RIF Basics

fired woman

Generally, civil service employees cannot be dismissed or have other major adverse actions taken against them except for cause, generally involving poor performance or misconduct.  Employees have certain procedural rights regarding how those actions are taken and how they can be challenged.

A reduction in force or RIF is another avenue for separating, demoting, or furloughing an employee that is not based on any conduct of that employee, but based on the reasons specified above. 

In fact, a RIF results in abolishing positions and may not be directed at specific individual employees. 

What is a RIF?

A RIF exists when an agency takes certain personnel actions for certain reasons. 

Those personnel actions are:

  • Separation from service
  • Demotion
  • Furlough (putting an employee in a non-work, non-pay status) for more than 30 days

The reasons are:

  • Lack of work;
  • Shortage of funds;
  • Insufficient personnel ceiling;
  • Reorganization (meaning the elimination, addition, or redistribution of functions or duties in an organization);
  • The exercise of reemployment rights; and/or
  • Reclassification of an employee's position due to erosion of duties after a RIF has been announced.

To whom do the RIF regulations and policies apply?

RIFs must be conducted in accordance with statutory requirements, 5 U.S.C. § 3501-3503, regulations promulgated by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), 5 C.F.R. 351.201, et seq. and any additional agency policies or provisions in collective bargaining agreements.

The RIF regulations apply to all employees in the competitive service, but not to employees in the Senior Executive Service, or those requiring confirmation by Congress.