March 8, 1999: Headlines: Legislation: Five Year Rule: PCOL: The Five Year Rule

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The Five Year Rule

The Five Year Rule


DATE: March 08, 1999

TO: All Peace Corps Employees

FROM: Daniel Janssen, Director, Office of Human Resource Management Peace Corps' Personnel System

From time to time, various memoranda have been issued on the Peace Corps personnel system. I am taking this opportunity to reissue some basic information on our personnel system.

The Peace Corps personnel system has several features that are unique among Federal agencies and, unfortunately, often confusing to employees. Some of these features, such as the "five-year rule", are required by law; others, such as the thirty-month appointment or "tour" that employees receive, are matters of Peace Corps policy. Following is a brief explanation of the law and policies related to some of the issues that are the source of frequent questions and concerns.

The Five-Year Rule, Sixth Years, and Third Tours

Legislation enacted in 1965 established a general five-year limit on Peace Corps employment and prohibited an employee whose appointment was terminated from receiving another appointment until the passage of a period of time equal to the prior length of service (the "in-and-out" rule). The one major exception to the five-year limit on employment was a special "sixth-year" authority that enabled the Peace Corps Director, under "special circumstances," to personally extend on an individual basis an employee's appointment for up to one year beyond five years.

In 1985, the Peace Corps Act was amended to its current form, under which appointments for up to seven and one-half years may be made. However, appointments beyond five years are severely restricted b) both mandatory criteria and an overall percentage cap on the total. The Director's "sixth-year" authority was retained, though Congress indicated its expectation that "this extraordinary authority will continue to be exercised ... sparing[ly]."

Under section 7(a)(5) of the Peace Corps Act the Director may approve an appointment of up to seven and one-half years only for employees whose performance has been exceptional and only in order to achieve one or more of the following purposes:

o To permit individuals who have served at least two and one-half years abroad to serve in the United States;

o To permit individuals who have served at least two and one-half years in the United States to serve abroad;

o To permit individuals who have served at least two and one-half years in a recruitment, selection, or training activity to be reassigned to another activity;

o To promote the continuity of functions in administering the Peace Corps.

Section 7(aX5) additionally places a ceiling on the number of appointments beyond five years that can exist any time to 15 percent of the total number of U.S. citizen appointments in effect.

It is important to understand that sixth years and third tours may only be granted in extraordinary situations and are never required to be granted. It is also important to understand that sixth years and third tours can only be granted by the Director of the Peace Corps based on the needs of the agency and not those of the individual. Requests for third tours and six years are submitted to the Director by Associate Directors and Regional Directors based on their perceived needs to maintain successful operations. Requests are not made by individuals, and there should be no expectation of an extension until the request is approved by the Director of the Peace Corps.

30-Month Appointments

New employees of the Peace Corps typically receive an appointment of 30 months. While successive 30-month tours fit precisely into the five-year limit on employment, employees should understand clearly that a first tour carries with it no guarantee of, or entitlement to, a second tour. This point bears emphasis because it is both important and often misunderstood. A 30-month appointment is just that.

An appointment may be extended for up to an additional 30 months but, as noted above, the total length of service generally may not exceed five years. Second tour appointments may also be made for a period of less than 30 months. If an initial appointment is not going to be extended for an additional 30 months, the employee will receive a 30-day advance notice in writing. Employees who have reemployment rights to other Federal agencies will receive written notice 60 days in advance of the end of their tours.

As you all know, the time-limited nature of Peace Corps employment creates an environment in which institutional memory is difficult to retain, which, in turn, makes running the Peace Corps more challenging. The absence of long-term job security is a matter of personal concern for many employees. However, despite the management and personal difficulties that stem from this system, it provides us with sufficient flexibility to carry out the important work of the Peace Corps in a professional, economical, and energetic manner. It is also required by law.

With respect to the unique career-planning challenges that Peace Corps employees confront, a clear understanding of the rules under which we all operate will minimize confusion and apprehension. HRM will work with staff to make this transition as easy as it may be and will work with RPCV services to put forward job transition seminars on various topics.

When this story was prepared, this was the front page of PCOL magazine:

This Month's Issue: August 2004 This Month's Issue: August 2004
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Story Source: PCOL

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