U may slim termination notice window

U officials want to halve the notice period for staff non-rehires.

U may slim termination notice window

Graison Hensley Chapman

Some University of Minnesota employees with yearly contracts could see a notice terminating their employment six months later than usual under a draft policy being developed by the Office of Human Resources

After 11 years of service, academic professionals and administrators, which range from program administrators to course instructors, are entitled to a year of advance notice before being terminated from their jobs.

Citing the need to respond quickly to potential state cuts, the University has proposed dropping the period to six months.

Human Resources spokeswoman Lori Ann Vicich said the University often learns of its allocation just before the beginning of the fiscal year in July, leaving little time for managers to respond if they have to reduce staff.

“If I have to pay that [employee] for an entire year beyond the notice period it becomes very difficult for me to figure out how IâÄôm going to make those changes to the budget within the fiscal year,” Vicich said.

The Council on Academic Professionals and Administrators, which represents the approximately 4,300 staff that would be affected by the change, heard a report on the draft of the policy change in late February, but Office of Human Resources Policy Director Nan Wilhelmson said benchmarks for its adoption do not exist.

Employees said they understand the sacrifices that come with budget cuts, but the proposal would still be painful.

“ItâÄôs very demoralizing to people,” CAPA chairwoman Sarah Waldemar said. “If youâÄôve chosen to make the University your career home, to have this sort of pulled out from underneath you is disturbing.”

Veterinary Clinical Specialist Scott Madill said his colleagues are concerned about another practice employed by some University departments: informing employees of their contract extension and notice of termination at the same time.

This gives the University flexibility to make quick layoff decisions while abiding by their one-year policy.

Sometimes that process is continued annually âÄî contracts for academic professionals are given yearly âÄî which Waldemar said gives academic professionals the expectation that the termination notice is meaningless until it is too late. And since the window to apply for severance pay is 60 days following the termination notice, many employees could miss that opportunity.

“We really would like that to be a practice thatâÄôs not allowed,” she said.

Vicich and Wilhelmson said they want employees to have the chance to lobby them.

“Ultimately senior leaders make decisions,” Vicich said. “But we really do try to follow a more consultative process than that at the University.”

Waldemar said she was pleased with the two groupsâÄô relationship.

“I appreciate the fact that they are working to be transparent in the process,” she said. “The committee has done a really good job of gathering the data.”