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University Policy 23

Reduction in Force of Employees Subject to the State Human Resources Act

Formerly Executive Memorandum 81-54
Initially approved July 15, 1981
Revised: April 23, 2001
Revised: February 11, 2013
Revised: December 19, 2016

Policy Topic: Personnel

Administering Office: Office of Human Resources and Payroll


It is the policy of Western Carolina University (the “University”) to comply with the North Carolina Office of State Human Resources policy on reduction-in-force (“RIF”). This policy assures equitable treatment of SHRA employees when a RIF becomes necessary. A RIF might become necessary because of a reduction in work or funds, abolishment of a position, or other material change in duties or organization. A RIF decision should be reached only after other applicable measures have been explored, including, but not limited to:  delaying the filling of or elimination of vacant positions; limits on purchasing and travel; retraining of employees in needed skill sets or job.


This policy applies to:

  1. SHRA employees (full-time and part-time) holding permanent appointments; and
  2. SHRA employees with trainee appointments who have completed twelve (12) months of service (or who attained permanent status prior to entering a trainee appointment).

The following types of SHRA employees may be separated without following the procedures found within this policy:

  1. SHRA temporary employees;
  2. SHRA employees within their probationary periods;
  3. SHRA employees with time-limited permanent appointments; and
  4. SHRA employees with trainee appointments who have not completed twelve (12) months of service and had not attained permanent status prior to entering a trainee appointment.

Although this policy does not apply to EHRA and student appointments, Work Unit managers should consider all staffing resources when determining positions to retain.


EHRA” means employees who are exempt from the State Human Resources Act.

Executive Manager” means each of the Chancellor, Provost, Vice Chancellor for Administration and Finance, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, Vice Chancellor for Development and Alumni Engagement, Chief of Staff, Chief Information Officer, General Counsel or Athletic Director.

RIF” means reduction-in-force.

SHRA” means employees who are subject to the State Human Resources Act.

Work Unit” is a formally established and recognized unit, section, department, college or division of the University in which employees perform a closely related set of functions or duties. A Work Unit manager may define individual research projects headed by a principal investigator as a separate work unit for the purposes of this policy. Any such assertion is subject to appropriate justification that demonstrates the unique nature of the research project and the skills of its assigned staff members as contrasted with other research projects supervised by either the same or differing principal investigators within the same college or department.


A. Decisional Factors/Criteria

A RIF decision requires a thorough evaluation of the need for specific positions and the relative efficiency of affected employees so that the University can provide the highest level of service possible with a smaller work force. The decision to separate an employee or group of employees pursuant to this policy rests with the manager overseeing the affected Work Unit(s), based on the following factors, in order of importance:

  1. University needs. Consider the continuing work to be performed by the Work Unit(s) and the number of positions in each branch, role, and competency level necessary to perform the continuing work. Once the position(s) to be eliminated have been identified, management must consider all employees in positions with the same or related classification within the affected Work Unit. “Same or related” classification means positions in the identified branch, role and competency level in order to identify the affected employees and apply the remaining guidelines.
  2. Type of appointment. SHRA time-limited, temporary, probationary or trainee employees (during their first  twelve (12) months of training) who perform work in the same or related SHRA job classification within the affected Work Unit must be separated before any employee with a permanent appointment.
  3. Relative skills, knowledge, and productivity of employees. Employees to be retained must demonstrate the skills and knowledge required for the continuing work of the Work Unit or be able to attain the requisite skills and knowledge within a reasonable period of time in accordance with the operational needs of the Work Unit. Selection must be consistent with the employee’s most recent annual performance review and employee competency assessment as well as other relevant documentation.
  4. Length of total state service of employees. Length of service shall be considered but may receive less weight in the determination. Eligible veterans must be accorded one (1) year of state service for each year (or fraction thereof) of military service, up to a maximum of five (5) years of credit.
  5. Workforce diversity. In accordance with federal guidelines affecting equal employment opportunity, any application of the RIF Policy must be reviewed by the affected Work Unit(s) and Human Resources to determine its impact on the workforce diversity within the Work Unit(s).

The Work Unit manager is accountable for documenting the basis for his/her decision in a manner that clearly demonstrates reasonable and consistent application of these factors. The Office of Human Resources will provide consultation to Work Unit managers regarding the effective application and interpretation of state policies and guidelines.

B.  Review and Approval of RIF Requests

The Work Unit manager submits a SHRA RIF Request Form (available in Section VI below) to their Executive Manager ultimately responsible for the Work Unit.  The Executive Manager then submits a copy of the SHRA RIF Request Form to the Office of Human Resources.  The SHRA RIF Request Form must indicate:

  1. the reason(s) for the RIF;
  2. the anticipated date of separation;
  3. the name(s) of the employee(s) to be separated due to the RIF and justification for the decision;
  4. a listing of all vacant positions in the Work Unit which are in the same branch/role and competency level with a status of recruitment activity for those positions;
  5. the efforts the Work Unit manager made to avoid the RIF of selected employee(s);
  6. a brief explanation why action other than RIF is not possible;
  7. a management contact; and
  8. any other information that the Executive Manager believes to be relevant to the RIF.

SHRA permanent employees must receive written notice of RIF at least thirty (30) calendar days prior to their effective separation date. Therefore, the Work Unit manager is expected to submit the SHRA RIF Request Form to the Office of Human Resources and Payroll at least six (6) weeks prior to the anticipated separation date of any employee to be separated due to the RIF, in order to provide adequate time both for review and the required notification to the employee(s).

The Office of Human Resources and Payroll must provide the Work Unit with written approval of the RIF request before any RIF action can be taken.

C.  Benefits Provided to Affected Employees

SHRA permanent employees are entitled to: (1) one (1) year of employer contributions to the employee’s (self-only) health insurance, if eligibility requirements are met; and
(2) payout of vacation and bonus leave and other applicable paid time-off, upon the date of separation.

In addition, SHRA permanent employees may be eligible for RIF benefits, including:  (1) up to four (4) months of severance pay based on total state service supplemented by an age adjustment factor (employees qualify for the age adjustment factor at 40 years of age); and (2) priority re-employment consideration pursuant to law and policy.

Work Unit managers should consider the total budgetary cost of separating an employee through RIF when determining an appropriate separation date for affected employee(s). If the employee is eligible to receive severance pay, severance payments will be direct-deposited.

D.  Notification of Affected Employees

After the SHRA RIF Request Form has been approved by the Office of Human Resources and Payroll, and before the effective date of the RIF, the Work Unit manager shall provide the following information, in writing, to the employee(s) being separated due to the RIF:

  1. The reason for the RIF;
  2. The effective date of the RIF (must be at least thirty (30) calendar days after the notification date to the employee); and
  3. Notification that the Office of Human Resources and Payroll will contact them to arrange for a RIF information session, including details on: (a) the University’s policy on priority re-employment; (b) completion of necessary application forms; (c) the availability of aid in seeking other employment; (d) eligibility to apply for unemployment insurance benefits; (e) other benefits information for separating employees; (f) the amount of severance pay being requested, if any; and (g) the right of SHRA permanent employees to appeal the RIF through the University’s SHRA Grievance Policy.

E.  Reduction of Hours (FTE) for Positions

To avoid a RIF, a Work Unit manager may consider reducing the regularly scheduled hours for position(s). If so, employees must be given the option of RIF in lieu of reduction in hours. In these situations, any reduction in hours for positions must be included in the Work Unit’s SHRA RIF Request Form. This RIF Policy does not apply to routine changes in hours related to contracts and grants management or to an employee request for a voluntary permanent or temporary reduction in hours.

F.  Abolishment of Position

Once the SHRA RIF Request Form has been approved by the Office of Human Resources and Payroll, and once any employees have separated or been reassigned, the Work Unit manager must complete the RIF process by abolishing the approved positions pursuant to the SHRA RIF Request Form.

G.  Appeals

An SHRA permanent employee who has received official notification of RIF may appeal the decision through the procedures established in the University’s SHRA Grievance Policy if he/she alleges the following: (1) that the action taken is the result of a specific violation of this RIF Policy evaluation criteria; and/or (2) that the action is due to prohibited discrimination based on a protected status of the employee; and/or (3) that the action is retaliatory because the employee has alleged prohibited harassment or discrimination, has alleged improper government activities (whistleblower protection), or has participated in the grievance process.

An employee cannot grieve management’s business decision to take RIF action on the grounds that the action is undesirable or inadvisable.

If an employee who has been separated because of a RIF is not satisfied with the University’s final decision on the appeal, the employee may file an appeal with the North Carolina Office of Administrative Hearings in the following situations: (1) the employee alleges that the RIF separation was the direct result of retaliation for the employee’s opposition to alleged discrimination based on the employee’s age, sex, race, color, national origin, religion,  political affiliation, disability or genetic information; or (2) the employee alleges that the separation by RIF is the result of improper application of the veteran’s preference policy.


This policy shall be reviewed and revised as necessary in the event that the North Carolina Office of State Human Resources revises its reduction-in-force policies.


SHRA RIF Request Form
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