When an agency decides to relocate an office, or the entire agency (this can be done for many reasons), can they force you, if you are employed by them, to relocate or risk losing your job? What options are available to you if you still want to keep your job without relocating?
Forced to Relocate
Yes, your agency, or your job, can be relocated and failure to relocate with it can be grounds for removal. Many federal employees may not know that. If the government wants to move you, it must pay for moving expenses, real estate fees, and temporary housing.
This really doesn’t happen too often. Large-scale relocations tend to generate congressional interest because no Representative or Senator wants to see jobs moving out of their district or state. Unions can also get involved here and local officials oppose losing local jobs. Still, relocations can happen.
Some employees must sign mobility agreements as a condition of employment. If the employee declines a move, they can be fired for failing to satisfy a condition of employment. Of course, this doesn’t mean that only employees on mobility agreements can be ordered to relocate. Others can be ordered as well.
A case law, established in 1980, gives authority to an agency to fire an employee who refuses a forced move. When an employee isn’t covered by a mobility agreement, the agency has the burden to show they are making the move because of legitimate management reasons that would promote the efficiency of the service and give employees enough notice. If the agency can meet that burden and the employee can’t show the reason is a pretext, the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) will typically uphold the removal. If the employee is covered by a mobility agreement, the removal is even easier for the agency to defend.
Many questions come with this, such as how many employees relocate at once? What happens to the agency after that? Does the agency have money to complete the relocation?
Some answers lie within the Defense Department. They had multiple rounds of the Base Closure and Realignment Commission where they made decisions to relocate or consolidate organizations.
For a short move 40 miles away, a report showed 70% of employees relocated with their jobs when the Defense Information Systems Agency moved to Fort Meade, MD, 15% found other jobs, and 15% retired.
When agencies move smaller numbers of employees, the impact on the agency typically isn’t severe. However, if an agency wants to move 1,000 jobs and only 300 people go, the impact can be significant.
Congressional approval is only needed when the agency needs big money to pay for relocation. There may be congressional notification requirements, reprogramming requests, or money needed. If that happens, Congress will have a say and they’ll want to know the agency’s reasons for the move, how it plans to deal with workforce issues, and how it will mitigate the risk to the mission that may be caused by large numbers of employees refusing to relocate.
Most employees will never be asked to move, or be forced to move, but this is good information in case you ever find yourself in that situation.
Another thing you may consider in this situation is federal disability retirement. If you’ve been dealing with, or working through, an injury or illness and are having trouble performing the essential functions of your job, you may qualify. Give us a call at 877-226-2723 or fill out this INQUIRY form and we can schedule a FREE consultation with you.