Shaheen Calls for Reassessment of Layoffs at National Passport Center in Portsmouth & Questions Mishandling of Layoff Notices

October 09, 2020

 **The National Passport Center in Portsmouth is the nation’s largest passport processing facility** 

SHAHEEN: “The professional handling of these employees, some of whom have worked at these facilities for decades… is a necessity to ensure the return of these experienced employees once demand for passports goes back to pre-pandemic levels.”

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) called on Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to reassess the State Department’s decision to cut the jobs of hundreds of contract employees working within the Office of Passport Services nationwide. A majority of the cuts will take place at the National Passport Center in Portsmouth, the nation’s largest passport processing facility. In her letter, Shaheen urged Secretary Pompeo to reevaluate these job cuts and work to mitigate the effects on employees and their families.

The number of contractors employed by Passport Services depends on passport demand, which has been severely curtailed by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, Shaheen noted that this does not prevent the Department from informing staff or Congress of upcoming changes, writing, “Employees affected by the most recent cuts should have been provided with more notice and a better explanation of severance opportunities. Unfortunately, only an initial group of Passport Services employees was provided with limited notice. A second round of employees lost their jobs suddenly and without appropriate warning. Furthermore, despite the unprecedented cuts, Congress was not informed in advance.”

Following a meeting with Shaheen’s office last month, the Department asked a number of employees to return to work. However, Shaheen underscored her continuing concern with the lack of planning and order around staffing decisions at these passport processing facilities and highlighted the importance of adequately accommodating impacted employees. “Mr. Secretary, the professional handling of these employees, some of whom have worked at these facilities for decades, is not only paramount to workplace morale, but it is a necessity to ensure the return of these experienced employees once demand for passports goes back to pre-pandemic levels.”

She concluded the letter by requesting further information on the Department’s rehiring and recruitment plans and of any improvements that the Department is considering to its IT modernization strategy to better accommodate unforeseen circumstances and future emergencies impacting employees’ ability to perform their jobs at passport processing facilities.

The letter can be read in full here.