New RIF guidelines are expected to be out in June that will deemphasize seniority -- and stress performance -- when federal agencies decide whom to keep and whom to fire in future layoffs.
The new layoff regulations, in the draft stage at the Office of Personnel Management, could be ready to go into effect by mid-summer, unless there are major objections from federal unions or Congress, which wrote current RIF rules that put a premium on longevity and veterans preference.
OPM's RIF changes would also reduce "bumping" during layoffs. They would limit how far down the civil service grade ladder RIFfed workers could go.
Some RIFs over the past 13 months have moved workers, making as much as $44,000 a year, down to be typists and laborers. In most cases, thanks to the Carter administration's Civil Service Reform Act, those demoted employes can keep their salary indefinitely even if they remain in a lower-grade job where the regular salary is much less.
According to OPM figures, about 8,300 federal workers were fired for economy reasons between Jan. 20, 1981, and Feb. 28 of this year. Of that number, OPM says, there were about 1,900 RIFs in the metro Washington area, which has 360,000 federal employes.
Under current RIF procedures, retention is determined by whether the employe is a disabled veteran or a veteran, by seniority, and by his or her performance rating, in that order. Critics of the regulations say this means that women and minorities are always hardest hit in RIF actions.
Federal workers who get "outstanding" job ratings get four additional years of seniority during RIF actions. Those rated as "exceeding fully satisfactory" get two additional years service credit. Most workers get "fully satisfactory" ratings.
OPM's plan is to put more emphasis on an employe's performance rating at RIF time, and, perhaps, give some seniority credit to people who get the regular "fully satisfactory" rating. That plus rule-changes to minimize bumping would make it easier for agencies to fire marginal workers with less regard to seniority.
It could also make it possible for bosses to play favorites by passing out "outstanding" ratings to people they want to keep.