Q & A Session – Veterans’ Preference and Involuntary Assignments
Ask the Lawyer received the following question (paraphrased for easier reading and clarity) from a reader on a legal matter that might be of interest to the entire audience.
I am an employee of the United States Postal Service (USPS) and a preference eligible veteran with a disability rating of 30% or higher. The processing facility I work at may be closed, and I was wondering if I could be involuntarily assigned from a full-time position to a part-time position during a reduction in force (RIF).
It is possible that you could be involuntarily assigned to a part-time position. However, because you are a preference eligible veteran with a disability rating of 30% or higher, you are more insulated from the negative impact of a RIF than most other employees.
While the civil service RIF rules do not apply specifically to the Postal Service, 39 U.S.C. § 1005(a)(2) explains that veterans’ preference rules are in effect. Therefore, during a USPS RIF, 5 C.F.R. § 351.501(c) will serve as a guide for retention priority. Preference eligible veterans who have a compensable service-connected disability of 30 percent or more will receive the highest retention preference. Other preference eligible veterans will be of intermediate priority, while nonpreference eligible employees hold the lowest retention priority.
Retired members of the armed services are usually not eligible for veterans’ preference unless retirement is based on a disability received in combat or caused by “an instrumentality of war” during a period of war, or the veteran’s retirement was based on less than 20 years of active service. Slightly different rules apply to those who retired at the rank of Major or above (or equivalent). If you retired at the rank of Major or above, please review 5 C.F.R. § 351.501(d)(4) and (5).
Accordingly, you would be one of the employees most insulated from change, if many employees remained full-time but others become part-time or were removed. However, if the entire facility is closed, or the vast majority of positions were converted to part-time positions, you could still find yourself dealing with a significant change in employment. Veterans’ preference ensures that veterans will be treated as well as anyone else, but it does not insulate them entirely from undesirable employment actions.
Bill Bransford is managing partner of Shaw, Bransford & Roth, PC.
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