• left portrait
  • office
  • right portrait
  • logo_policies.gif

Separations

Termination of Employment
Exit Interview and Exit Interview Report
Unemployment Insurance

Termination of Employment

Category: SEPARATIONS
Issued: July 1, 2009
Responsible Office: Employment & HR Client Services, (212) 851-7008; CUMC Human Resources and Harlem Hospital - Chief Human Resources Officer, (212) 305-3819

Who is Governed by this Policy

This policy affects all Officers of Administration, Officers of the Libraries, and Non-Union Support Staff employed by Columbia University.

Who Should Know this Policy

All Columbia University Officers of Administration, Officers of the Libraries, and Non-Union Support Staff should review and understand this policy. 

Departmental Administrators and Human Resources managers should review and understand this policy as well as refer to the HR Manager Toolkit website.

Policy Statement

This policy is designed to ensure that Columbia University complies with its internal requirements when making termination decisions.  The employment of a staff member may not be terminated for any reason without prior review by Human Resources.  

Columbia University has three types of terminations: voluntary,  involuntary, and job elimination, each with its own set of unique procedures as outlined below. 

Reason for this Policy

This policy serves as a comprehensive guide for departments to manage terminations equitably and fairly.  The guidelines set forth in this policy outline and define the processes involved when the employment of an Officer of Administration, Officer of the Libraries or a Non-Union Support Staff member is terminated voluntarily or involuntarily.

Exclusions and Special Situations

All cases of involuntary terminations of employment involving staff covered by a collective bargaining unit must be reviewed and approved by the Office of Labor Relations.  Staff rights and obligations under applicable collective bargaining agreements are not affected by this policy.  Contact information for Labor Relations and collective bargaining agreements may be found on the HR website under Union Contracts.

Officers of Instruction and Officers of Research are governed by the Faculty Handbook.

Policy Text

Termination of employment may be voluntary, involuntary or as a result of job elimination (re-engineering, reorganization or staff reduction), and is governed by the following definitions and guidelines.

1. Voluntary Termination

Resignation

A resignation is a voluntary termination initiated by the employee.  Employees are expected to provide written notification of resignation, but it is not a requirement.  In cases where an employee notifies the department verbally of his or her resignation, the department must provide the employee with a completed Resignation Confirmation Letter (Word template).

Non-Union Support Staff are expected to give two weeks' notice and provide written notification of a resignation. 

Officers of Administration and Officers of the Libraries are expected to give a minimum of four weeks' notice and provide written notification of a resignation.

Upon completing the specified notice period, employees who resign receive vacation pay for earned, unused vacation days and personal days.  Employees who do not provide such notice may forfeit this pay. 

Under extenuating circumstances, exceptions may be made, but require the approval of the department head following consultation with Columbia University Human Resources. At a manager's discretion, the employee may be asked to cease actively reporting to work on a daily basis once notice has been given.  However, the employee will be paid for the minimum notice period of two or four weeks, respectively, if the employee has provided written notice as required. 

An employee's use of vacation time during the notice period is at the discretion of the department and based on operational needs.

2. Involuntary Termination

All involuntary terminations must be discussed with Columbia University Human Resources prior to a department's notification to the employee. 

In the case of any involuntary terminations for staff covered by a collective bargaining agreement, departments must consult with the Office of Labor Relations prior to communicating with the employee.

Eligibility for rehire is determined in consultation with Columbia University Human Resources based on the facts and circumstances of the termination.

Officers of Administration, Officers of the Libraries and NonUnion Support Staff who are involuntarily terminated will be paid for earned and unused vacation and personal days.

Officers of Administration, Officers of the Libraries, and Non-Union Support Staff are expected to comply with the University's policies and procedures, and the directions of their supervisor(s).

The following are examples of the types of conduct which are not acceptable and may cause the University to impose discipline, up to and including termination of employment.  Of course, it is not possible to list every type of unacceptable conduct and the following list provides examples only and is not exhaustive.  As stated elsewhere, employment is at-will.

Examples of reasons for involuntary terminations, other than job elimination, include but not limited to:

  • Unsatisfactory job performance, failure to adequately perform assigned duties and/or work performance is below required standards
  • Engaging in conduct in the workplace that violates any federal, state or local law, ordinance or regulation
  • Violation of Columbia University policies
  • Conflict of interest
  • Excessive absenteeism or tardiness

3. Job Eliminations

A job elimination is a termination initiated by the University because the job or position is discontinued due to a lack of work, significant change of work/responsibilities, or a lack of funds. In the case where a department must select a position for elimination with multiple incumbents, consideration should be given to, but not limited to: relevant skills, ability, job performance, and experience, when determining which position or incumbent will be eliminated.

All job eliminations must be discussed in advance with Columbia University Human Resources to ensure compliance with University policy. In the case of any job eliminations covered by a collective bargaining agreement, departments must consult with the Office of Labor Relations. Columbia University Human Resources and the General Counsel's Office must also review plans and approve severance agreements.

A retirement-eligible Officer of Administration, Officer of the Libraries, or Non-Union Support Staff whose position is eliminated, may retire and receive severance if the employee signs the severance agreement and release.

Severance Allowance

Severance allowance is intended to provide transitional support for Officers of Administration, Officers of the Libraries, and Non-Union Support Staff whose jobs have been eliminated.  An employee's amount of severance is based on the severance allowance schedule included in this policy. 

Severance allowance is contingent upon signing a full release of all claims against the University that relate to the employee's employment.  Severance payments are in the form of a lump sum payment, less applicable taxes and other appropriate withholdings.

Temporary positions (full-time or part-time) and part-time positions with schedules less than 20 hours per week are not entitled to severance allowance.

Departments must consult with Columbia University Human Resources to determine and finalize any severance agreement.

For issues about re-employment and its effect on University seniority, please consult the policy text in the CUHR website under Policies.  

  • Employment Status Changes that Affect Severance Allowance
    • If an Officer of Administration, Officer of the Libraries, or Non-Union Support Staff member, whose regular full-time or part-time job is eliminated, accepts a benefits-eligible temporary full-time position at the University with a specified end date (not to exceed 12 months), then the employee's severance allowance will be suspended until the conclusion of the assignment. The employee is entitled to receive the severance allowance agreed to in their former position's separation agreement
    • If an Officer of Administration, Officer of the Libraries, or Non-Union Support Staff member whose regular full-time or benefits-eligible part-time job is eliminated, accepts a regular part-time position at the University that is not benefits-eligible, the employee is not required to pay back the severance allowance received as a result of the former position's severance agreement.
    • If an Officer of Administration, Officer of the Libraries, or Non-Union Support Staff member, whose regular full-time or benefits-eligible part-time job is eliminated, accepts a regular full-time position at the University without a break in service, the employee is not entitled to severance.  However, if the employee as described in this paragraph accepts such a position after experiencing a break in service, he or she will  be required to pay back a proportional amount of the severance allowance received as a result of the former position's severance agreement.
    • If an Officer of Administration, Officer of the Libraries, or Non-Union Support Staff member, whose regular full-time or part-time job is eliminated, accepts a benefits-eligible part-time position within the University without a break in service, the employee is not entitled to severance. 
    • If an Officer of Administration, Officer of the Libraries, or Non-Union Support Staff member, whose regular full-time job is eliminated, accepts a regular full-time position with a lower salary at the University, the employee is required to pay back a proportional amount of the severance allowance received, based on the lower salary.
    • In all cases, the University retains the right to determine if the second position is comparable or similar, and to determine whether the employee is required to pay back all or a portion of the severance allowance.

Severance Allowance Schedule

Non-Union Support Staff

A Non-Union Support Staff employee with a regular full-time or part-time (20 - 35 hours worked per week) schedule will receive a severance allowance contingent upon signing a full release of all claims relative to the employee's employment against the University, as follows:

  • Less than one year of service: The employee will receive two weeks of base pay.
  • One or more years of service: The employee will receive one week of base pay for each completed year of continuous full-time or regular part-time (20 - 35 hours worked per week) service, up to a maximum of a total of 26 weeks.
  • An employee will receive a severance allowance of no less than two weeks of base pay.
  • Severance shall be in the form of a lump sum payment, less applicable taxes.

Officers of Administration and Officers of the Libraries

A regular full-time or part-time (20 - 35 hours worked per week) Officer of Administration or Officer of the Libraries will receive a severance allowance contingent upon signing a full release of all claims against the University that relate to the Officer's employment, as follows:

  • Up to two years: The employee will receive one month of base salary.
  • Two or more completed years of service: The employee will receive a severance allowance of one month of base salary per year of service, up to a maximum of six months.
  • Severance shall be in the form of a lump sum payment, less applicable taxes.
  • Part-time Officers of Administration will receive a severance allowance based on their current part-time salary rate. For further information, please refer to "Employment Status Changes that Affect Severance Allowance" in this policy.

Officer of Administration Severance Allowance Schedule:

Length of continuous service

Severance Allowance

Less than 2 years

1 month

2 completed years

2 months

3 completed years

3 months

4 completed years

4 months

5 completed years

5 months

6 completed years +

6 months

Note: This policy is not intended to create any contractual or other legal rights.  The University reserves the right to vary from the provisions of this policy when, at its sole discretion, it is necessary to do so.  Unless otherwise expressly agreed in a written employment contract between an employee and the University and signed by an authorized member of the University's Human Resources or legal staffs, or authorized signatories of the University, or in a collective bargaining agreement covering the employee's position, employment with the University is at-will.  The University reserves discretion to add, modify or delete provisions of this policy, or the other policies and procedures on which it may be based, at any time without advance notice.

Exit Interview and Exit Interview Report

Category: SEPARATIONS
Issued: January 1, 1993
Revised: July 1, 2004
Responsible Office: HR Information Services (212) 851-2840

A departmental interview should be held with each terminating employee before the employee leaves the University.  The reasons for exit interviews are:

  • to assure that necessary information regarding termination policies, benefits unused vacations and holiday pay, unemployment insurance and other important matters have been conveyed.
  • to fulfill the University's commitment to its affirmative action obligations and identify the reasons for the termination.
  • to assure that department and University property, such as keys and identification cards are returned.
  • to assure that department signature authority and/or systems access is discontinued, as appropriate.
  • to assure that department and Personnel records are complete.

The Exit Interview Report should be completed by all terminating employees and their supervisors. One copy of this report is to be forwarded to HRIS with the termination Personnel Action Form no later than the day following the last day of employment.

 

Unemployment Insurance

Category: SEPARATIONS
Issued: January 1, 1993
Responsible Office: Labor Relations (212) 870-2801; Employment & HR Client Services (212) 851-7008  

When an employee's work relationship is terminated, he/she may be entitled to receive Unemployment Insurance if he/she:

  • Is unemployed through no fault of his/her own.
  • Is available for and capable of employment.
  • Has worked 20 weeks in New York State defined covered employment during the 52 weeks prior to termination. (Other states may have different requirements.)

The employee's eligibility and entitlement to receive benefits, however, will be determined by the local office of the New York State Department of Labor, Division of Employment.

To determine a person's entitlement for benefits, the New York State Unemployment Insurance Division requires the University to provide certain specific information on a former employee, including a statement of all the factors surrounding the employee's termination. Employee Records is responsible for providing this information within 7 calendar days of the mailing date of a communication from the Unemployment Insurance Division or incur a fine. Written communications from New York State to departments regarding unemployment insurance should be hand-carried to Employee Records.