4.2.4 Elimination of Position (Layoff)

Policy Section: Termination

Policy Number and Title: 4.2.4 Elimination of Position (Layoff)
Applicable to: All Regular HR Employees
Effective Date: July 6, 2016
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Policy Statement

The elimination of a position, i.e., layoff, can occur when there is a lack of available funding or work, a reduction in the size of the work force, a reorganization, or changes in business needs or workplace requirements which impact staffing needs. When a position is eliminated or duty time is significantly reduced, the University will give the affected employee formal advance notification, during which time the affected employee will remain employed by the University. The University will seek to provide such notification as early as possible to enable the affected employee to begin to plan for the transition, including exploring other employment opportunities at the University and elsewhere.

The number of months of formal advance notification provided is based on the number of years of service the affected employee has completed (see the chart below). There may be situations where the University determines it is not possible or appropriate for providing such formal advance notification, and, in those situations, the University may issue severance pay in lieu of formal advance notification for the corresponding number of months for which formal advance notification was not provided.

Staff members are at-will employees1.


This policy applies to all regular benefits-eligible employees.
Union employees should consult their contracts for details of layoff procedures. Temporary employees, i.e., casuals or short-term professionals, employees with term appointments and interns are not covered by this policy.

Management Planning

Making the Decision
Before a decision is made to eliminate a position(s), supervisors should thoroughly assess the unit's work and staffing needs and, if a layoff is anticipated, must consult with the office head and with the senior human resources manager
Developing Staff Transition Plans
Once the decision to lay off has been made, supervisors should develop a staff transition plan that provides an outline of activities for staff members whose positions will be eliminated.
Supervisors should also develop a similar transition schedule or plan for employees in the department whose jobs will be affected by the change. Human Resources will provide consultation and guidance to supervisors who are responsible for planning and implementing a layoff. 
Criteria for Layoff
Supervisors, in consultation with their administrative officer or office head, are responsible for determining which position(s) should be eliminated and the order of layoff of affected staff members. Selection of employees to be retained or separated will be based on departmental needs and appropriate approals from the Office of Human Resources and the Office of General Counsel
The criteria guiding these decisions may include but are not limited to:
  • available funding
  • required staffing levels
  • retention of critical skills
  • qualifications, including essential licenses and similar credentials
  • performance standards necessary to carry out the department's functions and program requirements
  • University seniority that would be a final determinant when all other criteria are equal
Supervisors should review these criteria in consultation with their senior human resources manager to determine which criteria are most appropriate given the demands and needs of the department.

Notification of Position Elimination

Informal Advance Notification
After consulting with and receiving approval from the Office of Human Resources, supervisors are encouraged to provide informal notification to affected employees of impending reductions in duty time or layoffs as soon as appropriate. Informal advance notification provides time for employees to begin to explore other employment opportunities at the University and elsewhere, and allows the supervisors to plan for the completion of work prior to the date of formal notification. Informal advance notification is particularly important in those areas where employees' positions are funded through external sources, such as research grants.
Formal Notification
Generally, at least 30 calendar days of notice should be provided by the supervisor based on business needs and practicality of such notice. In the event a position is eliminated and no transfer opportunities are available, supervisors should provide employees with formal written notification of termination due to layoff. This formal notification is to provide employees time to transition out of the workplace. If the University determines it is not possible or appropriate to provide employees with formal notification, i.e., to have affected employees remain in the University’s employ during the formal notification period, these employees will be terminated and will receive severance for the corresponding number of months for which formal notification was not provided.
Letters of Notification
A formal notification letter should normally include the following information:
  1. Reason for the position elimination.
  2. Effective date of the position elimination.
  3. Amount of formal advance notification for which the employee is eligible and amount of severance, if applicable.
  4. Information regarding payment of unused accrued vacation1.
  5. Information regarding the employee's benefits upon termination, which will be provided by the Office of Human Resources prior to termination (see policy 4.0.4 Benefits at Termination).
  6. A summary of any other appropriate details.
Information & Resources
Supervisors should provide information to the affected employees regarding the following resources, as appropriate, when presenting the formal advance notification letter:

Notification & Severance Pay, if Applicable

If the University determines it is not possible or appropriate to provide the employee advance notification, i.e., to have affected employees remain in the University’s employ during the formal advance notification period, the affected employees will be terminated and receive severance for the corresponding number of months for which formal advance notification was not provided. Supervisors must consult with their senior human resources manager to review situations calling for severance or notification.
Where severance is paid, it is normally paid in a lump sum2 based on the employee’s current base salary and years of benefits-eligible credited service, and is subject to all applicable withholding deductions. Prior employment as a casual, short-term professional or temporary employee is not factored into the calculation for severance.
Employees who received severance in connection with a prior layoff and subsequently were rehired are not credited with service time preceding the prior layoff; the employees’ years of service are based on the hire date following the prior layoff.  
1st year, including probationary paid3
2nd and 3rd
4th and 5th
6th and 7th
8th and 10th
11th through 15th
16th through 20th
21st +
Recall or Rehire
If employees are recalled or rehired by the University (see policy 4.2.5 Recall and Rehire ) into another benefits-eligible position during the formal notification period, the employees will no longer be eligible for any further notification period or severance payments except under the following circumstances:
  • Within the formal notification period, employees who accept a benefits-eligible position in the University for a lower base compensation than the position from which they were laid off are entitled to the difference in salary between the two positions for the period of the layoff severance. For instance, if the employee was earning $5,000 a month at a job from which the employee was laid off and, during the notification period of five months, accepted a part-time regular benefits-eligible position at Princeton, earning $4,000 a month, the employee would be entitled to a lump sum severance payment of $5,000 (five months at $1,000 per month).
  • Should the employees be rehired into a benefits-eligible position after they have terminated employment and also have received a severance payment, they will be required to reimburse the University those monies received for the unexpired severance period. If employees are rehired after the formal notification period is completed, severance does not need to be repaid.
  • Employees laid off and rehired by the University as temporary workers, i.e., casual hourly or short-term professional without benefits, are not required to return any severance.

Last revised October 15, 2003. Clarification of at-will employment (December 15, 2015).

Employees who are members of a collective bargaining unit should first refer to their union contract for guidance on any of the policies, procedures, practices or benefits described in this policy manual. If the union contract does not specifically address the policy, procedure, practice, or benefit, then the employee may infer that the description in this policy manual applies to the employee. In the event of a discrepancy between this manual and a collective bargaining agreement covering employees who are represented by a union, the terms of the bargaining agreement will govern.
2 Vacation is accrued through the last day worked. Accrued but unused vacation must be paid to the employee, up to a maximum of 30 days. See policy 3.1.8 Vacation.
3 Exceptional circumstances should be discussed with Human Resources at the time the transition plan is being developed.
4 Employees in probationary status are included in this policy; however, they must have at least 31 days of service. If they have less than 31 days of service, they will receive two weeks pay. 

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