Recent changes to the Reduction-In-Force Policy diminishes the protections offered by priority status in hiring and makes it harder for laid off staff to maintain their pay rate and appointment status. The Office of State Personnel has amended its Reduction-in-Force (RIF) Policy to reflect new legislation written in House Bill 22 (Technical Corrections Act), passed in July of 2011. The RIF Policy specifies the rights and responsibilities of state employees regarding rehiring priority and state employers regarding hiring candidates with RIF-priority status.
The new policy affects state employees laid off on or after July 1, 2011. Staff laid off prior to July 1, 2011, are still subject to the previous Office of State Personnel Reduction-in-Force (RIF) Policy. The key changes to the policy are:
- An RIF-priority candidate no longer retains priority status if they refuse an interview or job offer for a position whose pay rate or appointment status is below that of their previous position or if their new workplace is greater than 35 miles from their previous workplace.
- Candidates that have “substantially equal qualifications” to any other candidate (internal or external to state government) must be offered the job.
- Candidates that are hired at a lower pay rate than that of their previous position are no longer paid at their previous rate (or the nearest rate that the new grade maximum allows).
- Employees notified of reduction-in-force prior to July 1, 2011, and whose priority had not lapsed before July 1, 2011, receive an additional twelve months of priority status.
Changes regarding the priority status when interviewing and accepting permanent positions is crucial. Under the previous policy, the RIF-priority candidate would retain priority status until that candidate is “returned to whole,” that is, when the candidate is returned to the same position level, salary grade, and appointment status as that of their previous position. But for those subject to the new policy, RIF priority ends when the candidate accepts any permanent position (whether full- or part-time) regardless of the new pay rate, position level, or appointment status. Additionally, the RIF-eligible applicant will lose RIF priority even if they refuse a job offer or a job interview for any permanent position for which they have applied.
Another important change regards compensation. Under the previous policy, employees that accepted permanent positions at pay rates lower than those of their previous positions were paid at their previous pay rates (or, at least, the maximum of the new grade). The new policy will not require pay to be equal or as near as possible to the previous pay rate.
The new policy also includes changes to priority qualification having to do with distance of the new workplace from the former one. Under the previous policy, an RIF-eligible employee would lose priority status only if that employee refused an interview or offer for a position within 35 miles of the employee’s original workplace and if the position was at a salary grade (or equivalent banded classification), salary rate, and appointment status equal or greater than the position from which they were laid off. This is no longer the case under the new policy. Under the new policy, an employee can lose priority status if he or she declines placement in a permanent position 35 miles or less from their original workplace after the initial 30-day notification of reduction but prior to separation.
Other important changes include: RIF candidates have priority over all other applicants to a position, not just external candidates; candidates notified of a layoff prior to July 1, 2011, and whose priority period has not ended, receive an extra twelve months of priority status; employees with at least twelve months of cumulative state service are afforded twelve months of coverage under the State Health Plan if they were covered by the plan at the time of separation; employees whose work hours are reduced due to loss of funds or work are no longer eligible for reduction-in-force priority and severance if they choose not to remain in the reduced position; and an employee can now appeal an RIF notification if that employee believes that the layoff was due to discrimination and not simply due to retaliation for opposition to discrimination.
–Lawrence Giffin, Chair of the Legislative Action Committee