Many riffed federal workers may have been fired improperly because their agencies failed to offer them jobs held by temporary employes in their commuting area.

The Federal Government Service Task Force says that several agencies were unaware of a little-known regulation (FPM Subchapter 2, 330-7) that entitles a riffed career fed on the reemployment list to displace a temporary or intermittent worker if the permanent employe is qualified for the job.

The task force, headed by Rep. Mike Barnes (D-Md.), has been swamped with complaints from fired feds who wonder why their agencies kept on or hired new temporary workers while firing career employes. A task force spokesman said that the Department of Health and Human Services apparently played by the rules, offering jobs held by temporary workers to riffed permanent employes who were qualified. But many other agencies and departments either did not know about the rule, or chose to ignore it, the spokesman said.

The rules say that agencies may not keep a Group III (temporary, TAPER or intermittent) employe "in a position for which a permanent, career employe is qualified and available . . . ." Permanent employes can bump a temporary at the same or lower grade level within their commuting area (like metropolitan Washington).

If you think you may have been riffed improperly--that is, not advised of any temporary jobs you might qualify for in your area--check with your former agency. If they made a mistake, they may be required to put you back to work.

If your agency is uncooperative and will not advise you of temporary jobs you qualified for at RIF time, or if it subsequently hired a temporary without checking the reemployment list to see if you were available, you may be entitled to that position.

If the agency stonewalls, you may want to consult a lawyer (try to get one who offers free initial consultation) to help you get back to work.

You can also call the task force (226-2494) and it will help you with a referral.