The Department of Health, Education and Welfare still is looking for legal justification to offer early retirement to thousands of senior, long-service workers.

HEW is the largest employer in metropolitan Washington with more than 36,000 workers, and its local monthly payroll is more than $53 million. As one of the largest and most complex agencies in government, it is ripe for reorganization that almost always means initial layoffs, job dislocations and demotions. After departments are reorganized, they generally grow larger.

Early this year, HEW asked the Civil Service Commission for permission to offer senior workers the "option" of being "involuntarily retire." Remember,this is the government one is dealing with.

Under federal prices, an agency can allow long time employes to retire early if the agency gets CSC permission. Under the law, early-out retirement authority cannot be granted unless an agency is facing or undergoing a major reduction-in-force (RIF).

HEW is not yet having major RIF but does anticipate major job shakeups due to reorganization. HEW would like to gain breathing room onits personnel rosters by allowing workers who want to retire early to do it.Houising and Urban Development and the Agency for International Development have been given early-out authority, but both face major RIFs.

Under the early-out law, workers can retire on immediate pension if they are at age 50 with at least 20 years of service or at any age with 25 years service. They take an annuity reduction of 2 per cent for each year under age 55, but many think it is worthwhile to get out early and begin drawing a pension immediately.

So far, however, CSC has refused to give HEW the early-out option because there are no major layoffs now or anticipated HEW has said it would limit the early-out to employes of Social Security headquarter, National Institutes of Health and other major headquarters units.

Insiders expect a decision within the next wo weeks after CSC has received and studied new data from HEW to justify the early-out. If CSC thinks the shot-time, early-out authority is needed, it will be granted. Otherwise, HEW must undergo pangs of reorganization without special help.

Jobs: Secret Service has openings (Grades 5-11) for management analysts with background in computers or statistics. Call 635-5800.

Engineers: General Services Administration at Crystal City (Arlington) has openings for mechanical, electrical, general and electronic engineers. Grades are 5-12. Call 557-8563.

Mental Streets: The health unit at the new Department of Energy chose February as the month to advise workers on methods to avoid "mental stress." Tips included getting enough sleep, avoiding unnecessary worry and taking more exercise.

Some DOE types complain that their main source of stress comes from fear of reorganizations, shake-downs and shake-ups at the high octane agency.

DOES's war against mental stress includes listing eight ways to avoid worrying. Item No. 3, which some people have framed for their office walls, advises "Learn To Accept What You Cannot Change."

Hispanic Hiring: The Labor Department has awarded a $135,000 one-year grant for a recruitment program to IMAGE, a national organization concerned with federal employment for Hispanic-Americans. The VOS (Vacancy Outreach Service) program will be based here, soliciting job applications from persons of Spanish or Mexican descent for job openings in federal and local government agencies . . . The program is looking for clerical helop, an information specialist and an assistant director. Call 632-7982.