FAQ for Duke Postdoctoral Policy

TABLE OF CONTENTS
 

Section 1: Questions Related to Appointment as Postdoctoral Associate or Postdoctoral Scholar
Section 2: Questions about “Employee First” Policy (Initial Month of Postdoctoral Appointment on Comp Payroll)
Section 3: Questions Related to Postdoctoral Salary
Section 4: Questions Related to Postdoctoral Benefits
Section 5: Questions Related to Postdoctoral Leave
Section 6: Questions Related to Time Tracking and Hours Worked
Section 7: Questions Related to Reappointment Letters, Evaluations, IDPs, and Grievances
Section 8: Questions Related to Grandfathering, Term Limits, and Termination

Section 1: Questions Related to Appointment as Postdoctoral Associate or Postdoctoral Scholar

1. Are postdoctoral positions faculty appointments or staff appointments?

  • Postdoctoral appointments are staff appointments. The Duke Postdoctoral Policy outlines differences between postdocs and other staff employees, but in the absence of a stated difference, regular staff policies and procedures apply.

2. Can a postdoctoral appointment be for less than one year?

  • The initial appointment for a postdoctoral appointee must be at least 9 months (one academic year). This allows benefits eligibility.

3. What is the correct protocol for hiring a postdoc?

  • Departments do not need to go through HR for postdoctoral positions, but should have an established process for hiring. For Campus, each school or department should follow their existing procedure. For the School of Medicine, departments should use the existing procedure of submitting the candidate’s CV and offer letter to the Faculty Appointments, Promotion and Tenure Office.
  • There is a description for Postdoctoral Associate on the HR website under job code 3820. It is an express classification and does not require a JAQ.
  • There is a description for Postdoctoral Scholar on the HR website under job code 2898. The Postdoctoral Scholar job code should be used when the postdoctoral appointee moves from Postdoctoral Associate (compensatory payroll) to the noncompensatory payment system.
  • For new hires, please use the SoM and Campus Postdoctoral Associate Offer Letter Template on the Office of Postdoctoral Services website.

4. When do I use the postdoc personnel subarea (PSA 0028)?

  • The postdoc personnel subarea (PSA 0028) should always be used for appointments as Postdoctoral Associate (job code 3820) and Postdoctoral Scholar (job code 2898). If a postdoctoral appointee cannot be switched from the Research Associate category (job code 1361) due to visa restrictions, then the postdoc PSA should be used so that the appointee can be identified as a postdoc. However, at the time of appointment renewal, Research Associates who fit the definition of postdoc (found in the first section of the Duke Postdoctoral Policy) should be moved to the Postdoctoral Associate job category.
  • The postdoc PSA should not be used for Research Associates who do not fit the definition of postdoc.
  • The postdoc PSA should not be used for any other job category (e.g., Clinical Associate, Research Associate Senior, Research Scientist, Research Scholar).

5. Does the 90-day orientation and evaluation period apply to newly hired postdocs?

6. What procedures should be followed when switching a Postdoctoral Associate to a Postdoctoral Scholar position (i.e., moving from the comp payroll to the non-comp payment system)?

  • When moving a Postdoctoral Associate to a Postdoctoral Scholar position, change job code 3820 (Postdoctoral Associate) to job code 2898 (Postdoctoral Scholar), flag the postdoc personnel subarea (PSA 0028), and set the rate of pay to zero.
  • For instructions on non-compensatory payments, see Corporate Payroll Non-Compensatory Payments
  • For instructions for processing benefits deductions for Postdoctoral Scholars, see Corporate Payroll Services 2018 Postdoctoral Scholar Health Insurance Stipend Guidelines and the 2018 Postdoctoral Scholar Health Care Premiums Rate Table.
  • The Postdoctoral Scholar's benefits selections are automatically transferred to the non-comp payroll. To ensure that benefits have transferred correctly, administrators and Postdoctoral Scholars may wish to email Jennifer Frazier, HR Specialist, Duke Benefits.
  • Postdoctoral Scholars and departments should note that as of December 2012, moving to the non-compensatory payment system is considered a qualifying life event.
  • Due to federal requirements regarding employment status, Postdoctoral Scholars may receive a COBRA notice from Duke Benefits, because they are transitioning from employee to non-employee status.
  • Click here for an example of a Postdoctoral Scholar's pay statement.
  • Postdoctoral Scholars’ pay date will change from the 25th of the month to the last day of month. Postdoctoral Scholars will most likely have to update their direct deposit information to reflect the new pay date. A paper direct deposit form must be used for Postdoctoral Scholars to establish direct deposit.
  • If they have a Duke parking permit, Postdoctoral Scholars will need to update their information with Duke Parking and Transportation so that the cost will be automatically deducted from their monthly stipend. Postdoctoral Scholars should check with their departmental business/HR manager, and/or email Jeffrey Fisher, Financial Management Analyst for Transportation and Parking, at , to be added to the monthly non-comp parking deduction file.
  • Postdoctoral Scholars may consider asking their PI to supplement their stipend to alleviate financial penalties they may incur by accepting an NIH NRSA F32/T32 award (eg taxes on health insurance, loss of healthcare/dependent care FSAs). PIs may supplement the Postdoctoral Scholar's stipend using the Stipend Augmentation Form. The Postdoctoral Scholar should discuss how to fill out the form with his/her departmental business or HR manager.
  • Departmental staff and postdocs who have benefits-related questions may contact Jennifer Frazier, HR Specialist, Duke Benefits.
  • Departmental staff and postdocs who have payroll-related questions may contact Kirby Hays, Administrative Manager, Corporate Payroll.

7. What do postdocs who are moving from a Postdoctoral Associate to a Postdoctoral Scholar position (comp to non-comp) need to know?

Benefits:

  • Postdoctoral Scholars paid through the non-compensatory payment system are not employees of Duke University. Rather, they are trainees of the funding agency. This means they are not eligible for most Duke employee benefits.
  • As former University employees, Postdoctoral Scholars may remain enrolled in Duke health insurance, as well as the dental and vision plans provided by the University. However, Postdoctoral Scholars should note that they will be taxed on the entire cost of Duke health insurance (not just the “employee” portion). Because Postdoctoral Scholars are non-employees receiving an employee benefit, the IRS requires that taxes be paid on that benefit (US Tax Code Title 26, Section 106, excludes employer-provided health care coverage from the gross income of an employee, but not from that of a non-employee).
  • If the Postdoctoral Scholar has an Institutional Allowance (IA), funding for the Postdoctoral Scholar’s individual coverage and for the Duke contribution to health insurance will be taken from the IA first and to the fullest extent possible. The Postdoctoral Scholar may also choose to pay his/her premium (the “employee” or “payee” portion) from the IA, although the Duke portion will be extracted first - in other words, if there is not enough in the IA to cover both the Duke portion and the premium, the postdoc must pay the premium out of pocket.
  • The Postdoctoral Scholar may always choose to use the IA for health insurance – other institutional costs, such as lab supplies, may not take precedence over health insurance costs.
  • Postdoctoral Scholars should review Corporate Payroll Services 2018 Postdoctoral Scholar Health Insurance Stipend Guidelines and the 2018 Postdoctoral Scholar Health Care Premiums Rate Table.
  • The Postdoctoral Scholar's benefits selections are automatically transferred to the non-comp payroll. To ensure that benefits have transferred correctly, administrators and Postdoctoral Scholars may wish to email Jennifer Frazier, HR Specialist, Duke Benefits.
  • As of December 2012, moving to the non-compensatory payment system is considered a qualifying life event, so the Postdoctoral Scholar may add or drop coverage or change health insurance plans.
  • Due to federal requirements regarding employment status, Postdoctoral Scholars may receive a COBRA notice from Duke Benefits, because they are transitioning from employee to non-employee status.
  • The Open Enrollment Period for Postdoctoral Scholars may not coincide with the Open Enrollment Period for regular staff. Postdoctoral Scholars receive a customized open enrollment packet that reflects the benefits available to them, non-comp premiums, and a paper enrollment form to make changes for the upcoming year.
  • Postdoctoral Scholars are not eligible for participation in the Health Care and Dependent Care Reimbursement Accounts. Postdoctoral Associates who are currently enrolled in these plans should use up the funds before transitioning to Postdoctoral Scholar. Postdoctoral Scholars may submit claims for reimbursement for any expenses that occurred while employed as a Postdoctoral Associate, but the funds will not "roll over" when the Postdoctoral Associate transitions to Postdoctoral Scholar (non-employee) status.
  • Postdoctoral Scholars who enrolled in the voluntary Supplemental Life Insurance Plan during their time on the compensatory payroll (i.e., while employed as a Postdoctoral Associate or in another benefits-eligible employment category) may continue their participation in the Plan, but premiums will be direct billed to their home address.
  • Postdoctoral Scholars enrolled in the Voluntary Short-Term Disability Plan or in the Duke University Disability Plan may not continue their participation in the plan(s).
  • Postdoctoral Scholars enrolled in the Voluntary Long-Term Disability Plan may continue their participation in the plan only if they had coverage for at least 12 months before moving to benefits-ineligible (i.e., Postdoctoral Scholar) status.
  • Since they are not Duke University employees, Postdoctoral Scholars are not eligible to participate in the Duke Faculty and Staff Retirement Plan.
  • “Grandfathered” Postdoctoral Associates who are receiving the Duke contribution to retirement will no longer receive the contribution as a Postdoctoral Scholar, and will not be eligible for the contribution should they return to Postdoctoral Associate status (i.e., the grandfather status is forfeited).
  • Departmental staff and postdocs who have benefits-related questions may contact Jennifer Frazier, HR Specialist, Duke Benefits.

Stipend/Payroll:

  • It is strongly recommended that Postdoctoral Scholars consult the IRS and/or a tax professional to understand the tax implications (income and FICA) of their fellowship payments. Because interpretation of tax laws is the domain of the IRS, Duke cannot determine what an individual’s tax status may be, and Duke cannot dispense tax advice.
  • Click here for an example of a Postdoctoral Scholar's pay statement.
  • Postdoctoral Scholars funded by NIH F32/T32 awards may email Molly Starback for a suggested letter template regarding IRS self-employment tax (please note that you will probably only need the template if you receive a letter from the IRS asking you to explain why you are not liable for self-employment tax for the income you made from the F32 that was reported on the 1099-MISC; the IRS does not always send this letter).
  • The National Postdoctoral Association provides useful tax information for non-employee postdocs.
  • Depending on the time of the switch to non-compensatory status, Postdoctoral Scholars may have 2 payroll records – compensatory and non-compensatory. Therefore, Postdoctoral Scholars may have to submit duplicate NC4 and W4 tax documents in conjunction with their compensatory and non-compensatory payments.
  • New Postdoctoral Scholars may receive both a W-2 tax form for compensatory work performed as a Postdoctoral Associate, and a 1099-MISC Form reporting fellowship stipend.
  • Because they are trainees, not employees, the IRS may not view Postdoctoral Scholars as receiving “earned income”. This may have an implication for child/dependent care tax deductions. Again, it is strongly recommended that Postdoctoral Scholars consult a tax professional to understand the potential tax implications of their individual situation.
  • Postdoctoral Scholars’ pay date will change from the 25th of the month to the last day of month. Postdoctoral Scholars will most likely have to update their direct deposit information to reflect the new pay date. A paper direct deposit form must be used for Postdoctoral Scholars to establish direct deposit.
  • If they have a Duke parking permit, Postdoctoral Scholars will need to update their information with Duke Parking and Transportation so that the cost will be automatically deducted from their monthly stipend. Postdoctoral Scholars should check with their departmental business/HR manager, and/or email Jeffrey Fisher, Financial Management Analyst for Transportation and Parking, at , to be added to the monthly non-comp parking deduction file.
  • Postdoctoral Scholars may consider asking their PI to supplement their stipend to alleviate financial penalties they may incur by accepting an NIH NRSA F32/T32 award (eg taxes on health insurance, loss of healthcare/dependent care FSAs). PIs may supplement the Postdoctoral Scholar's stipend using the Stipend Augmentation Form. The Postdoctoral Scholar should discuss how to fill out the form with his/her departmental business or HR manager.
  • Departmental staff and postdocs who have payroll-related questions may contact Kirby Hays, Administrative Manager, Corporate Payroll.

8. Are candidates who are paid directly, either by their home country or by another institution, eligible for postdoctoral appointment?

  • Candidates who are paid directly may be eligible for appointment as ‘Postdoctoral Scholar – Paid Direct.’ For policy and guidelines, please see Addendum 1 of the Duke Postdoctoral Policy: Policies Specific to Paid-Direct Candidates for Postdoctoral Appointment.

9. A grad student in our department just received his PhD. The PI would like to keep him on as a postdoc for a few months before he moves to his first “real” postdoc position. This way the student can get Duke health insurance. May we appoint the student as a Postdoctoral Associate?

  • Postdoctoral Associate is a full-time, exempt appointment for a period of 9 months or greater, and is subject to the postdoctoral salary minimum and other stipulations of the postdoctoral policy. Postdoctoral Associate is not an appropriate category for recent graduates who are continuing their work in the department for a few months until they begin a postdoctoral appointment at another university or find other employment. A recent graduate who is staying on in the department for a short period following graduation may be appointed as an Associate in Research or similar (departments should discuss the appropriate title with the SOM or Campus HR Center). However, in order to be benefits-eligible, s/he must work at least 30 hours a week for at least 9 months.
  • Note that The Duke Student Medical Insurance Plan normally runs from August 1 through July 31 of the following year, giving recent graduates coverage for 2 months after May graduation.

10. Transferring postdocs from Research Associate positions (job code 1361) to Postdoctoral Associate (job code 3820): Do you switch everyone unless there are visa implications?

  • Yes, at or before the time of appointment renewal, all Research Associates who fit the definition of Postdoctoral Associate (found in the first section of the Duke Postdoctoral Policy) should be switched to the Postdoctoral Associate category, unless this raises visa issues. If there are visa issues, the postdoctoral appointee may remain in the Research Associate category, but the postdoc personnel subarea (PSA 0028) must be flagged to identify them as a postdoc.
  • Moving forward, all postdoctoral candidates must be hired or reappointed in the Postdoctoral Associate category, using PSA 0028. This allows Duke to identify how many postdoctoral appointees are at the institution.

11. How will the Research Associate position be used in the future?

  • A committee is currently defining the rest of Job Family 27. That committee will identify job requirements for positions including Research Associate, Research Associate Senior, and Research Scientist.

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Section 2: Questions about “Employee First” Policy (Initial Month of Postdoctoral Appointment on Comp Payroll)
 

12. Is "Employee First" (all postdocs spending their initial month of employment on the compensatory payroll) a requirement for departments?

  • Yes, “Employee First” is a requirement. “Employee First” has been implemented so that Postdoctoral Scholars may have legal access to Duke health insurance. The Employee First policy was vetted by the Deans and Chairs of the Campus and School of Medicine, and approved by the Academic Council.
  • Within the School of Medicine, if neither the PI, the department/responsible unit, nor the Chair has funds to cover the costs of the Postdoctoral Scholar’s initial month on comp payroll, the Dean of the School of Medicine has agreed to cover the cost. The SoM Office of Resource Planning will reimburse the department/responsible unit for those costs, per a request from the Business Manager. Insurance costs should be processed by the business office of the department/responsible unit and charged directly to an unrestricted departmental 4xx fund code. Reimbursements should be requested on monthly and/or quarterly bases for any recurring charges. E-mail requests for reimbursement with brief explanation of charges to: Rossitsa Evans, Office of Resource Planning.
  • On the Campus side, salary for the mandatory one-month employee period will come first from the Principal Investigator (or primary Mentor in the case of NIH NRSA Institutional Research T32 Training Grants), to be supplemented if necessary by funding from the department/responsible unit, or from the Dean/Director.

13. I want to move a recently graduated PhD student to a postdoctoral training grant (non-comp payroll). Does her time on the comp payroll as a grad student count as her “Employee First” time?

  • No. The Graduate Student PSA 0006 is not a benefits-eligible personnel subarea; therefore time spent as a graduate student does not count towards Employee First time.

14. Do I need to put Postdoctoral Scholars who were here before the April 1 2008 implementation date of the policy on the comp payroll for one month?

  • No, the “Employee First” rule applies only to postdocs appointed after April 1, 2008, the implementation date of the Postdoctoral Policy. Postdoctoral appointees currently paid through the non-compensatory payment system, including those who have never been paid through the comp payroll, should be moved into the Postdoctoral Scholar job code 2898 with the postdoc personnel sub area (PSA 0028) flagged, and placed at a zero rate of pay.

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Section 3: Questions Related to Postdoctoral Salary
 

15. Duke has adopted a minimum postdoctoral salary, but there will still be some disparity among departments. Why didn’t Duke adopt a scaled salary?

  • Duke set a minimum salary for postdoctoral appointments equal to the NIH NRSA stipend for a postdoc with zero years of experience. That minimum was reached on July 1, 2009 (the minimum salary for FY 2008 was $35,000). The minimum salary is equal across departments/responsible units, both for Campus and the School of Medicine.
  • Note that Duke is only setting a minimum, not tying salary to years of experience. This salary minimum is to protect those who are on the low end of the scale. However, in some fields it is common to pay postdocs according to years of experience. The postdoc and the PI are always free to negotiate a salary above the Duke minimum. Duke is setting a floor, not a ceiling.

16. Are there any exceptions to the postdoctoral minimum salary?

  • Yes. Grant proposals submitted before April 1, 2007, will not be subject to the salary minimum until renewal of the grant.

17. What are the general salary-setting instructions for postdoctoral appointees?

  • Postdoctoral Associates may initially be hired at a salary that is competitive and equitable within the lab/department/unit. Salaries are not required to match the NIH NRSA level according to years of experience (i.e., a postdoc may be paid higher or lower than her/his years of experience, if that is the competitive and equitable rate). However, salaries are required to meet at minimum the NIH NRSA postdoctoral level for zero years of experience.
  • As a general rule:
    • Postdoctoral Associate salary increases may happen only on July 1 during the University salary-setting period, except in unusual situations (e.g., an external fellowship that dictates the stipend terms). Changes to the NIH NRSA stipend scale after July 1 of each year will be implemented the following Duke fiscal year during the regular salary-setting period.
    • Postdoctoral Scholar salary increases are dictated by the external fellowship stipend terms (e.g. NIH NRSA T32/F32). In the absence of fellowship stipend terms, Postdoctoral Scholars will follow the Duke policies for Postdoctoral Associates.
  • Salary Equity: While salaries are required to meet at minimum the NIH NRSA postdoctoral level for zero years of experience, as a general rule, salaries for postdocs who are already employed at Duke and/or have more experience should be higher than that of newly hired postdocs.
  • Questions about salary setting may be directed to the HR Management Center or Molly Starback, Director of the Office of Postdoctoral Services.

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Section 4: Questions Related to Postdoctoral Benefits
 

18. Do postdoctoral appointees have a separate orientation, or do they go to Duke New Employee Orientation?

  • Postdoctoral appointees are Duke employees, and thus should attend Duke New Employee Orientation. Department managers should register postdocs for New Employee Orientation. Postdocs may also review New Employee Orientation information on their own here. Postdocs can find new employee enrollment forms (for health, dental, and vision benefits, reimbursement accounts, and supplemental insurance) here. Note that the Medical, Dental and Vision Enrollment Form includes the table of premium costs (ie, a breakdown of the amount that Duke covers and the amount the employee covers). A complete list of Benefits forms (including declarations of same-sex spousal equivalency, tax documents, and work absence forms) may be found here.

19. Are postdocs eligible for benefits?

  • Postdoctoral Associates are eligible for most staff benefits. See Section 6-B, “Benefits for Postdoctoral Associates” of the Duke Postdoctoral Policy for details.
  • Because they are not Duke employees, Postdoctoral Scholars are eligible for limited benefits, as outlined in Section 7-B, “Non-Salary Coverage for Postdoctoral Scholars”, of the Duke Postdoctoral Policy.

20. What if the Postdoctoral Scholar has a fellowship that provides an allocation for health insurance?

  • If the Postdoctoral Scholar has an Institutional Allowance (IA), funding for the Postdoctoral Scholar’s individual coverage and for the Duke contribution to health insurance will be taken from the IA first and to the fullest extent possible. The Postdoctoral Scholar may also choose to pay his/her premium (the “employee” or “payee” portion) from the IA, although the Duke portion will be extracted first - in other words, if there is not enough in the IA to cover both the Duke portion and the premium, the postdoc must pay the premium out of pocket.
  • The Postdoctoral Scholar may always choose to use the IA for health insurance – other institutional costs, such as lab supplies, may not take precedence over health insurance costs.
  • Because Postdoctoral Scholars are non-employees receiving an employee benefit, all deductions for health insurance will be post-tax (US Tax Code Title 26, Section 106, excludes employer-provided health care coverage from the gross income of an employee, but not from that of a non-employee). Postdoctoral Scholars should note that they will be taxed on the entire cost of Duke health insurance, not just the “employee” portion.
  • For more information on moving from Postdoctoral Associate to Postdoctoral Scholar, please see questions 6 and 7 above.

21. What if the Postdoctoral Scholar doesn’t have an Institutional Allowance (IA) to cover health insurance?

  • On the Campus side, if the Postdoctoral Scholar does not have an IA or if supplementation is necessary, funding for the Postdoctoral Scholar’s individual coverage and for the Duke contribution to health insurance will come either from the Principal Investigator (PI), the department/responsible unit, or the Dean/Director. The decision of how to allot such funding will be at the discretion of each School/responsible unit.
  • Within the School of Medicine, if neither the PI, the department/responsible unit, nor the Chair/Director has funds to cover the costs of the Postdoctoral Scholar’s individual coverage and the Duke contribution to health insurance, the Dean of the School of Medicine has agreed to cover the costs. The SoM Office of Resource Planning will reimburse the department/responsible unit, per a request from the business office. Insurance costs should be processed by the business office of the department/responsible unit and charged directly to an unrestricted departmental 4xx fund code. Reimbursements should be requested on monthly and/or quarterly bases for any recurring charges. E-mail requests for reimbursement with brief explanation of charges to: Rossitsa Evans, Office of Resource Planning.
  • For more information on moving from Postdoctoral Associate to Postdoctoral Scholar, please see questions 6 and 7 above.

22. What procedures should be followed for benefits deductions when switching a postdoc from the compensatory to the non-compensatory payment system (in other words, moving a Postdoctoral Associate to a Postdoctoral Scholar position)?

  • For more information on moving from Postdoctoral Associate to Postdoctoral Scholar, please see questions 6 and 7 above.

23. Is switching from the compensatory to the non-compensatory payment system (Postdoctoral Associate to Postdoctoral Scholar) a qualifying life event? Will Postdoctoral Scholars be able to enroll in new benefits, or drop benefits?

  • Yes, as of December 2012 moving to the non-compensatory payment system is considered a qualifying life event and the Postdoctoral Scholar may change health insurance plans, level of coverage, or drop benefits. If the Postdoctoral Scholar declines to change benefits at this time, his/her next opportunity to change benefits will be during the open enrollment period.
  • For more information on moving from Postdoctoral Associate to Postdoctoral Scholar, please see questions 6 and 7 above.

24. We have a paid-direct candidate who does not meet the requirements for Postdoctoral Scholar-Paid Direct status and therefore is not eligible for Duke health insurance. What are his/her options for health insurance?

 25. Do postdocs earn the Continuous Service Credit during their time on the employee payroll?

  • Postdoctoral Associates earn the Continuous Service Credit during their time on the employee payroll.
  • If a Postdoctoral Associate switches from payment on the compensatory payroll to the non-compensatory payment system (e.g. to Postdoctoral Scholar), his or her Continuous Service Credit will continue.

26. Are postdocs eligible for the Duke retirement plan?

  • Postdoctoral Associates are eligible to participate in the Duke Faculty and Staff Retirement Plan. This plan is funded by voluntary pre-tax contributions. Duke does not provide a contribution to this plan for Postdoctoral Associates. Postdoctoral Associates are eligible to participate immediately in the plan. Plan participants are always 100% vested in their own voluntary contributions .
  • Since they are not Duke University employees, Postdoctoral Scholars are not eligible to participate in the Duke Faculty and Staff Retirement Plan.

27. If a Postdoctoral Associate or Postdoctoral Scholar transitions to Research Associate Senior or another eligible category, when will they receive Duke's retirement contribution

  • If an employee with a year of service goes from an ineligible status to an eligible one, they are eligible for the University retirement contribution the first of the month following the change, unless the change occurs on the first of the month.  For example:
    • If status changed 5/1/2017, they would be eligible for the University contribution 5/1/2017.
    • If status changed 5/3/2017, they would be eligible for the University contribution 6/1/2017.

28.  When would the Research Associate Senior be vested in Duke's retirement contribution

  • Vesting is based on continuous service date, so the Research Associate Senior would be vested in Duke's retirement contribution three years minus one day from the continuous service date.
  • Plan participants are always 100% vested in their own voluntary contributions .

29.  For those who have worked as Postdoctoral Associate or Postdoctoral Scholar for 3 or more years, would they be vested immediately in Duke's retirement contribution, or must the time earned be in an eligible category? 

  • All time is counted, regardless of whether one was in an eligible category to receive the Duke contribution.

30. Are postdocs eligible for the Employee Tuition Assistance Program and the Special Employee Tuition Rate Program?

31. Are postdocs covered by Workers Compensation?

  • Postdoctoral Associates are covered by Workers Compensation. For details, see Duke Worker's Compensation and Duke Workplace & Safety Policies. Postdocs or department staff with general questions about Workers Compensation may contact Charles (Chip) Kyles, Director of Workers' Compensation, at charles.kyles@duke.edu.
  • Because Postdoctoral Scholars are not Duke employees, they should contact their funding agency for Workers Compensation guidelines.

32. Are postdocs eligible for the Kiel Memorial Voluntary Vacation/PTO Donation Program (shared leave program)?

  • Postdoctoral Associates are eligible if they meet the listed requirements.
  • Because they are not Duke employees, Postdoctoral Scholars are not eligible for the Kiel Program.

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Section 5: Questions Related to Postdoctoral Leave
 

29. Do postdocs accrue vacation like regular employees? If they leave Duke, are they paid out for vacation?

  • Postdoctoral Associates may accrue up to 20 days vacation, per Section 6-B of the Duke Postdoctoral Policy, but will not be paid out for it upon termination or transfer to Postdoctoral Scholar status (non-comp payment system).
  • Postdoctoral Scholars are not Duke employees, and therefore do not accrue leave from Duke. However, subject to the terms of the funding agency, Postdoctoral Scholars may take up to 40 personal days of absence (this number of days corresponds to the temporal distribution of leave for Postdoctoral Associates: 15 vacation days, 12 sick days, and 13 holidays and discretionary days as observed by the relevant school of the University). Upon termination or transfer to a Postdoctoral Associate position, a Postdoctoral Scholar will not be paid out for unused days of absence.
  • Effective March 2018NIH posted a Summary of Leave, Part-Time, and Extension Policies available to Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Awards (NRSA) Trainees and Fellows. The notice includes details on part-time training, vacations and holidays, sick leave, parental leave, unpaid leave of absence, and extension of an award or appointment for interruptions in training. The details of NRSA policies can be found in the NIH Grants Policy Statement.

30. Should monthly accrual of vacation/sick days for postdocs be tracked on a calendar basis (January-December year, like discretionary days), or by appointment date?

  • Postdoctoral Associates accrue vacation from the first day of employment on a prorated basis. As of August 1 2013, Postdoctoral Associates are required to track and submit their time off electronically through Duke@Work because they are monthly-paid employees.
  • Postdoctoral Scholars are not Duke employees and therefore do not earn vacation/sick leave from Duke, but they may take up to 40 personal days of absence, subject to the terms of the funding agency. Days of absence should be tracked from the date of the appointment as Postdoctoral Scholar (i.e., from the time that the postdoctoral appointee transferred from the compensatory payroll to the non-comp payment system) via spreadsheet.

31. When postdoctoral appointees transfer to the non-compensatory payment system, can they “bank” their unused vacation in case they return to the compensatory payroll?

  • No, accrued vacation must be utilized before transfer to the non-compensatory payment system.

32. For postdocs who were here before the policy went into effect, can departments set their own parameters for grandfathering vacation/sick leave if the postdoc’s time had not previously been tracked?

  • If a written leave record does not exist, the postdoc should discuss his/her leave with the PI, with oversight from the departmental Chair or his/her designee. After agreement has been reached on the number of vacation and sick days previously used or accrued, the agreed-upon balance may be used as a starting point (note that vacation accrual may not exceed 20 days, and sick accrual may not exceed the normal staff accrual rate of 1 day per month). The postdoc and PI should submit their signed leave agreement to the department and the Chair.
  • If the postdoc cannot reach agreement with the PI, the postdoc should consult with Molly Starback, Director of Duke Postdoctoral Services.

33. Some Postdoctoral Associates have seen previous postdocs get a payout for their vacation. Will they be grandfathered a leave payout as well?

  • Because there was no policy about vacation payout previous to April 2008, the decision of whether or not to pay postdocs out for vacation was left up to the department and/or the PI. If the department and/or the PI have traditionally paid out their postdocs for vacation, it would be appropriate for the postdoc to have a discussion with the PI and/or departmental manager as to whether his/her vacation should also be paid out.

34. Will the Postdoctoral Scholar get a fresh 40 days if they change laboratories/departments?

  • No, unless the terms of the funding agency specify otherwise.

35. Are Postdoctoral Scholars required to use up their leave in the year earned or lose it?

  • Subject to the terms of the funding agency, Postdoctoral Scholars must use their leave in the year earned or lose it. Unutilized days of absence do not accrue from year to year, and will not be carried over if the Postdoctoral Scholar changes labs or departments/responsible units.

36. What happens if a postdoc uses up all of his/her vacation and sick leave and requests more?

  • Whether a Scholar or an Associate, if the postdoctoral appointee requests additional time off after exhausting their leave, the request must be discussed with the PI.
  • If a Postdoctoral Associate requests more leave after exhausting his or her accrued leave, Duke staff policies and procedures apply. See Time Away From Duke Policies and Time Away From Duke.
  • If sick leave has been exhausted, Postdoctoral Associates may take time without pay. A pay exception must be processed for that month.
  • Postdoctoral Scholars should contact their funding agency for leave requests. The funding agency’s regulations always supersede the Duke Postdoctoral Policy and Duke Staff Policy.

37. Do postdocs get parental leave?

  • For Postdoctoral Associates, the parental leave policy is the same as the staff leave policy (must use own time for first three weeks and second three weeks will be paid time off).
  • Because Postdoctoral Scholars are not employees, they do not accrue paid leave from Duke, but subject to the terms of the funding agency, the parental leave period for Postdoctoral Scholars is the temporal equivalent of the staff parental leave period: 6 weeks.
    • Per NIH policy effective June 2016, all Kirschstein-NRSA trainees and fellows may receive stipends for up to 60 calendar days (equivalent to 8 work weeks) of parental leave per year for the adoption or the birth of each child. Either parent is eligible for parental leave. Kirschstein-NRSA trainees and fellows must provide advanced notification to the grantee institution prior to taking parental leave. Notification of supervisors and others about plans to use leave must be consistent with the organization’s policy and must be consistently applied regardless of the source of funds.
    • Effective March 2018NIH posted a Summary of Leave, Part-Time, and Extension Policies available to Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Awards (NRSA) Trainees and Fellows. The notice includes details on part-time training, vacations and holidays, sick leave, parental leave, unpaid leave of absence, and extension of an award or appointment for interruptions in training. The details of NRSA policies can be found in the NIH Grants Policy Statement.

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Section 6: Questions Related to Time Tracking and Hours Worked
 

38. Are postdoctoral appointments and yearly renewals tracked by the appointment date, or does the appointment term begin July 1, like faculty?

  • Postdoctoral appointments should be tracked by the appointment date, as with regular staff appointments.

39. Are postdoctoral appointees included in the online Exempt Time Off Reporting System for monthly employees (i.e. Duke@Work)?

  • Postdoctoral Associates are monthly paid employees and therefore are required required to track and submit their time off electronically through Duke@Work.
  • Postdoctoral Scholars are not Duke employees, and therefore do not participate in the Exempt Time Off Reporting System.
     

40. May a postdoctoral appointee work a part-time schedule at Duke?

  • No. The Postdoctoral Policy defines a postdoctoral appointment as a full-time position.
  • Effective March 2018NIH posted a Summary of Leave, Part-Time, and Extension Policies available to Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Awards (NRSA) Trainees and Fellows. The notice includes details on part-time training, vacations and holidays, sick leave, parental leave, unpaid leave of absence, and extension of an award or appointment for interruptions in training. The details of NRSA policies can be found in the NIH Grants Policy Statement.

41. How many hours worked per week meets the definition of a full-time postdoctoral appointment?

  • Postdoctoral Associates must work an average minimum of 40 hours a week. Note that 40 hours is the minimum. Postdoctoral Associates are monthly (exempt) employees, and therefore not subject to overtime pay. More than 40 hours a week may commonly be required to complete assigned tasks.
  • Effective March 2018NIH posted a Summary of Leave, Part-Time, and Extension Policies available to Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Awards (NRSA) Trainees and Fellows. The notice includes details on part-time training, vacations and holidays, sick leave, parental leave, unpaid leave of absence, and extension of an award or appointment for interruptions in training. The details of NRSA policies can be found in the NIH Grants Policy Statement.

42. May postdocs work from home?

  • For Postdoctoral Associates, flexible work options may be allowed at the discretion of the PI and/or the department. Flexible work options must be requested and documented in accordance with the Duke HR guidelines.
  • Postdoctoral Scholars are not Duke employees, but may arrange flexible work options at the discretion of the PI and the funding agency.

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Section 7: Questions Related to Reappointment Letters, Evaluations, IDPs, and Grievances
 

43. Must I do reappointment letters for postdocs in my department?

  • Yes. Written terms of appointment must be renewed 90 days prior to the end of each appointment term for Postdoctoral Associates and postdoctoral appointees currently classified as Research Associates due to visa restrictions. Reappointment letters provide protection both for the postdoctoral appointee and the department by spelling out length of appointment, salary/stipend, and duties. A sample reappointment letter may be found at the Duke Postdoctoral Services website. Note that an individual may not hold a postdoctoral appointment at Duke for more than 5 years total, except under extraordinary circumstances approved by the appropriate Dean or the Vice Provost for Research.
  • Reappointment letters are not mandated for Postdoctoral Scholars, but the funding agency’s renewal form(s) should be kept in the personnel file and/or submitted to HR.
  • If a Postdoctoral Associate moves to a Postdoctoral Scholar position in the middle of his or her appointment term, the funding agency’s appointment form(s) should be kept in the personnel file and/or submitted to HR in lieu of a reappointment letter.

44. Do PIs and postdocs have to do yearly evaluations? Why? Who keeps up with the document?

  • Per the Duke Postdoctoral Policy, written evaluations must be competed on a yearly basis. According to the 2005 Sigma Xi National Postdoctoral Survey, postdocs who establish a written plan with their advisor early in the postdoc period are likelier to report greater productivity, greater satisfaction, and better relationships with their advisor. Providing written feedback is an important part of the PI’s mentoring duties, just as supervisory evaluations are important for regular staff. Evaluations also provide a safeguard in the event of a grievance, as documentation of performance.
  • The PI, the postdoc, and the department should all keep a copy of the evaluation, as for regular staff. A sample evaluation may be found on the Duke Postdoctoral Services website.

45. Are PIs and postdocs required to do an Individual Development Plan (IDP)?

  • The required yearly evaluation is modeled on the Individual Development Plan (IDP). In addition, postdocs are encouraged to use the MyIDP tool and other resources found on the Duke Postdoctoral Services IDP page.
  • Note that in 2013 the NIH called for IDPs to be implemented for every graduate student and postdoctoral researcher supported by any NIH grant.

46. Can postdocs file grievances?

  • Postdoctoral Associates are eligible for the Duke University Dispute Resolution Process.
  • Because Postdoctoral Scholars are not Duke University employees, they are not eligible for the Duke University Dispute Resolution Process. However, a Postdoctoral Scholar who believes that he/she has been treated unfairly should first discuss the problem with the Faculty Mentor and/or the Chair of the department/responsible unit. Each school should designate a faculty member, or member of the administration experienced in postdoctoral education, whose duties are to serve as a resource to the Postdoctoral Scholar in addressing and resolving grievances. If a resolution cannot be reached at the level of either the department/responsible unit or through the efforts of the designated resource person, the Postdoctoral Scholar should present the grievance to the Dean for informal evaluation and, as necessary, adjudication. The determination by the Dean is the final step in the grievance process.

47. Is there a postdoc ombudsman?

  • Yes. Jean Spaulding, MD, serves as the Postdoctoral Ombudsman. The Office of the Ombudsman offers confidential and anonymous support and advocacy to Duke postdoctoral appointees from both Campus and School of Medicine departments and administrative units. To contact the Ombudsman with a concern, postdocs may email ombudsman@mc.duke.edu or call (919) 668-3326. For more information on the Office of the Ombudsman, visit the Conflict Resolution section of the Duke Postdoctoral Services Resources website.

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Section 8: Questions Related to Grandfathering, Term Limits, and Termination
 

48. Are postdocs who were appointed before the Duke Postdoctoral Policy went into effect subject to the 5-year term limit?

  • Postdocs who were appointed prior to the April 1, 2008 implementation date of the Duke Postdoctoral Policy will be grandfathered a term limit of 3 more years (i.e., through March 31, 2011) or a term total of 5 years, whichever is greater.
  • Following the 5-year training period, a postdoctoral appointee must either be moved into a non-training position (e.g., Research Associate Senior, Research Scientist, Laboratory Research Analyst) or terminated. In the case of termination, at least 90 days written notice must be given to the postdoctoral appointee.

49. Will postdocs on visas receive the grandfathered term limit of 3 more years?

  • Immigration rules and regulations always take precedence over the Duke Postdoctoral Policy. Postdoctoral appointees holding visas and their department/responsible unit must check with Duke Visa Services to determine what regulations apply.

50. Can extensions be granted to the 5-year term limit?

  • Yes. In extraordinary circumstances, extensions may be granted to the 5-year term limit by the appropriate Dean in the case of professional schools and/or the Vice Provost for Research.

51. What if a postdoc spent time at another institution?

  • If a Postdoctoral Appointee has spent part of the training period at another institution or in another field, then the total time of training should not exceed 6 years, except under extraordinary circumstances approved by the appropriate Dean or the Vice Provost for Research.

52. Must PIs/departments provide notice to postdocs?

  • Yes. Postdoctoral Associates and Postdoctoral Scholars must receive 90 days written notice if the funding supporting his or her appointment ends or if performance is judged to be unsatisfactory.

53. Are postdocs eligible for unemployment benefits? Who files an unemployment claim for them?

  • Filing for unemployment benefits is up to the individual, not to the department or Duke University. Information on how to apply may be found at Division of Employment Security.
  • Postdoctoral Associates are former Duke University employees, and depending on their individual circumstances, may be eligible for unemployment benefits. The State determines eligibility based on the facts and circumstances around the individual’s employment with Duke.
  • Postdoctoral Scholars are not employees of Duke University; rather, they are trainees of the funding agency and are unlikely to be eligible for unemployment benefits related to Duke at the end of their appointment. An individual who believes he/she may be eligible can apply for unemployment benefits, and the State will determine his/her eligibility.
  • While Duke cannot advise as to postdoctoral appointees' individual situations regarding unemployment benefits, postdocs or department staff with general questions may contact  Charles (Chip) Kyles, Director of Workers' Compensation, at charles.kyles@duke.edu.

 

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