Questions and Answers about Layoffs at Fermilab
The questions and answers below provide the most accurate information currently available about upcoming proposed layoffs at Fermilab. However, this information is not yet complete nor definitive. Fermilab is required to obtain Department of Energy approval of the laboratory’s layoff plan, a process that could take several weeks. As we learn more, we will make additional information available on these pages.
Q: How many employees will be laid off?
A: Fermilab proposes to lay off somewhat fewer than 200 employees.
Q: When are the individual layoffs planned to be announced?
A: By early April, Fermilab plans to complete the layoff plan and
auxiliary documents and submit the items to the Department of Energy to
obtain plan approval. We don't know exactly how long approval will take,
but we estimate about three to six weeks. Individual notifications will
likely happen in late April or May and will take place, by organization,
according to a preannounced schedule, over the course of a few days. We
will announce the exact schedule as soon as it is final.
Q: What is the difference between a layoff and a RIF?
A: There is no difference. A reduction in force, or RIF, is the same as a layoff.
Q: Under the proposed plan will employees who are being laid off receive severance pay?
A: Yes. Severance pay is based on how long an employee has worked for Fermilab and his or her salary. Details are given at http://wdrs.fnal.gov/policies/policy/workforcereduction.html.
Q: How much notice will employees receive under the proposed plan?
A: Two weeks, beginning with the day an employee is notified. Our established policy http://wdrs.fnal.gov/policies/policy/workforcereduction.html is to give two weeks notice to the employees who will lose their jobs. The Illinois Worker Adjustment and Retraining (WARN) Act would override our policy and require a 60-day notice but only for a layoff of more than 250 employees. We will stay well below that number. Employees who are laid off will receive administrative leave and will not have to work in order to receive their two weeks of pay. In addition, employees will receive severance pay as described at http://wdrs.fnal.gov/policies/policy/workforcereduction.html
Q: SLAC employees received 60 days’ notice of layoffs and 60 days of paid administrative leave. Why do Fermilab employees receive only two weeks?
A: The provisions of the California WARN Act differ from those of the Illinois WARN Act.
Q: If I am notified that I will be laid off, what help will Fermilab provide?
A: On the day after notification, every person laid off will have a meeting with an HR and Benefits expert, plus a visa expert if necessary, to talk about his or her specific situation and the benefits and services available. Later that week, Fermilab will organize an on-site “fair” where laid-off employees can meet with representatives from TIAA-CREF, health insurance providers, and the Illinois Department of Employment Security.
Those laid off can also contact the Fermilab Employee Assistance Program for counseling on a broad range of topics.
On Monday of the week following notification, Fermilab plans to set up an offsite center to provide outplacement services to laid-off employees. Current plans call for it to stay in place for two months. We do not yet know its location.
Q: What outplacement services will be available?
A: Under the proposed plan, outplacement services will include help with resume writing, practice interviews, and job hunting.
Q: What about medical insurance?
A: Medical insurance will continue for all those laid off for the two-week period from the date they were notified. Each person will have the opportunity to sign up for continued medical coverage, either through employee-paid COBRA (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, passed in order to provide continued group health insurance coverage that might otherwise be terminated) or, if the person is eligible for retirement, through retiree medical insurance. Fermilab will provide specifics when the notifications are made.
Q: Will employees who work at Fermilab on visas receive information regarding their visa status after being laid off?
A: Any employee who was notified and holds a visa will have the opportunity for an individual meeting with a visa expert. Fermilab will provide specifics when the notifications are made.
Q: When will I get more information about the layoff process?
A: As soon as Fermilab has more information about layoffs, such as exact dates, the laboratory will provide this information via a Web site at http://www.fnal.gov/faw/layoffs/.
Q: Where can I submit questions?
A: Please submit questions at http://www.fnal.gov/faw/layoffs/question_form.html Please remember that detailed analysis of individual employees’ situations is beyond our capacity to provide at this time.
Q: What are the criteria for retirement eligibility?
A: To be eligible for retirement, employees must be at least 55 years old. They must have at least 3 years of continuous service. An employee’s age plus years of service must be equal to or greater than 65. For example, an employee who is 55 must have 10 years of service to be eligible to retire.
Q: How do employees initiate the retirement process (if they meet the retirement criteria) after finding out they've been laid off?
A: Every employee who is laid off will have an individual benefits consultation on the day following the layoff notice. Employees who are eligible for retirement can begin the retirement process at that time.
Q: Will laid-off employees who retire receive medical benefits?
A: Yes, they will receive the same medical benefits as anyone else who retires. The benefits representative will discuss insurance continuation at the meeting on the day following the layoff notice.
Q: Is life insurance conversion available as in standard retirement?
A: Fermilab’s life insurance plan has a conversion and portability provision. This allows a person to continue coverage as an individual policy after leaving Fermilab, whether through retirement, layoff or resignation. If employees convert within 30 days, they do not have to provide evidence of insurability.
Q: What happens if Fermilab approves tuition assistance for a quarter or semester, but the employee is laid off before that quarter or semester ends? Will the employee have to pay the lab back? If not, will the employee still have to submit a zero balance form and proof of grades?
A: If you received a tuition advance, you must pay Fermilab for the amount you received before your last day at the lab. Then, when you successfully complete the course, submit your final grade report, together with all other required documentation as
Q: During the two weeks of paid administrative leave after layoff notification, will employees still have their IDs, site and office access, kerberos principle and email?
A: Employees will be on administrative leave during the two weeks following layoff notification and will not be expected to report to work. Decisions are pending on access to work space and computer accounts.
Q: The severance pay schedule only extends to "25 to 30 years" for nonexempt and "30 to 35 years" for exempt employees. Since Fermilab was started in 1967, there could be employees with 40 or possibly 41 years of service. How are they covered?
A: The severance schedule is set in our contract with DOE. Even if employees have years of service that exceed the maximum number in the severance schedule, they will be eligible for the amount equivalent to the maximum listed. For example, if you are a nonexempt employee and you have 32 years of service you would be eligible for 13 weeks of severance.
Q: Has the list of names of employees who will be laid off been developed? Was it included in the submittal to DOE?
A: As our director discussed in his March 4 th column in Fermilab Today, division and section heads are currently working on the lists with Workplace Development and Resource Section staff.
Q: For nonunion, nonexempt employees, does seniority play a part in who will be laid off in their departments?
A: As Pier stated in his March 4 th column, division and section heads analyzing the present and future needs of the laboratory and making decisions based on those needs. You may wish to read the Lab's policy on reductions in force at http://wdrs.fnal.gov/policies/policy/workforcereduction.html
Q: Previous reductions in force at Fermilab have covered part of the cost of medical coverage through COBRA, for example continuing the same monthly employee cost for one year. Will this occur during the present RIF or will those laid off need to pay the complete COBRA cost?
A: Employees laid off who have completed the entry probation period are eligible for continued participation in the health care plan (under COBRA) and pay premiums as follows:
Continued eligibility for coverage is reviewed on an annual basis. Eligibility for coverage ceases if you become eligible for other group coverage or are eligible for Medicare.
Q: What if employees stationed at CERN get laid off? Will the lab pay to move them back to the US? How will they receive counseling in this situation?
A: If employees at CERN were laid off we would return them to the place where we hired them. We would have to do the counseling by phone. If the person came from the US and returned too late for things like outplacement services, we could provide them individually.
Q: Is severance pay based on our normal base pay, or on a furlough-reduced base pay?
A: The furlough did not change anyone's base pay rate. Severance pay for eligible employees will be based on the employee's full base pay rate. For H1B visa holders, severance will be based on full-time salary.
Q: Many of us receive information about jobs that may be of interest to some of those who are laid off. It would be useful to have a web site where such information can be posted.
A: We will provide outplacement services for those affected by the layoff. We will coordinate with companies and organizations that have openings and make them available for those who are laid off. When the outplacement details are determined, we will provide an avenue for employees to provide job leads as well.
Q: Are any significant reorganizations planned as part of the layoffs? For instance, removing entire functions from one division or department into another?
A: Fermilab does not plan significant reorganizations as a result of the layoffs.
Q: If a scientist is working on an ongoing experiment, will there be a mechanism to continue working, including taking shifts and analyzing data?
A: Employees who receive layoff notices and who are eligible for retirement may choose to retire. In keeping with Fermilab’s scientific mission, the laboratory has the policy that retiring scientists in good standing may, with prior approval, as “qualified researchers,” be permitted to retain their email accounts, have access to computer work stations and office space, and continue participation in experiments, should they desire. Retirees with other job classifications may also be judged to be “qualified researchers” and may, with prior approval, receive similar privileges. All such arrangements must be approved in advance by the head of the appropriate division, section or center.
Q: If I'm laid off and I haven't taken my furlough for the April-May period yet will that furlough time still be taken from me?
A: Once a person is notified that he/she is being laid off, that person will not have to take furlough as part of the two weeks notice.
Q: My years here and my age give me the ability to retire if I am laid off. I will still be eligible for severance pay, but will I be able to collect unemployment for the six months that are available to me?
A: The laboratory does not make decisions about who collects unemployment. That decision is made by the Illinois Department of Employment Security. A representative from IDES will be on site March 21 and 28 (sessions start at 11 and noon) in the One West conference room in Wilson Hall. Please feel free to stop by and ask your question.
Q: Can a laid off employee return as an on-call?
A: It is possible for a laid off employee to return as an on-call, but with the following restrictions:
Q: Will there be tighter security in place, both at the gates and on the property, once the layoffs have been announced? It is a sad reality that there has been retaliation as a result of layoffs and closings at other organizations.
A: There will be additional security during the layoff process. We are still working out the details, so we can't provide specifics at this time. We are sensitive to the issues caused by layoffs and how they can cause some people to do things they wouldn't do under normal circumstances.
Q: After being given a layoff notice, will the employee have an avenue of appeal?
A: There is no internal lab appeal after a layoff with respect to the layoff action. There can be appeals regarding such things as vacation and severance payouts to correct what the individual believes is a mistake in the details of the separation, but not concerning the separation action.
Q: Will people that are laid off get paid for vacation time not taken in addition to the two weeks of administrative leave and the weeks in the "severance package"?
A: Yes, employees who are laid off will be paid out any accrued vacation that they have not taken.
Q: If I am laid off and my child is currently receiving an FRA scholarship, will my child still be eligible for the scholarship?
A: Per the FRA Scholarship Program Policy Guidelines, if the employee is terminated as a reduction in force, any child who already has a scholarship may continue it to completion; however, other children are not eligible.
Q: If you are laid off, would the floating holiday be paid, or should it be taken before possible layoffs?
A: Floating holidays do not accrue like vacation does; laid-off employees will not be paid for floating holidays not taken?
Q: Since Fermilab is laying off staff, why does our Computing Division have 4 IT/Computer Professional openings posted? Will CD or other divisions have to lay off 4 additional staff members to make budgetary room for 4 potentially external hires?
A: Fermilab is looking very carefully at any openings. There will still be positions that we will post due to the demand for skills that are needed to carry out the mission of the laboratory. At the same time, divisions and sections are requested to keep their headcounts to a certain number.
Q: How will the layoff notification proceed? Will supervisors be giving the news to their laid-off employees? If so, will there be training for the supervisors? Will there be a notification to the rest of the laboratory once the layoffs are complete so people can stop worrying?
A: The current plan is that we will announce which Divisions/Sections/Centers will be having layoff notifications on which particular days. If you are at work and have not been notified by the end of your Division/Section/Center's day, you will know you are not part of the reduction in workforce. Managers will be notified by upper Division/Section/Center management if they are scheduled for training.
Q: Can laid-off employees maintain their Argonne Credit Union membership? What happens to their checking account, savings account, ACU credit card, and loans?
A: Argonne Credit Union assures us that membership in the credit union only terminates if the account owner closes his/her accounts. If a laid-off employee has loans that are being repaid through Fermilab payroll deduction, that employee will need to contact the credit union to make other arrangements for payment.
Further questions should be directed to the Argonne Credit Union at (815) 267-7700, or visit the ACU office on the ground floor of Wilson Hall.
Q: What happens if an employee is on furlough the day of the layoff notifications? Will he or she be notified at home? Or does the person have to wait until he/she arrive back to work on Monday morning?
A: Employees who are on the layoff list but are not at work on the designated layoff day for their Division/Section/Center will be notified when they return to work.
Q: If I am on vacation when laid off, will I receive the layoff notification by e-mail? If not, how will I be informed?
A: People who are laid off will be notified in person by their Division/Section/Center management and Human Resources when they return to work.
Q: A portion of my salary currently goes to the Flexible Spending Account for medical expenses. If I am laid off, will (or can) the laboratory continue this deduction from the severance pay? If not, what other opportunities are there to continue in this program?
A: Contributions for Flexible Spending Accounts cannot be taken from severance pay. Flexible Spending Accounts are terminated on an employee's last day of employment. Healthcare Flexible Spending Accounts may be continued under COBRA for the remainder of the calendar year. Dependent Care Accounts are not eligible for continuation under COBRA.
Q: If a weekly employee takes furlough in April and is laid off in May, will the employee be paid for the April furlough time?
A: If an employee is laid off he/she will not receive pay for a furlough that was previously taken.
Q: Has there been any concerted effort (across divisional boundaries) to assure that best people, in areas of duplication across division boundaries, are not laid off because they are in the "wrong" division (leaving the laboratory in a weaker state)?
A: A lab-wide task force examined positions eligible for reduction in force across the laboratory. A recommendation was provided to the laboratory director who made the final decisions.
Q: If I'm on furlough and I am laid off, do you call me at home or wait until I return to work?
A: If someone is not at work and is to be laid off, that person will be notified as soon as possible after he/she returns to work, although it is possible that we may have to contact the person by phone or mail.
Q: Will departments be letting their people know how many are being let go from the group ahead of the individual notifications?
A: No, departments will not be notifying the work group in advance of the individual notifications.
Q: If my furlough is scheduled right after I get the notification for the lay off, is that furlough period considered as an administrative leave? Will I get paid for that week?
A: If you were laid off, you would not be furloughed after notification, even if it had previously been scheduled.
Q: Is severance pay based on our normal base pay, or on a furlough-reduced base pay?
A: The furlough did not change anyone's base pay rate. Severance pay for eligible employees will be based on the employee's full base pay rate. For H1B visa holders, severance will be based on full-time salary.
Q: Some companies pay for sick and vacation time. Will Fermilab employees that are laid off receive payment for unused sick time?
A: Laid off employees will be paid for any unused vacation time but not for unused sick time. Per Fermilab Personnel Policies/Time Off: Sick Leave: Sick days are carried over from one calendar year to the next until the maximum accrual of 130 days is reached. Employees are not paid for unused sick days either at the end of the calendar year or upon termination. This policy stems from the FRA-DOE contract which states: “Sick leave. Accumulated sick leave is not payable upon termination and may not be used beyond a predetermined date of termination.”
Q: Will the continuation of health care for laid-off employees via COBRA (and at the "active" cost for the first year) be with the same provider (e.g. HMO Illinois) as before layoff? Also, I thought COBRA was limited to 1.5 years; the information provided in your answer to the earlier COBRA FAQ implies a longer period. Is that correct?
A: COBRA coverage can be for whichever plan you participated in before the layoff. Yes, it is correct that the time period is extended because of the layoff event.
Q: In the beginning the article in the paper said the reduction in workforce would come from full-time employees. I am a Phase Out employee. Does this mean I may be laid off also?
A: Phased retirement participants are eligible to be laid off.
Q: What will happen on the day of layoffs?
A: Information on the layoff procedures is here.
Q: Will my computer accounts be disabled?
A: Yes, they will be disabled a short time after you have been notified that you are laid off.
Q: Will I still be able to read my email?
A: Yes. For 60 days after your termination date, you will be able to read email by using the Web interface to the lab's IMAPserver. Your account will be configured so that you will be unable to send email; you will only be able to read, delete and move messages between folders. After 60 days the account will be disabled and you will no longer be able to gain access.
Q: Will I be able to forward my email?
A: Yes. A form will be included in the benefits package that can be used to indicate where you would like your email forwarded. You are allowed to forward your email to the lab's IMAPserver for up to 60 days. After 60 days you must have your email forwarded to an offsite address, such as firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. Offsite forwarding addresses will be left in place indefinitely unless there are problems with delivery.
Q: Will I be allowed to request retrieval of computer files?
A: Yes. A form will be included in the benefits package that can be used to request file retrieval, subject to approval by line management. This includes email, files on local disks, files on central file servers and files that were part of a project. Details are included on the form.
Q: A portion of my salary currently goes to the Flexible Spending Account for medical expenses. If I have been reimbursed more money from my FSA than I contributed to it so far this year, do I owe back that amount of money to the laboratory in the event I am laid off?
A: No, you don’t have to repay the laboratory.
Q. How many employees will be laid off?
A. The number will not be fixed until all final approvals have been received. As we reported in Fermilab Today on May 8, the expected number of layoffs at this time is about 140.
Q. If the laboratory access is restricted to employees only again (perhaps due to outside national security events), how will ex-employees get to the credit union?
A. The credit union is considered to be a public area. If for some reason access would be restricted, there are two non-Fermilab credit union locations available.
Q. If a laid-off employee holds a recreation facility or pool pass, will it be cancelled? Will a full or pro-rated refund be made?
A. If you are laid off you will be able to use your pass only through the 2 weeks of administrative leave. Per the policies for passes, if you have already used 6 months or more of your pass, no money will be refunded. If you have held your pass less than 6 months, the refund will be pro-rated.
Q. If I am on a term appointment, and my term ends early due to the layoff, am I eligible for severance pay?
A. Employees on a term appointment are not eligible for severance pay if the term ends early due to the layoff.
Q: If an employee is in phased retirement or works part-time, will the severance pay be based on the part-time salary or the full-time salary?
A: Severance is based on a person's actual base salary. So if a person is part-time (including phased retirement) severance is based on the part-time salary. For H1B visa holders, currently on part-time status due to the furlough, severance will be based on full-time salary.
Q: From Fermilab Today, May 8 - "Given the retirements and resignations in recent weeks, the expected number of layoffs is about 140." This is well below the 165-200 numbers recently published. Apparently therefore the Laboratory has accepted retirements during a time of RIF that result in a reduction in the number of people getting laid off. These retirees, to my understanding, will not receive severance. Can you tell me how that squares with the FRA contract language "Any employee who volunteers for layoff or retirement during a time period in which the Contractor has an active reduction in force plan will be eligible for severance pay provided the termination is accepted by Laboratory management and results in the retention of an employee who otherwise would have been laid off."?
A: You are right that people have retired from Fermilab in recent months. They chose to retire, though, before Fermilab had an active reduction in force plan. As of now, Fermilab is still working with the Department of Energy on the plan, which will not become final until it receives DOE approval. After the Workforce Restructuring Plan is approved and becomes active, those who are laid off and who are eligible for retirement will receive severance pay in addition to retiree benefits.
Q: Under the proposed plan, if I am eligible for retirement and I am laid off, can I still retire? Will I receive severance pay? Retiree medical benefits?
A: Yes, if you are laid off and you are eligible for retirement, you can still retire. You will receive severance pay and you will still receive standard retiree medical benefits.
Q: Under the proposed plan, can I volunteer to be laid off?
A: No. Layoffs will be determined by lab management.
Q: Why not accept volunteers?
A: There are two reasons. First, volunteers may need to be replaced. This does not help Fermilab meet the budget. In the past, when the laboratory asked for volunteers, Fermilab had to replace fully a third of them. Second, according to the contract, Fermilab could refuse to allow specific employees to volunteer, because they are needed. But allowing some employees to volunteer and refusing others did not seem fair, so we are treating all employees alike.
Q. Will there be a provision for the traditional going-away party for a worker who is laid off?
A. Whether and how to hold going-away parties for those who are laid off will be up to the individual employees and their colleagues. Onsite parties would need to take place in public areas of the lab.
Q: Suppose a person was a term employee for several years and finally became full time. Given that severance pay is dependent on years employed, is the person’s full time employment considered, or total years of employment?
A: Severance benefits are calculated based on the employee’s official service date. In this case, the benefits would be calculated based on the original hire date as a term employee.
Q: If I am laid off and I decide to retire from the lab. I understand I would receive the severance package. Can I also draw unemployment benefits?
A: The laboratory does not determine eligibility. It is determined by the IDES (Illinois department of Employment Security). Shortly after layoffs, representatives from the IDES will be available to meet with laid off employees through the career transition center, or you may contact your local IDES office.
Q: The answer about help for laid off employees posted on 03/04/2008 states that every person will meet with an HR and Benefits expert, PLUS A VISA EXPERT if necessary ... on the day after notification. The "What will happen .." article says meeting with HR and benefits will happen immediately. May the consultation with the visa expert still be arranged?
A: Anyone who is in visa status will meet with a member of the International Services group as part of the notification process.
Q: If I am laid off, will my child who is currently receiving The University of Chicago Tuition Remission still be eligible for the scholarship?
A: Unfortunately no. The University of Chicago policy states that the tuition benefit terminates: "the date you are no longer employed by Fermilab."
Q: If I am scheduled to take my furlough the week that the layoffs are announced, is there any way I can find out before my furlough if my name is on the list, or do I have to wait until I get back from furlough to find out? It would be nice to know so I wouldn't have to take off an extra week without pay unnecessarily.
A: Unfortunately you will not be able to find out ahead of time if you are on the layoff list. Employees who are on furlough the week of layoffs will be notified when they return.
Q: Is the lab going to resume the requirement to wear badges on-site so that we can identify people who might return to the office after being laid off?
A: There are no plans to require employees to wear badges.
Q: Severance pay is based on years of service. How are years of service determined for an employee who has been at Fermilab for more than one period of time (rehired)? Is it the cumulative years of service for all periods or the years of continuous employment for the current period?
A: Severance, and seniority, is determined by the most recent date of hire by URA/FRA, not the original hire date.
Q: In the article 'Donor Gives $5 Million to Aid Fermilab,' by Adrian Cho, Science NOW, 28 May 2008 it says that "DOE policy does not allow the lab to offer "golden parachute" incentives to leave..." Should this be interpreted that there will not be payouts based on years of service for voluntary separation? Or are the compensation rules for voluntary versus involuntary layoffs identical?
A: The severance pay is the same for both voluntary and involuntary separations and is based on years of continuous service. The reference to “golden parachutes” meant that DOE will not authorize increased incentives beyond the standard severance in the case of voluntary separation.
Q: I received a Voluntary Self Select Option Program packet. To apply, do I just turn in the 2-page application form to WDRS or do I also include the approval form and give it to my division head?
A: Please fill out the 2-page VSSOP application form and return to WDRS via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or hard copy to M.S. 107. WDRS will contact your division head. You can ignore the approval form.
Q: If I have a question about where my position falls in the workforce group categories on the Fermilab Post-Reduction Headcount goals (only accessible from Fermilab computers), whom should I contact?
A: Please e-mail the WDRS staff at email@example.com.
Q: I am an H-1 visa holder and received a VSSOP packet. Do I need to make arrangements with the Fermilab Visa Office?
A: Any foreign national at Fermilab in a nonimmigrant status (H-1B, J-1, F-1) should contact the Visa Office before making a decision about the VSSOP program.
Q: Will the layoff date of an employee depend on when the employee responds to the VSSOP invitation? In particular if I wait until the end of the two week option period to respond, will my period of employment at the lab be two weeks longer than if I respond right away?
A: The date that the employee turns in an application will not necessarily correspond with the separation date of June 30, July 1, July 2, or July 3.
Q: Will the dates of the layoff of voluntary and involuntary layoffs be the same?
A: The dates of the voluntary and involuntary will not be the same. The involuntary layoff will follow the voluntary layoff unless we get a sufficient amount of people from the voluntary layoff.
Q: What is the second phase of the Voluntary Layoff Program? Will another group of people be given the chance to volunteer? Or will the balance be met by notifying people they have been laid off?
A: If the Lab does not receive a sufficient amount of volunteers, then an involuntary layoff will follow.
Q: If I choose the voluntary layoff, will I have the option of retiring and returning as guest scientist?
A: If you are laid off either voluntarily or involuntarily and if you are retirement eligible, you can also retire. You may also apply to your division head for retired guest scientist status.
Q: I don't see in the voluntary layoff plan the two weeks of notice for the layoff. Is that correct that there is no notice?
A: Notice pay is only given when an employee is involuntarily laid off.
Q: Is there any vacation time accumulated for the month of July under the voluntary plan?
A: One must be on the payroll for 11 days in the month in order to accrue vacation, so those that choose to take the voluntary layoff would not receive vacation accrual for July.
Q: A previous question was answered with the statement, "Flexible Spending Accounts are terminated on an employee's last day of employment." What happens to the outstanding balance or repayments being applied for at the time of termination?
A: The flexible spending account is terminated on the last day of employment. Claims may be submitted for expenses incurred during the time the account was active. Claims may also be submitted until the end of the quarter after coverage was terminated. For example: if you terminate employment on June 30, 2008, your account terminates on June 30, 2008. You may submit expenses incurred from January 1, 2008 through June 30, 2008. You can submit those expenses for reimbursement until September 30, 2008.
Q: What about the people who are not to be laid off on the day of notification for involuntary layoff? I don't see anything in the plan about telling them about their status. That's an important step to relieve anxiety.
A: If we get to the involuntary phase, after all those being laid off have been notified, the division/section/center heads will let their groups know that the layoffs are finished.
Q: At the director's presentation on May 23, I recall that he said that the vast majority of employees at the laboratory would be eligible for the voluntary separation. The number reported in Fermilab Today on June 9 was given as 750, which would be hundreds less than half the lab. Could you please explain the difference?
A: When the director spoke to the laboratory about the voluntary separation program more than two weeks ago the guess at the time was that we would be offering the separation to the majority of employees at the lab. It was a guess since the detailed analysis remained to be done. The careful analysis that followed showed we could not do that and maintain the productivity of the laboratory because there are many very special skills that we have to maintain. Overall, we are offering the voluntary program to more than five times the number of people needed for the reduction in force.
Q: I did not receive a Voluntary Self Select Option Program packet. Is this because I have been employed at Fermilab for less than 1 year and am therefore ineligible for the voluntary layoff? If so, does this mean that I am also exempt from the involuntary layoff?
A: Employees with less than one year service are by the rules of the VSSOP ineligible. It does not make you ineligible for involuntary layoff.
Q: I've looked at the published numbers closely, and I am trying to understand the reasoning behind the choices. For example, 22 percent of drafter-designer population will be laid off. This is a high skill field which has a great amount of technical knowledge regarding the laboratory's operations and designs. Drafters and designers are important to the success of engineers. Additionally, if contractors are brought to the laboratory, it would be difficult for them to replace the knowledge base of the drafters and designers. On the other hand, only 1 percent of administrative/professional population are targeted for layoffs. They can contribute no or minimal technical knowledge toward the future of the laboratory. If 10 percent of the laboratory population is being laid-off, proportionally 10 percent of the administrative work would be removed. There appears to be a conflict of interest. Can you explain this discrepancy?
A: This process started out with a Task Force that looked at the mission and future needs of the laboratory to determine where cuts could be made. This is what Director Pier Oddone wrote in his Director's Corner on March 4, 2008: "Over the last two months, we have faced a heavy and much more difficult task: the development of a plan for the layoffs that Fermilab must make to fit into our reduced budget going into the future. I created a task force of senior personnel from divisions and sections to go through every function at the laboratory and make recommendations to me on how we should reduce the workforce while minimizing damage to our overall program. The task force carried out this difficult task by analyzing the present and future needs of the laboratory. They considered only functions, without discussing names. The task force met for many hours almost every day during January. In early February, they made recommendations to me for reductions in various functions carried out by divisions and sections. I then met personally with every division and section head to understand the full impact of these job cuts and to take responsibility for the consequences to our operations for the nearly 200-FTE reduction proposed by the task force. We are now moving to the next step, with each division and section working with our Workforce Development and Resources Section on the actual reductions in force, the people who will be laid off, within each division. Layoffs will affect every area of the laboratory, scientific and support staff alike. We can only proceed to implement our plan after receiving approval by DOE." Since Oddone wrote his column, the goal for the reduction in workforce has been reduced from 200 FTE to about 140 FTE.
Q: Is there a breakdown of the number of weekly employees and the number of monthly employees who received the VSSOP's?
A: The laboratory has not done a breakdown by exempt/non-exempt status.
Q: With the announcement of the planned voluntary layoff program, I understand the number of employees who will be offered the option of volunteering for a layoff will be significantly larger than the population originally targeted by the involuntary layoffs. Will all the positions included in the original involuntary layoff program be offered the option of the voluntary layoff program? In other words, is the involuntary layoff target population a proper subset of the intended voluntary layoff target population?
A: For most people, no package means no layoff. However, there are 199 employees who were not eligible to receive packages because they do not meet the eligibility criteria. Kay Van Vreede provide a detailed answer in the June 16 issue of Fermilab Today.
Q: If lots of people receive the voluntary severance package and more than the projected 140 accept this offer, for example, 300 people accept the offer, will all 300 be granted a severance package or just 140?
A: Of the 750 people who were offered the separation package only a maximum of 158 will be accepted. The number is slightly higher than the goal for the involuntary layoff.
Q: With the current problems facing the laboratory, and more layoffs possible in the future, will there be any effort made to have the disparity in severance packages between exempt and nonexempt employees reviewed? Is there an explanation as to why a year of service is treated differently depending on a person's pay classification?
A: The severance schedule the laboratory follows is established by our prime contract with the Department of Energy.
Q: I know there are different phases to complete the voluntary layoff. What is the expected timeframe for each phase?
A: The voluntary phase will wrap up July 3. The involuntary phase, if needed, will follow as soon as approval is received from the Department of Energy.
Q: In what form will continuing employees be notified of the names of those colleagues laid off?
A: Due to privacy issues, no individual names will be published.
Q: I see nothing addressing the adjustments for people with disabilities seeing as not many employers will be likely to hire personnel with restrictions and ongoing medical problems.
A: The laboratory is sensitive to employment issues for the disabled and has always made reasonable accommodations in our workplace. The criteria for this layoff are being carefully determined by the laboratory's need for specific positions and skills going forward as we consider the retention of individual employees.
Q: Before federal and state taxes, social security, etcetera will be deducted from severance pay, will employees have an option to contribute their normal monthly percentage to their retirement accounts from their severance pay?
Q: Will Fermilab be contributing its share of monthly employee retirement benefits to the employees severance pay?
NEW! Q: If I have used all of my Medical Reimbursement for the entire year already, will the uncontributed portions for the remainder of the year be deducted from the severance package?
A: No additional deductions for the Flexible Spending Account reimbursements will come out of the severance pay.
NEW! Q: Will employees who are accepted for the voluntary layoff program have the same access to the services of the career transition firm (Lee Hecht Harrison) that will be available to the employees who are part of the involuntary layoff?
A: No. While the firm provided career transition seminars, they will not provide individual services to those who participate in the voluntary separation.
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