The Office of Personnel Management is telling agencies how to prepare for an upcoming government reorganization.
Agency heads are receiving new guidelines for workforce reshaping, as well as an update to OPM’s guidance for issuing and implementing administrative furloughs.
“OPM is issuing this Workforce Reshaping Operations Handbook to provide assistance to agencies that are considering and/or undergoing some type of reshaping (e.g., reorganization, management directed reassignments, furlough, transfer of function, reduction in force),” the reshaping guide said.
This comes a few weeks after President Donald Trump signed an executive order asking that agencies analyze their components, offices, programs and efforts in preparation for a major reorganization.
And it comes after Trump indicated in his 2018 budget blueprint that the reorganization, the current temporary hiring freeze and the Office of Management and Budget’s forthcoming plan to cut the workforce through attrition are “complementary” and go hand in hand.
If the President gets his way in the upcoming budget cycle, many civilian agencies will face significant spending cuts in fiscal 2018, which will ultimately drive workforce reductions.
The workforce reshaping guide, which Federal News Radio obtained, describes in great detail how agency leaders should “develop, review, analyze and prioritize mission requirements.”
The handbook is designed to help agency heads and human resources offices with options and specific procedures “to ensure that reshaping efforts comply with merit system laws and regulations,” OPM said.
OPM asks agency heads to consider the timing and scope of reorganization efforts, in addition to their communication capabilities and labor-management relationships.
“Does management need to reduce whole numbers as in ‘across the board cuts,’ or is there the possibility of reshaping specific functions within the organization? There is typically less disruption to an organization when specific functions are reshaped than when entire operations are closed,” OPM wrote.
Agencies so far have few answers to these questions. The President’s budget proposal is merely a request, and agencies should have an opportunity to defend their mission needs both before OMB as it considers government reorganization and before congressional appropriations committees in preparing for the 2018 budget.
The budget blueprint, which the White House released last week, makes no mention of specific reductions in force, furloughs or job cuts.
But the details included in OPM’s guides reinforce why agencies need to begin planning now for any workforce cuts they may need to make in the future, said Jeff Neal, senior vice president for ICF and a former chief human capital officer for the Homeland Security Department.
“There is simply not enough time to get ready for a [reduction-in-force] if they wait until a budget is passed,” he said. “Agencies that begin to plan for RIF now, even without firm budget numbers, are not abandoning their employees. Quite the opposite is true: They are ensuring any RIF they may have … protects the rights of all of their employees.”
OPM also offers several alternatives to RIFs. It suggests that agencies consider detailing employees to other departments on a reimbursable basis, using furloughs and reassigning employees in “surplus functions” to other positions.
It also suggests cutting employee hours, asking employees to change to a lower grade on the General Schedule or using voluntary early retirement authorities.
If agencies do implement RIFs, they should work closely with the human resources office to set up a “RIF team,” OPM said.
In addition, OPM updated a second guide on administrative furloughs. It describes which types of employees are exempt from furloughs and under what circumstances. It also details a variety of employee scenarios and how agencies should approach the pay issue during furloughs.
Agencies last collectively experienced furloughs back in October 2013 when the government shut down for 16 days. Federal employees eventually received back pay for the time they were forced not to work. Some agencies also furloughed employees before that time due to sequester-related budget cuts.
Nicole Ogrysko is a workforce reporter for FederalNewsRadio.com focusing on federal workforce, personnel, veterans’ and homeland security issues. Follow @nogryskoWFED/
Job Reassignment Standards Continue to Concern Federal EmployeesView this article online at https://www.fedsmith.com/2016/04/21/job-reassignment-standards-continue-to-concern-federal-employees/ and visit FedSmith.com to sign up for free news updates
By Mathew B. Tully, Esq. on April 21, 2016 in Court Cases, Current Events
The standard for job promotions and reassignments is a frequent cause for concern in federal employment. In my prior column regarding frivolous allegations about employment regulations, I discussed a Federal Circuit case from December 2015, Miranne v. M.S.P.B., where a job applicant was not selected for a supervisory position and claimed this failure to reassign him to a higher position used unfair criteria. The Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) denied this claim, and Mr. Miranne was unsuccessful in his federal appeal.
Job reassignments were also the subject of a case in September 2015 in Cobert v. Miller, where an Alaska Park Superintendent, Mary A. Miller, refused a management-directed reassignment to a different positon at the same grade and pay in Anchorage, Alaska. She was then removed from her superintendent position, and appealed her removal to the MSPB. While she was initially successful in this appeal, the Acting Director of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), Beth Cobert, appealed the case to the Federal Circuit, where Ms. Miller’s removal was held to be legitimate and proper.
The Federal Circuit observed that the MPSB had to follow a prior case, Ketterer v. Dep’t of Agriculture (1980), which required the agency to (1) “establish, by a preponderance of the evidence,” that it had legitimate management reasons for Ms. Miller’s reassignment; and (2) [show] that Ms. Miller failed to rebut the agency’s prima facie case” (quoting Cobert v. Miller).
The Court found that the agency was able to show “legitimate management reasons” for the reassignment, given that there was a need for the position and that it was not created specifically to affect Ms. Miller. Furthermore, since Ms. Miller agreed to consider the position at a higher pay grade, she was therefore predisposed towards the position and her conflicting testimony that followed did not help her case. Though the Court acknowledged that Ms. Miller may have undergone some hassle if she had accepted the new position, hassle alone is insufficient to rebut the agency’s decision. Ms. Miller further possessed valuable skills that the agency would lose if she did not accept the position.
Though the MSPB supported Ms. Miller rather than Acting OPM Director Cobert, the Federal Circuit Court nonetheless reversed the MSPB decision, stating that the decision to reassign Ms. Miller was proper. As can be seen from this case, federal employee reassignments are generally proper. However, if you believe your reassignment has been unfairly requested or improperly decided, consulting an experienced federal employment law attorney can provide answers and assistance.
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