Policies & Contracts

207 - Layoff

Subject: Layoff

Section: U207

Date: July, 2017


Purpose:

This policy provides guidelines to units for layoffs due to reorganization, operational changes or financial constraints. This policy establishes the documentation and appropriate approvals for conducting layoffs, as well as outlines notice periods, severance payments, benefits administration, removal of system access, and service bridging for reduction of employees through layoffs.

The layoff process must not be used when corrective action or termination for cause are more appropriate.

Who is governed by this policy:

This policy applies to all staff.

At-Will Employment:

Other than employees covered by Collective Bargaining Agreements, University staff employees are "at will" employees. This means that employment is a matter of continuing agreement between the employee and the University. Either the employee or the University may decide to end the employee's employment at the University for any reason not prohibited by law, at any time.

Policy:

When it becomes necessary to reduce the number of employees through layoffs, reductions are made in view of the needs of the unit. For purposes of this policy, a layoff consists of an involuntary loss of employment due to organizational restructuring, position elimination (including reduction in force), operational changes or financial constraints. All layoffs must be approved in advance by the Center of Expertise - Employee and Labor Relations and conducted in accordance with the procedures set forth in the Appendix to this policy.

key definitions:

Word/Phrase Definition
At Will Employment Employment that is a matter of continuing agreement between the employee and the University. Either the employee or the University may decide to end the employee's employment for any reason not prohibited by law, at any time.
 Benefits Eligible Position A position that is scheduled to work an average of 20 hours or more per week and is therefore eligible for benefits.
 Center of Expertise – Employee and Labor Relations Employee and Labor Relations partners with department/division/unit HR professionals and Supervisors to provide guidance in the areas of policy, contract administration, performance management, leaves of absence, employment law compliance and various other employment matters
 COBRA The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) gives workers and their families who lose their health benefits the right to choose to continue group health benefits provided by their group health plan for limited periods of time under certain circumstances such as voluntary or involuntary job loss, or reduction in the hours worked.
HR Partner Department/division/unit personnel who serve as the representatives for the department in all human resources issues and initiate key HR processes in campus HR systems on behalf of their department/division/unit
 Local Unit Campus department/division/unit.
 Shared Services Office The centralized body that processes transactions, reviews and verifies documentation, enforces policies and regulations, and ensures consistency and accuracy of processes.
Supervisor Unit personnel who oversee and regulate employees in their performance of assigned or delegated tasks, as well as enforce compliance with policy.

Roles and Responsibilities:

Governed Party Roles and Responsibilities
Employee Employees are responsible for returning University identification card, keys, all library books and other University property before or upon the effective date of termination. Employees are also responsible for updating or verifying any benefits or personal contact information before the effective termination date. Additionally, employees should review and consider any separation agreements offered in a timely manner as outlined within the separation agreement.
Employee and Labor Relations Center of Expertise - Employee and Labor Relations is responsible for reviewing and approving all layoffs, including justifications and documentation. Center of Expertise - Employee and Labor Relations is also responsible for preparation of separation agreements, approving severance amounts, outplacement services and other services offered to affected employees. 
HR Partner The HR Partner is responsible for following policies and procedures relating to the layoff process. This includes processing terminations within the human resources system and uploading severance agreements, correctly choosing the termination reason that aligns with the employee’s eligibility for rehire, submitting system access closure requests, processing any payroll payments and ensuring that University property is collected prior to the last day of the employee’s service.
Local Unit The Local Unit is responsible for following procedures and policies related to layoff or reduction in force. Local Units are responsible for assessing the feasibility of avoiding layoffs, selecting each position to be affected by a layoff and providing layoff justification to Employee and Labor Relations via the lay-off justification form. When feasible, units must first consider non-benefits-eligible employees for layoff.
Shared Services Office The Shared Services Office is responsible for verifying documentation such as layoff justification form and separation agreement have been correctly signed and uploaded. The Shared Services Office is also responsible for managing the quick closure process, system access removal for core systems, severance payments and other payroll payments.

Related Information:

Layoff Justification Form:

Benefits Information (COBRA):

Quick Closure Request Procedure:

Quick Reference Guide for Terminations:

System Access Removal Request:

Key Contacts:

Name Email  
Employee & Labor Relations elrelations@uchicago.edu  
Shared Services Office    

Exclusions and Exceptions

Employees represented by a bargaining unit may be governed by the appropriate bargaining unit agreement. Temporary, seasonal, and all other “at will” employees. 

Appendix: Procedural Information

The Local Unit (HR Partners or Supervisor) must carefully review every layoff before implementation, as well as discuss layoffs and obtain the Center of Expertise - Employee and Labor Relations' approval before notifying affected employees. As part of this process, management must make reasonable efforts to determine if layoffs can be avoided and existing employees can remain employed within the unit. The Local Unit must complete and submit the layoff justification form to the Center of Expertise - Employee and Labor Relations as part of this review.

Employees will be given advance written notice of a layoff (with copies sent to the Center of Expertise - Employee and Labor Relations) in line with the notice periods outlined below. A unit can discuss the option of providing the affected employee with pay in lieu of notice with the Center of Expertise - Employee and Labor Relations. An employee notified of a layoff must be given reasonable time off to seek another position and conduct scheduled interviews during their layoff notice periods. Notice periods are as follows:

Employee Payment Schedule Notice Period
Monthly One (1) Month Advance Notice
Biweekly Two (2) Weeks Advance Notice

 Subject to approval by the Center of Expertise - Employee and Labor Relations, the unit may offer a one-time service-based severance to employees who have completed their probationary period. Severance payments are completed via a single, lump-sum payment, equal to one (1) week of base pay per year(s) of service (not to exceed 26 weeks).

To receive severance pay under this policy, the employee must sign a separation agreement prepared and approved by the Center of Expertise - Employee and Labor Relations and the Office of Legal Counsel. The separation agreement includes a waiver and release of legal claims against the University. HR Partners are responsible for uploading signed severance agreements and other documentation to the human resources system when processing terminations. Subject to approval by the Center of Expertise - Employee and Labor Relations, the unit may offer outplacement services as part of the separation offer. If the unit chooses to offer outplacement services, this matter should be discussed with Center of Expertise - Employee and Labor Relations. Costs for outplacement services are incurred by the unit.

A terminating employee is required to turn in all University property, including identification cards, keys, uniforms, tools, parking permits, library books, electronic equipment, and electronically stored data on or before their last date of employment to their HR Partner or Supervisor. A terminating employee is required to make arrangements for clearing all of their University debts.  It is the responsibility of the Local Unit (HR Partner or Supervisor) to take reasonable steps to inventory and remove (or request removal of) the terminated employee's access privileges to University, departmental, School, and other information systems containing personal or proprietary data in a timely manner. The “quick closure” process should only be used to immediately suspend employee access to systems in cases of involuntary termination. Information on how to submit a “quick closure” request or remove system access is included in Related Information.

Under COBRA, a laid-off employee is entitled to continue their health, dental and vision insurance for 18 months. For laid-off employees, the first three months of this 18-month COBRA period will be at the employee's active rate. The remaining 15 months will be at the full COBRA rate.

If a laid-off employee seeks unemployment benefits after the layoff, the University will not contest the application; provided, however, that the University will respond truthfully to any request from the applicable state agency regarding the claim. Whether an employee receives unemployment compensation benefits will be decided by the applicable state agency and not by the University. Severance payments will be reported to unemployment and may affect payment of unemployment benefits.

An employee returning to work from layoff status will have their University service bridged if they return to University employment within one year of being laid-off, provided the employee completed more than one consecutive year of University service before the layoff.