Resigning from Federal Service Process

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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 short 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.

Process for Resigning from Federal Service

  • 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”.  OPM simply does not require advance notice. 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 and time.  However, there are exceptions that are fact and circumstance dependent.  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.
  • Download a complete copy of your Official Personnel Folder (OPF)
  • Wherever possible, it is important you follow these procedures when resigning from federal service 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.


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