Originally Published in The Hill
Justine Coleman - September 9, 2020
Supervisors in at least one California office of the U.S. Census Bureau are being directed to plan for layoffs despite a federal judge's order halting the job cuts, The Associated Press reported Thursday.
A Wednesday email from a field manager in California obtained by the AP told supervisors to rank their census takers with the letters “A,” “B” and “C.”
The census takers rated with a “C” will be the first to be cut during the next round of layoffs, the email said, without specifying when that round would be.
The email indicated that those ranked “A” are top performers who should stay on until the end of the head count at the end of September. Those ranked “B” were also told to be kept on until then.
Census Bureau spokesperson Michael Cook told the AP that the bureau’s headquarters and the six regional offices did not order any ratings to be made. Officials would contact the local offices to ensure they understood the current process, he said.
“This is not something we are directing people to do,” Cook said.
The email was sent days after U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh issued her Saturday night temporary restraining order on the Trump administration’s plans to cut down on census field operations ahead of a court hearing on Sept. 17.
The Census Bureau said in a Tuesday court filing that it would stop plans to lay off census takers who were in phases two or three of the bureau’s three-phase process. The second phase begins after census takers have contacted or made four attempts to contact 60 percent of households.
Before Koh’s order, the bureau had planned to lay off lower-performing workers and give their cases to better-performing employees.
The California office that received the email in question is in the second phase, meaning the judge’s order and bureau’s plan would not permit layoffs, according to the AP.
Koh’s temporary restraining order came after a group of cities, counties and civil rights groups demanded the Census Bureau return to its previous plan to continue the census until the end of October instead of September.
Those in favor of the later date say an earlier deadline would risk allowing minority communities to slip through the cracks. They argue that President Trump ordered the change in order for the bureau to handle apportionment numbers in December, when he will definitely still be president.
The Census Bureau has argued it will not be able to meet its Dec. 31 deadline if census takers continue their work through October.