Agencies get more leeway on staff reductions

he Office of Personnel Management finalized a rule that lets agencies group employees based on their pay systems or pay bands when planning job reductions. The rule became effective Aug. 11, OPM said in a Federal Register notice.

The rule allows agencies to create competitive areas to define positions that might be subject to reductions in force, OPM said.

The change is meant to eliminate inconsistencies in the existing regulations for reductions in force as agencies move some employees to pay-band systems while others remain in the General Schedule system, OPM said.

A competitive area is defined by an agency’s organizational unit and geographic location, the rule states. The area could include pay-band positions and those not covered by a pay band or a mix of both, OPM said. In the latter case, an agency could define a separate competitive area to include only the pay-band positions. The other competitive area would then include only the positions not covered by a pay band, the rule states.

The National Treasury Employees Union said separate competitive areas would let agencies improperly target certain employees for reductions in force. Allowing agencies to separate pay bands will result in smaller competitive areas, thus providing fewer positions into which an affected employee can move, said Colleen Kelley, NTEU’s president.

OPM officials disagreed with Kelley, saying, “Agencies must apply the same level of objectivity and administrative probity in using these provisions as they do in making any personnel-related decisions.” Employees can contest the agency’s action if they believe a competitive area is unlawfully constituted, OPM added.

After the rule was proposed this spring, Kelley said it would give agencies additional management rights without offering federal employees any safeguards or procedures to ensure that “this discretionary power is not abused.”

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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