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Reduction in Force

EFFECTIVE DATE: July 1, 2015


While Vanderbilt University strives to provide a stable and secure environment in which to work, under certain circumstances, it may be necessary to eliminate employee positions due to budgetary needs, program reductions, reorganization, or other business needs. This policy establishes a process for the position elimination of regular full-time and part-time employee positions at the University.

A reduction in force (RIF) is defined as a separation from employment due to lack of funds, lack of work, redesign or elimination of position(s) or reorganization, with no likelihood or expectation that the employee will be recalled because the position itself is eliminated. A RIF may be necessary or appropriate when there is a redesign or elimination of work, redundancy in roles, or excess capacity within a work group or across work groups, such that it would be economically feasible and responsible to reduce the number of employees in a unit or department.

When a unit or department becomes aware there may be a need for a RIF, the supervisor should contact the Human Resources Consultant, who will guide the unit or department in assessing options and developing a plan for implementing the RIF. The planning must be based on the work of the eliminated position being reassigned to another position or no longer being performed. If the unit or department determines the work needs to be resumed, the recall procedures will become effective.

Exclusions: The following are not eligible for RIF benefits, as outlined in this policy, and the manager should consult with Human Resources:

  • Term limited positions where the duration of the position is defined at the time of hire (term, post-doctoral fellowships)
  • Temporary or PRN positions
  • Grant or contract funded positions (employees in these positions will have access to priority applicant status but not separation pay)
  • Positions covered by the collective bargaining agreement
  • Seasonal layoff/Partial year schedule
  • Reassignment within a unit
  • Reduction in FTE (full time equivalency) that is less than 50 percent
  • Reduction in FTE that does not eliminate benefit eligibility (a reduction from benefit eligible to non-benefit eligible FTE is eligible for RIF benefits, as outlined in the policy)
  • Employees engaged in any documented disciplinary action or performance plan in the previous 12 month period.
  • Vanderbilt has contracted with an outside vendor for services and an employee is offered employment by that vendor.
  • An internal transfer within Vanderbilt University, such as from Vanderbilt University to Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC)
  • In the event Vanderbilt University and Vanderbilt University Medical Center separate with VUMC becoming an independent entity and an employee is offered employment by the new VUMC.

Policy Details

Assessment and position selection

Following an analysis of the academic and business needs and determination of the new organizational structure, the following steps should be used to identify the positions that will be eliminated by a reduction in force.

  1. The first step is an analysis of the job functions that the unit or department needs going forward and the positions that will be retained and eliminated. This step is based solely on the job functions of positions and the business needs of the unit or department.
  2. Only when there are multiple incumbents in a position that has been selected for elimination, the second step is to evaluate the skills and qualifications of the individual employees. The Office of Human Resources will assist in the review process, evaluate performance criteria and provide seniority validations. In this multiple incumbent situation, the following factors may be considered in this assessment:
    • Skills and qualifications - special skills may be considered, additional education, licensure and certification
    • Performance - a comparison of performance reviews, recognized exceptional performance, performance improvement plans, discipline, attendance
    • Length of employment - review Vanderbilt University employment to the extent that employees are otherwise equal in skills, qualifications and performance. Seniority is based on the University hire date and prorated for periods of part-time employment.
  3. Before employee notification, any reduction in force must be approved by divisional leadership and Human Resources and an adverse impact study must be completed by the Equal Opportunity, Affirmative Action and Disability Services Department.
  4. The Office of Human Resources will assist in preparing the written notice for the employee and confirm any separation pay.

Employee Notification

Employees will be given at least 60 calendar days' notice that their position is going to be eliminated. In some situations, it is in the best interests of the employee or the department that the notice period is a non-working notice period. This decision should be made in consultation with Human Resources. The employee should be informed, during notification, whether the notice period will be working or non-working (or some of both). For a non-working notice period, the employee shall be placed on a paid leave.

When the employee is notified, the supervisor must provide the employee with written notification regarding the position elimination. The notice period begins the first day following the notification.

Priority Applicant Status

Priority applicant status provides an eligible employee whose position has been eliminated the opportunity to work with a recruiter in human resources and priority in being offered interviews within Vanderbilt. The priority applicant status will be in effect for three months from the date of the notification.

Employees are eligible for priority applicant status if they meet the following criteria:

  • Performance evaluations for the immediately preceding 12 months reflect at least "meets expectations" job performance
  • No documented performance improvement plan or equivalent for the preceding 12 months
  • No documented disciplinary action or equivalent for preceding 12 months

Responsibilities of a priority applicant:

  • Apply for jobs that interest them via Vanderbilt's website and create a Talent Central profile
  • Participate in phone screen conducted by an HR Talent Acquisition Consultant
  • Return phone calls from HR Talent Consultants promptly in order to keep the process running smoothly
  • Prepare for interviews and attend when scheduled

Hiring Managers will receive resumes/profiles of priority applicants who apply for and meet the requirements of their open positions. They are encouraged to interview these candidates; however priority applicant status does not guarantee an interview.

Separation Pay & Separation Agreement

Eligible employees will receive separation pay based upon years of service and signing a separation agreement. Separation pay will be provided at the end of the notification period, either in a lump sum or periodic installments as decided by Vanderbilt and as set forth in the separation agreement, less withholding for taxes.

A separation agreement will be provided to the employee. The separation agreement allows the employee 45 calendar days from the date of receipt to consider the terms and conditions of the agreement, including the provision for separation pay and the requirement for the employee's release of claims.

The separation agreement will not be effective, and separation pay will not be paid, unless the employee agrees to the terms of and signs the separation agreement during the 45-day period. The signed separation agreement should be sent to Human Resources located at 110 21st Ave S., Ste. 1000, Nashville, TN 37203. The manager should not accept a signed separation agreement but should direct the employee to human resources.

An employee who has worked for Vanderbilt for at least 24 months (two years) is eligible for separation pay, which is contingent on the completion of a severance agreement. The separation pay will include $2,500 that may be applied toward health care costs. Employees who have worked at Vanderbilt for less than 24 months and have signed a separation agreement will receive the $2,500 that may be applied toward health care costs.

The rate of separation pay will be calculated based on the employee's most recent base rate of pay and the budgeted full time equivalent (FTE) for the position. The health insurance supplement will be a lump sum payment to the employee.

Separation payments will be calculated based on years of service according to the graph below:

Years of Service # of severance weeks Health Care Supplement
Less than 24 months 0 $2,500
2 2 $2,500
3 4 $2,500
4 6 $2,500
5 8 $2,500
6 10 $2,500
7 12 $2,500
8 14 $2,500
9 16 $2,500
10 18 $2,500
11 20 $2,500
12+ 22 $2,500

If the employee wants to continue health and dental insurance, it is the responsibility of the employee to apply for COBRA and pay the insurance premiums to continue coverage.

Separation and health care supplement pay will not be paid if the employee accepts a position within the notification period with Vanderbilt.

After the employee ends their Vanderbilt employment, separation pay will be discontinued if the former employee is reemployed within Vanderbilt.

Recall procedures:

Employees impacted by position elimination will have the option of being reinstated into their former position if the position is restored within twelve months. Recall will take place in reverse order of position elimination. Individuals recalled under this provision will not be required to serve a new initial orientation and evaluation period. An employee who rejects an offer of recall will forfeit any remaining benefits of this policy, including separation pay. An employee will not be eligible for recall if, on the RIF notification date, there is a documented performance plan or disciplinary action in the previous twelve month period.

End of Employment:

The employment relationship will end on the earlier of, the last day of the notification period, or acceptance of another position within Vanderbilt.


Employees who separate from employment may or may not be paid for the balance of unused PTO according to the PTO policy. No payment will be made for unused "grandfathered" sick leave at the time of separation.

Health, Dental, Flexible Spending Accounts
All health and dental insurance continues through the end of the month in which employment ends. Flexible spending account deductions continue through the last paycheck, and can be used for expenses incurred through the last day of employment. Upon separation, employees may elect to maintain their current health care, dental care and medical flexible spending account at their expense for up to 18 months under COBRA.

Life Insurance
Life insurance ends on the last day of the month in which employment ends. Life insurance can be continued as an individual policy by contacting the insurance company within 31 days of termination.

Disability Insurances
Long-term and short-term disability insurance ends on the last day worked. Long-term disability insurance can be converted to an individual policy by contacting the insurance company within 31 days. There is no conversion option for short-term disability.

Retirement Plan
Vested retirement plan contributions made by Vanderbilt for the employee may remain in Vanderbilt's plan. The employer contributions to the retirement plan cease at the time of termination.

Other Voluntary Benefits
Other voluntary benefits, including long-term care, home/auto insurance, and supplemental disability insurance may be continued on a self-pay basis by contacting the insurance carrier.

Vanderbilt will honor an approved tuition benefit request for the employee's dependents during the remainder of the semester for which the student is currently enrolled in accordance with the Education Assistance Programs Policy on Education Assistance Programs. Vanderbilt will provide tuition reimbursement for the employee or employee's spouse, when the employee or spouse is enrolled in a class at the time of the RIF notification, in accordance with the Education Assistance Programs Policy on Education Assistance Programs.

Bridging for benefits
Employees who return to active status within one year from the end of employment date, and meet the conditions of the Bridging Policy, will retain the hire date in effect during the previous consecutive service.

This policy is intended as a guideline to assist in the consistent application of University policies and programs for employees. The policy does not create a contract implied or expressed, with any Vanderbilt staff members, who are employees at will. Vanderbilt reserves the right to modify this policy in whole or in part, at any time, at the discretion of the University.

Approved by Traci K. Nordberg, Chief Human Resources Officer and Associate Vice Chancellor

Approved by Eric Kopstain, Vice Chancellor for Administration