6.715.1 Policies, Responsibilities, Requirements, and Procedures

Overview and Policy

  1. This IRM contains information and options on voluntary separations and reductions in grade or pay when management is considering termination, removal or demotion of an employee. Depending on circumstances, it is often in the best interest of both management and the employee to present that employee with an opportunity to voluntarily resign, retire, or accept a change to lower grade (as appropriate).


  1. 5 CFR 715

  2. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Guide to Processing Personnel Actions

  3. IRM 1(16)31

  4. IRM 6.300

  5. IRM 6.432

  6. Collective Bargaining Unit Agreement(s)

Ensuring Voluntariness of Actions

  1. Case law has established that for an action to be considered voluntary, an employee should have a choice (even if between two unpleasant options such as removal or resignation). The options should be presented clearly, accurately, and without deception or coercion. The impending action should have a genuine basis; and the employee should be mentally competent, have time to decide, and be allowed to set the effective date of the action (within reason). See, also, the provisions of applicable collective bargaining agreements.

Clearance Responsibility

  1. Personnel Officers are responsible for establishing separation clearance procedures for personnel whom they service. Such procedures will require signature and date endorsement of appropriate officials or employees to reflect separation clearance. Generally, these procedures can be carried out successfully by utilizing some type of “separating employee clearance form. Form 5389 contains all of the elements necessary to clear a separating employee.


  1. When sufficient evidence has been gathered, and an employee may be removed or reduced in grade/pay, the supervisor will discuss her/his recommendation with the official having the delegated authority under Delegation Order No. 81 (as revised) to propose the action.


    Delegations of Authority concerning HRM-related matters previously covered in Delegation Order 81 are being revised into several orders to be issued at a future date.

  2. When a determination has been made to propose a separation from the position occupied, management will consider alternatives other than involuntary separation or reduction in grade/pay. These alternatives may include such actions as:

    1. REASSIGNMENT TO ANOTHER POSITION — Reassignment to another position may be considered when, for example, an employee who accepted a lateral reassignment to a new position encounters performance problems in the new position. A reassignment back to the former position or a similar position is an alternative to proposing an action based on unacceptable performance. This is only one example of when reassignment may be appropriate.

    2. VOLUNTARY REDUCTION IN GRADE OR REASSIGNMENT — If an employee acknowledges an inability or an unwillingness to fulfill the responsibilities of his/her position, management may consider placing the employee in a position he/she voluntarily requests (if such a position is available and if he/she is qualified and suitable for the position). Management must reasonably anticipate that the employee will be able to satisfactorily perform in the position.

    3. RETIREMENT OR RESIGNATION — If an employee is eligible to retire, the supervisor may raise the possibility of retirement prior to proposing separation of the employee from the position occupied. If an employee is not eligible for retirement, the possibility of the employee resigning may be discussed. However, it must be clear that it is strictly the employee’s choice whether to pursue retirement or resignation. In addition, if an employee is eligible for discontinued service retirement, that option should be considered.

    4. DISABILITY RETIREMENT — When it is determined that an employee’s unacceptable performance may be the result of a mental or physical disability and a reasonable accommodation to such disability has been made (Information will be contained in IRM 6.300 which will be published at a future date.), and the employee meets the service requirements for a disability retirement, the possibility of disability retirement may be explored.

  3. Withdrawal of Resignation — In general, an agency will permit an employee to withdraw a resignation before it becomes effective. See, however, 5 CFR 715.202(b) and applicable collective bargaining agreements.

  4. There are several mandatory elements that must be incorporated into any separation procedure. They are as follows:

    1. The separating employee must certify that he/she understands and agrees to abide by post-employment restrictions outlined in Document 7106, Summary of Post-Employment Restrictions. Document 7106 is provided to all employees who leave the Service. Document 7107, Post-Government Employment Restrictions for IRS Employees, is provided to all employees, other than clerical/secretarial employees (and to them upon request), when they leave the Service. The separating employee must also certify with his/her signature, his/her agreement not to reveal classified information, unless officially authorized to do so by appropriate officials of the IRS. Also to be certified is his/her return of all government property and identification media; and that no indebtedness or unsatisfied period of obligated service is due the Service. See Form 5389, Part III, Section G, for these elements.

    2. Among the officials designated as responsible for signing the clearance form for the separating employee, one official will be selected to certify that the employee has read the requirements pertaining to postemployment restrictions. Form 5389, Part Ill, Section A, makes the supervisor the certifying official for this requirement. This selection is optional; any official who signs the form can make this certification as long as he/she is qualified to discuss the conflict of interest requirements with the employee, should he/she be questioned.

    3. When a separating employee holds a TOP SECRET, SECRET, or CONFIDENTIAL security clearance (as reflected in the Official Personnel Folder, or the separation clearance form), Form 4323, Notice of Status Change of Cleared Employee, will be used to notify the appropriate Protective Programs Officer to take action to cancel the clearance. See IRM 1(16)31, National Security Information Handbook, for details. See Part Ill, Section F of Form 5389.

    4. All separating employees will be required to liquidate any outstanding indebtedness to the Federal Government and to return any identification or building passes; credentials; IRS Manual issuances; brief cases; and any other government property which may have been issued to them. Prompt settlement of indebtedness to the government is required before final salary payment is released. See Part II and Part Ill of Form 5389.

Abandonment Of Position

  1. Ordinarily the Service will not use this kind of separation action because, if the employee returns to duty and claims he/she did not abandon his/her position, the OPM will usually accept his/her word. The Service must restore the employee to duty and then, if appropriate, use adverse action procedures to separate him/her. Whenever possible, adverse action procedures should be followed from the beginning.

  2. Seasonal employees serving under career or careerconditional appointments, who fail to return to duty status when requested, should be separated for abandonment of position unless they submit a resignation or an acceptable reason for being unable to return to work status at a given time. When the employee fails to return to duty, the Service should ask the employee if he/she wishes to resign. If he/she will not resign, or, if he/she cannot be reached by telephone or letter, the abandonment-of-position action should be used. The "Remarks" section of the SF-50 should explain the nature of the action so that it will not reflect unfavorably on the employee in the event she/he seeks Federal employment again. For example: "Mr. Doe worked on a seasonal basis. He was placed in non-pay status on May 5, 1973. The Service was not able to reach him at his former address when he was needed to perform duties on January 10, 1974."

SF-50 Remarks In Voluntary Separations

  1. Employees are generally free to have their reasons for resigning entered into their official records. In certain situations, the agency can also enter appropriate remarks. Even when permitted, however, adverse agency comments are not mandatory.


    OPM has published a "Guide to Processing Personnel Actions." This guide is available on the Internet at www.opm.qov/feddata/qppa/qppa.htm.

Employee Death

  1. No action will be taken to separate an employee because of death until the Personnel Office secures substantial proof of death.

  2. The servicing personnel office, and the servicing finance office share responsibility for the proper filing and processing of all claim forms in connection with the death of an employee. (See Payroll Personnel System User’s Handbook, Chapter 800, for instructions on processing death separation actions and claims).