Resigning from Federal Service

During and following the massive debacle of the “Trump Shutdown”, we received a large number of inquiries.  Among the most prevalent inquiries we received concerned resigning from Federal Service (going to private sector), particularly when Human Resources personnel were not available to process a resignation.  There was concern that employees who wished to resign during the Trump Shutdown would later be fired for “job abandonment” absent proper documentation of the resignation.  This concern motivated us to prepare this shirt article on the general issue of properly resigning from federal employment in a manner that protects the employee.

We are presenting this information in a bulleted format for both easy understanding and quick reference.

  • What is a resignation from federal service?
    • In the federal sector, a resignation is a voluntary separation (at election of the employee) from employment with a federal agency.
  • Advance notice to agency
    • Advance notice to an agency concerning your resignation is not required by law.  If local policy requires advance notice, we opine such policy conflicts with law and essentially has “no teeth”.  You can actually walk into your supervisor’s office and inform him or her that you are resigning effective immediately.  The agency is required to process the action as a resignation with no negative remarks or documentation.
    • However, we recommend you provide advance notice to the agency whenever possible.  This is what professionals do.  Plus, the advanced notice will provide sufficient time to properly follow clearance procedures which may affect departing benefits such as annual leave payout and continuing healthcare.
    • Notice of resignation should not be verbal.  All notices of resignation should be expressed in writing containing the reason for such resignation as well as the date, time, office location, effective date of resignation, to whom addressed and with the signature of the employee with the employee name clearly printed under the signature.  A current forwarding address and phone number should also be included.
    • Part E of the SF-52 (Request for Personnel Action) may be used to document an employee’s reason for resigning.
  • After I submit a resignation in advance can I change my mind?
    • In most cases yes, right up until the effective date.  There are exceptions that are fact dependent however.  These exceptions are rare. All separations are effective at midnight of the effective date unless a different time is indicated on the SF-50.
  • Agency prescribed procedures for resigning
    • Each agency and even localized workgroups rely upon its own established protocols in connection with separations from federal service whether voluntary or involuntary.  Your local HR and/or Fiscal/Payroll will likely be controlling in these procedures.
    • Wherever possible, it is important you follow these procedures especially concerning the turn in of agency equipment that could result in a collection notice if not properly documented.  Employees should retain a copy of all documentation associated with clearance procedures.
  • Official files and documentation
    •  Official Personnel Folder (OPF)
      • The biggest mistake we see separating federal employees make is to leave federal service without a copy of personnel documentation including their Official Personnel Folder.  Do not leave federal service without a complete copy of your Official Personnel Folder.  Shortly after an employee leaves federal service the agency loses access to the file.  It then becomes a laborious and time consuming process to obtain the file.  Additionally, the agency has no obligation to service former employees.
    • Other files and documents
      • Ask your supervisor for a copy of any locally maintained documents in connection with your employment.  This may include awards, performance evaluations and plans, training and certifications.
      • Your local occupational health office may also have files maintained in connection with your employment.
  • Benefits
    • Whether you believe you have accrued federal retirement benefits or not, prior to separation, you should make an appointment with you local retirement specialist to determine if 1) you have accrued any retirement benefits and 2) when you can apply for such benefits and 3) how you would initiate an application for retirement benefits.  Employees separated from federal service should review the OPM site on the Federal Employee Retirement System (FERS) for former employees.
    • Federal employees are entitled to retention of certain health benefits under certain conditions.  Employees should contact their local human resources benefits personnel and/or review the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) healthcare eligibility.
    • Bargaining unit members may have some union benefits requiring consideration upon separation.  Typically these involve, life insurance, short-term disability insurance, discounts on products,  and long-term care insurance.  Consult your local union officials.
  • The final SF-50
    • We have previously written about the seriousness of the SF-50 and associated coding.  An incorrectly coded SF-50 can ruin your life and be nearly impossible to correct, especially the more time that elapses from the effective date of your resignation.  This document will be the final document coded by the agency and placed in your OPF.  Ensure you follow-up and obtain a copy of this document as soon as possible.  Review it and ensure it is correct.  Employees can review the Office of Personnel Management’s Guide to Processing Personnel Actions (GPPA) by clicking here.
  • Post federal employment references
    • There are instances in which post-federal employment references will be of concern to separated federal employees.  This is one of the reasons preserving official documentation in connection with previous federal employment can be of a critical concern.
    • In the event of an inappropriate post federal employment reference from a former agency, employees can obtain relieve primarily through the EEO process.  Non-employees and former employees can file EEO complaints.

InformedFED provides expert administrative consulting and related transactional services to federal employees in all labor and employee relations matters.


The material on this website is intended to provide only general information and comment to the public and federal employees. Although we make our best efforts to ensure information found on this website is accurate and timely, we cannot, and do not, guarantee the information is either. Nor do we guarantee accuracy of any information contained on websites to which our website provide links.  Consultants offered through this website are not attorneys and are not employees of InformedFED. They are advanced labor and employee relations practitioners. They provide services to clients in their individual capacities through individual agreements with their clients.