFs due to the ongoing partial shutdown.

A representative with AFGE said OPM was considering whether it would send new furlough notices to remind non-excepted employees of their furlough status if the government shutdown continues past 30 days.

OPM didn’t respond to questions about its plans to send furlough notices. OMB referred questions about the possibility of new furlough notices to OPM.

Meanwhile, the partial government shutdown has no clear end in sight.

The House this week will vote on several continuing resolutions to end the current shutdown and temporarily fund federal agencies through a later date in February.

House lawmakers already struck down one version Tuesday afternoon. OMB has indicated that President Donald Trump will veto the CRs if they reach his desk.

“Presenting these, or similar bills, to the President without a broader agreement to address the border crisis is unacceptable,” OMB’s statement of administrative policy reads. “The administration looks forward to working with the Congress to enact appropriations legislation that adequately addresses the crisis on our southwest border and reopens the federal government for the American people as soon as possible.”

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