UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN River Falls

Faculty and Academic Staff Handbook

23rd Edition, 2013 Version


Chapter VI:  Academic Staff Personnel Policies and Procedures

6.10 Layoff of Academic Staff for Reasons of Budget or Program

6.10.1 General

Notwithstanding § 36.15 (3)link, Wisconsin Statutes, and UWS 10link and UWS 11link, the Chancellor of each institution or designee may lay off a member of the academic staff holding either a fixed term or a probationary appointment prior to the end of the appointment period, when such action is deemed necessary due to budget or program decisions requiring program discontinuance, curtailment, modification, or re-direction. Decisions made pursuant to a change in the level of resources available for a particular project or for program discontinuance, curtailment, modification, or redirection shall be discussed by the Chancellor or designee with the Academic Staff Council. Non-renewal of a probationary academic staff appointment under UWRF 7 (6.7 of this chapter) or a fixed term appointment, even if for financial reasons, is not a layoff for reasons of program or budget. Seniority shall be determined by the total years of academic staff service to the institution, without regard to title.

6.10.2 Layoff

For the purpose of this chapter, "layoff" is the suspension of an academic staff member's employment by the University during the appointment period for reasons of budget or program. A laid-off academic staff member retains the rights specified in UWRF 6.10.7 through UWRF 6.10.9, inclusive. For the purposes of § 36.21link, Wisconsin Statues, termination occurs at the time of layoff.

6.10.3 Individual Layoff Decision

The operational area will, after consideration of (a) the budget or program situation, (b) the seniority of academic staff members, and (c) the need to maintain specific expertise within the operational area, recommend to the Dean or division head and Chancellor the order in which academic staff members should be laid off. Notice periods specified in Section 6.3.4 should be used, unless there are compelling reasons to the contrary (e.g., almost immediate cutoff of funds) for layoff of probationary and fixed term appointments under this chapter. Indefinite appointees shall have twelve (12) months' notice of layoff for reasons of budget or program, unless there are compelling reasons to the contrary.

6.10.4 Review and Hearing

Review procedures as described in this section apply to fixed term and probationary academic staff members who are laid off prior to the completion of their appointments and to academic staff members holding indefinite appointments. The authority of the hearing body is outlined in UWS 12link.

A. An academic staff member whose position is to be eliminated shall be notified in writing and shall, upon request made within twenty (20) days after such notification, be given a written statement of the reasons for the decision within fifteen (15) days, including a statement of the reasons for the determination that the budgetary or program needs should be met by curtailing or discontinuing the program in which the individual concerned works. If the academic staff member requests, in writing, within twenty (20) days after receipt of said statement, he or she shall be entitled to a hearing before the Academic Staff Council (also referred to as "Council"). However, such a request for a hearing shall not forestall a layoff under this section.

  1. The request for hearing shall specify the grounds to be used in establishing the impropriety of the decision.
  2. The staff member shall be given at least ten (10) days notice of such hearing. Such hearing shall be held not later than twenty (20) days after the request except that this time limit may be extended by order of the Academic Staff Council. Anyone who participated in the decision to lay off or who is a material witness shall not serve on the hearing body.

B. The academic staff member shall have access to the evidence on which the administration intends to rely to support the decision to lay off and shall be guaranteed the following minimal procedural safeguards at the hearing:

  1. a right to be heard in his or her defense;
  2. a right to counsel and/or other representatives, and to other witnesses;
  3. a right to confront and cross-examine adverse witnesses;
  4. a verbatim record of all hearings, which might be a sound recording, provided at no cost;
  5. written findings of fact and decision based on the hearing record;
  6. admissibility of evidence governed by § 227.45 (1)-(4)link, Wisconsin Statutes;
  7. the hearing shall be closed unless the staff member whose position is to be eliminated requests an open hearing, in which case it shall be open (see Chapter 19, subchapter Vlink, Wisconsin Statutes, Open Meeting Law);
  8. adjournments shall be granted to enable either party to investigate evidence as to which a valid claim of surprise is made.

C. The following requirements shall be observed by the Academic Staff Council when serving in the capacity as the hearing body for the layoff of academic staff for reasons of budget or program:

  1. The Academic Staff Council may, on motion of either party, disqualify any one of its members for cause by a majority vote. If one or more of the committee members disqualify themselves or are disqualified, the remaining members shall select a number of other replacements equal to the number who have been disqualified to serve.
  2. If the Academic Staff Council requests, the Chancellor shall provide legal counsel and other assistance after consulting with the Council concerning its wishes in this regard. The function of legal counsel shall be to advise the Council, consult with them on legal matters, and carry out such responsibilities as shall be determined by the Council within the policies and procedures adopted by the institution.

D. The first question to be considered in the review is whether one or more of the following factors improperly entered into the decision to lay off:

  1. conduct, expressions, or beliefs on the staff member's part which are constitutionally protected or actions which are consistent with an appropriate professional code of ethics;
  2. employment practices proscribed by applicable state or federal law; and/or
  3. improper consideration of the qualifications of the staff member. For the purposes of this section, "improper consideration" occurs if material prejudice resulted from any of the following:

a. the procedures required by the Chancellor or Board of Regents were not followed;
b. available data bearing materially on the quality of the staff member's actual or potential performance were not considered; or
c. unfounded, arbitrary, or irrelevant assumptions of fact were made about work or conduct.

E. The staff member shall present evidence on whether one or more of the factors specified above improperly entered into the decision to lay off. The Academic Staff Council shall then consider whether the evidence presented established a prima facie case that such factor or factors did enter significantly into the layoff decision. If the Academic Staff Council finds that a prima facie case has not been established, the layoff decision shall be found to have been proper and the hearing shall be ended.

F. If the Academic Staff Council finds that a prima facie case has been established, the appropriate administrative officer for the operational area shall be entitled to present evidence to support the layoff decision and, thereafter, the staff member may present evidence in rebuttal. Thereafter, on the basis of all the evidence presented, the Academic Staff Council shall make determinations as follows:

  1. The Academic Staff Council shall first consider whether one or more of the above specified factors improperly entered into the decision to lay off. Unless the Council is convinced that such factor or factors did improperly enter into that decision, the Council shall find the decision to have been proper.
  2. If the Council is convinced that such factor or factors entered into the decision to lay off, then the Council shall find that decision to be improper, unless the Council is also convinced (1) that there was a bona fide program or budgetary reason(s) and that the determination of such reason(s) was made in the manner prescribed by, and in accordance with, the standards established by the institution; and (2) that the decision to lay off the particular academic staff member was in accordance with the provisions of Section 6.10.3.

G. In determining whether a bona fide budgetary or program reason existed for layoff of the appointment of the academic staff member concerned, the Council shall presume that the decision to curtail the program was made in good faith and for proper reasons. The Council shall not substitute its judgment on priorities for that of the administration.

H. If the Council finds that the layoff was improper, it shall report this decision and its recommendation to the Chancellor and to the academic staff member involved. The Chancellor shall review the matter, decide whether the staff member should be laid off, and notify the Council and academic staff member of the decision. This decision shall be deemed final unless the Board of Regents, upon request of the academic staff member, grants review based on the record.

6.10.5 Layoff Status

An academic staff member whose position has been eliminated according to the provisions of this chapter may, at the end of the appropriate notice period, be placed on layoff status unless the layoff notice has been rescinded prior to that time. The academic staff member whose notice period has expired and who is placed on layoff status shall remain on layoff status until:

A. For fixed term and probationary appointees, one of the following occurs:

  1. the appointment expires under its own terms; or
  2. the staff member fails to accept an alternative appointment.

B. For academic staff on indefinite appointment, one of the following occurs:

  1. the staff member is reappointed to the position from which laid off. Failure to accept such reappointment would terminate the academic staff member's association with the institution;
  2. the staff member accepts an alternative continuing position in the institution. Failure to accept an alternative appointment would not terminate the academic staff member's association with the institution;
  3. the staff member resigns;
  4. the staff member fails to notify the Chancellor or designee not later than December 1 of each year while on layoff status as to his or her location, employment status, and desire to remain on layoff status. Failure to provide such notice of desire to remain on layoff status shall terminate the academic staff member's association with the institution; or
  5. a period of three (3) years lapses.

6.10.6 Alternative Employment

The Chancellor, Dean, or division head shall consider laid-off staff for other vacancies within UW-River Falls for which they meet the necessary qualifications. To the extent possible, laid-off staff members should be notified of appropriate openings anywhere in the University of Wisconsin System.

UW-River Falls will seek to provide financial assistance to academic staff members who are to be laid off to readapt within the operational area or within another operational area of the institution where such re-adaptation is feasible within one year's time. To the extent possible, laid-off staff members should be notified of appropriate openings anywhere in the University of Wisconsin System.

6.10.7 Reappointment Rights

Within three (3) years of the layoff of an academic staff member under this section, no person may be employed in the operational area to perform reasonably comparable duties unless the institution first offers the laid-off staff member reappointment without loss of rights or status, provided that the laid-off staff member has notified the Chancellor or designee by December 1 of each year as to his or her location, employment status, and desire to pursue reappointment rights. Failure to provide such notification shall terminate the academic staff member's reappointment rights under this section.

6.10.8 Retention of Salary

Any academic staff member reappointed within three (3) years of layoff to reasonably comparable duties within the operational area shall be reappointed with a salary rate at least equivalent to his or her salary rate when laid off, together with such other rights and privileges which may have accrued at the time.

6.10.9 Rights of Academic Staff Members on Layoff

An academic staff member on layoff status under provisions of this chapter has the reemployment rights guaranteed by Sections 6.10.7 and 6.10.8 and has the following minimal rights:

A. such voluntary participation in fringe benefit programs as may be permitted under existing policies;
B. use of institutional facilities available to other academic staff members under guidelines established by each operational area. Such use of facilities may include, but shall not be limited to, office, parking, and library privileges; and
C. such participation in the activities of the operational area as permitted under policies of that unit.