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Reduction in Force - Layoffs

This page provides resources and information on the layoff process for Washington local governments, including examples of procedures and other related documents.


Layoffs - also called reductions in force – are sometimes necessary and difficult employment actions to take. The need for layoffs may be caused by lack of revenue caused by budget shortfalls or limited work. Although layoffs affect those who lose their jobs, they also impact those employees who remain, who may be asked to do more with less, and employers who may no longer be able to provide the services or level of services expected by the public.

When layoffs occur or are planned, there are several issues that must be addressed. What notice must be given to the affected workers? How are the workers to be laid off selected? Do the employees in the positions to be eliminated have "bumping rights" over other employees? What impact, if any, will the layoffs have on protected classes of employees, such as older employees or members of other protected groups, perhaps giving rise to potential discrimination complaints? Do the layoffs need to be bargained? What benefits are available to those who have been laid off? Will tasks formerly performed by the laid-off workers continue to be performed by the remaining staff members, thus requiring changes in job descriptions and salaries?

The following resources provide guidance for this process. They are, however, just a starting point. Reference should also be made to personnel policies, job descriptions, union contracts, and benefit agreements. Importantly, the preparation for layoffs should involve coordinated efforts by department heads, supervisors, human resource personnel, and legal representatives.

Informing Employees

Providing good information to the affected employees can somewhat soften the adverse impact of reductions in force, help explain why the layoff is occurring, and provide useful information on what to do next. The following documents provide examples of how a layoff might be handled. Even though some of the documents are older, the information and approach they provide is still useful.

Examples of Layoff Letters and Separation Agreements 


Employee Assistance

Being laid off likely triggers many concerns for employees: Can I pay my mortgage? What about my other bills? Will I still have medical insurance coverage? How do I apply for unemployment compensation? The following items provide information to persons being laid off, outlining sources of information for answering common questions.

Examples of Layoff/Employment Benefit Information

Layoff Procedures

Failing to carefully plan for and execute a reduction in force could lead to potential litigation, union contract disputes, and public disapproval. Layoffs done correctly and with sufficient planning help employers reduce uncertainty and provide useful assistance to soon-to-be former employees who find themselves needing to move on in their careers. The following items supply example policies, procedures and references that may be helpful during the layoff process.

Examples of Procedures

Recommended Resources

Employee Benefits

What happens to employee benefits once an employee is laid off? What forms of assistance become available to those former employees? Here are some links that address some available benefits.

Job Search Information

The following links provide information about where laid-off or soon-to-be-laid off employees may seek new employment or training.

Last Modified: February 23, 2024