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Performance Management Reference Materials

Assigning Retention Credit in a RIF

Regulations for assigning retention credit in a reduction in force (RIF) were effective on December 24, 1997. The December 1997 issue of Workforce Performance sketched on overview of assigning retention service credit. The February 1998 issue explained the requirements and explored flexibilities for assigning retention credit for performance in a reduction in force. This article will look at how to assign credit when an employee does not have three ratings of record within the last four years or has equivalent ratings of record.

If Fewer than Three Ratings Exist

Additional service credit is computed by averaging the three most recent ratings of record given in the previous 4 years, but what if the employee doesn't have three ratings of record? Under the prior regulations, an assumed Level 3 (Fully Successful) rating would have been assigned for each of the missing ratings. Under the new regulations, there are no more assumed Fully Successful ratings. In an effort to link retention credit more closely to actual performance, actual ratings of record must be used to determine additional service credit in a reduction in force. As a result, if only two ratings of record are available to be credited, the values assigned to the summary level and pattern of these ratings would be added together and divided by two to determine additional service credit. If there is only one rating, the value assigned to the summary level and pattern of that rating would be the amount of credit to be assigned.

Example. Jane Doe is a career employee who has been back in the Federal workforce for only 1-1/2 years after a 5-year break in service. She has one rating of record, a Level 4 (Exceeds Fully Successful) in pattern E, available to be used for retention credit (pattern E uses four levels to summarize performance). The agency has determined that when a mix of patterns exists within a competitive area (that is, when ratings were assigned under more than one pattern), a Level 4 rating in pattern E will be assigned a value of 16 years. Since there are no other actual ratings of record to be used, Jane must receive 16 years of additional service credit in a reduction in force (16/1=16).

If No Prior Ratings Exist

Occasionally, an agency finds an employee with no rating of record during the 4 years prior to the reduction in force. In this case, additional service credit is granted based on the value of the modal rating for the summary level pattern that applies to the employee's position of record.

A modal rating is the summary rating level assigned most frequently among the actual ratings of record given that are:

  • assigned under the same summary pattern;
  • given within the same competitive area or, at the agency's option, within a larger subdivision of the agency or agencywide;
  • on record (issued to the employee with all appropriate reviews and signatures); and
  • for the most recently completed appraisal period prior to the date of issuance of reduction in force notices, or prior to the cut-off date the agency specifies before the issuance of reduction in force notices after which no new ratings will be entered into the record.

own modal rating. Where more than one pattern is used within a competitive area or in different competitive areas undergoing a reduction in force, there will be more than one modal rating. Agencies must use the same modal rating for all employees covered by the same pattern, within a competitive area. All ratings used in the modal tabulation must have the same summary level pattern and must be on record for the most recently completed appraisal period prior to the issuance of the reduction in force notices or issued prior to the cut-off date established by the agency.

Agencies may tabulate modal ratings in advance or as needed. If modal ratings are calculated in advance, an agency will look at all of the competitive areas as soon as a cycle is completed and tabulate the modal rating for each pattern. All modal ratings are then available in the event of a reduction in force. If the modal rating is calculated on an as-needed basis, an agency contemplating a reduction in force will look for any employees with no usable ratings of record and determine what pattern they are covered by and what competitive area they are included in. Then, an agency need only tabulate the modal ratings for the relevant patterns in the affected competitive areas.

How to Apply The Modal Rating

To apply the modal rating for a particular pattern, follow these steps:

  1. Look at the number of ratings of record issued for each summary level in that pattern.
  2. The summary level with the highest count is the modal rating.
  3. Apply the appropriate modal rating to determine the additional service credit to be applied in a reduction in force for any employee with no usable ratings.
  4. The same credit must be given for the modal rating that an actual rating of record, using the same pattern, would receive in that competitive area in that reduction in force.

Example. The Music Department announced a reduction in force effective August 31 for the Jazz Division. The cut-off date for ratings of record was set for July 15. The Human Resources (HR) Office advised all Division Chiefs that even though only the Jazz Division would be required to take an actual reduction in number of positions, since the entire Department was a single competitive area, all Divisions would experience personnel changes as the reduction in force was run.

The Music Department uses an agencywide appraisal program with summary pattern H (five summary levels). The HR Office determined that there was no mix of patterns within the competitive area. The Office also reviewed the ratings of record to be credited and found 10 employees with no ratings of record.

Equivalent Ratings of Record ("Non-430" Ratings)

The previous regulations on reduction in force restricted the application of additional service credit based on performance to those ratings given under the authority of part 430 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). To help alleviate the problem of lost service credit for other Federal performance, the new regulations allow ratings to be counted if they meet the definition of an equivalent rating of record. Equivalent ratings of record are performance evaluations given while serving with Federal agencies or under appointments not subject to the appraisal law and regulations included in part 430 of the CFR. Such a rating may be considered an equivalent rating of record if:

  1. the evaluation was issued as an officially designated evaluation under the agency's performance evaluation system (a letter of recommendation would not count);
  2. work-related expectations and standards of performance were established and communicated in advance; and
  3. the evaluation clearly identifies whether or not the employee's performance was acceptable.

Example. Susan Elm has been working for the Sports Agency for 5 years. The Sports Agency is exempt from the regulations in part 430 CFR. Susan then accepts a position with an agency that is covered under part 430 CFR. The following year Susan's new agency is running a reduction in force. Susan may receive credit for her actual performance rated in the Sports Agency because that agency used an official evaluation program, set performance expectations at the beginning of each performance cycle, and assigned a summary level rating to her performance.

For More Information

For information about your agency's policy on assigning retention credit, contact your personnel office. For Governmentwide policy information, you may contact us.

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