COVID-19: Hiring Freeze FAQ

Table of Contents 
    1. What is the hiring freeze, and which position types are covered by the freeze?
    2. Why is the University instituting a hiring freeze?
    3. How long will the freeze continue?
    4. What if I made a verbal (informal) offer to a candidate prior to March 19?
    5. Will there be any exceptions to the hiring freeze?
    6. How do I request an exception to the hiring freeze?
    7. Do I need an approved position description before I can submit an exception request?
    8. How will exceptions be evaluated?
    9. How will I know if my exception request has been approved or declined?
    10. Can I appeal the triage group’s or panel’s decision to decline my exception request?
    11. How long does it take for exception requests to be reviewed and decisions made?
    12. What happens to my search in progress if my exception request has not been approved?
    13. What are candidates being told about the hiring freeze?
    14. Will I have to go through all the typical recruitment reviews and approvals to resume my suspended search once the hiring freeze is lifted?
    15. If one of the exceptional circumstances is that a position is grant-funded, do I need to submit an exception request to keep my research pool listed on the careers page and make a hire?
    16. My exception request was approved, and I’ve made a verbal offer, but I am not able to change the candidate’s status and create an offer card in MyTrack.
    17. Am I required to change the start date for new employees due to the hiring freeze or modified campus operations?
    18. Once my exception has been approved, is there anything more I need to do?
    19. If I don’t get an exception approved, can I just assign the work of the vacant position to a current employee?
    20. I have a retiree whose post-retirement is about to expire. Do I need to request an exception to the hiring freeze to extend their assignment?
    21. I have an OA employee in an interim assignment that is about to expire. Do I need to request an exception to the hiring freeze to extend their assignment?
    22. Is there a freeze on other position and pay actions like reclassifications, expansions of duties, retention offers, stipends and overloads?
    23. What limitations are there on new student employment offers during the hiring freeze?
    24. I have an approved exception to continue my search. What do I need to be thinking about as I go through the selection process?

What is the hiring freeze, and which position types are covered by the freeze?

On March 19, the University instituted a hiring freeze on regular and temporary faculty and staff positions. Student employment positions are not affected by the hiring freeze, with some conditions (see below). Graduate employee positions may require additional approval from the Graduate School.

Why is the University instituting a hiring freeze?

As described in the President’s Town Hall for Faculty and Staff, the hiring freeze is an important step in preserving as many jobs and benefits for current employees as the University faces considerable economic uncertainty due to the COVID-19 crisis.

How long will the freeze continue?

The freeze is expected to continue several months, and will be re-evaluated at key milestones related to state appropriations and enrollment.

What if I made a verbal (informal) offer to a candidate prior to March 19?

Informal verbal offers that were made prior to the hiring freeze announcement on March 19 are being honored wherever possible. To be considered, a verbal offer must have been authorized according to existing requirements (for example, faculty pay form complete for career or fixed-term faculty positions, informal offer authorized by Office of the Provost for tenure-related positions, offer approval received from Talent Acquisition for classified positions). The offer must also have included a salary amount. Indications to a candidate of an intent to offer a position without authorization or a salary amount will not be considered informal offers for purposes of the hiring freeze. If hiring managers have questions about whether candidate communications prior to the freeze can be considered an offer, they should reach out to their assigned recruiter in Talent Acquisition to discuss.

Will there be any exceptions to the hiring freeze?

Yes, though exceptions are expected to be rare. When the hiring freeze was announced, several exceptional circumstances were identified: positions that were tied to external funding, including grants and gift funds; positions that directly impact critical university operations such as those required for statutory, safety, or regulatory requirements; or positions that were needed to immediately maintain a critical function during the time of the hiring freeze and campus response to COVID-19.

How do I request an exception to the hiring freeze?

Exception requests can be submitted via the online form here: https://app.smartsheet.com/b/form/0f71bf54ad68494ea35e9bdc524ff1ed. Exception requests require dean or VP approval, which is collected during the submission process. Exception requests will include a justification that addresses one or more of the exceptional circumstances described above.

Do I need an approved position description before I can submit an exception request?

No. Because position description evaluations may take up to several weeks, units are encouraged to submit position descriptions for approval as soon as they are aware they may be making an exception request. The Classification and Compensation unit in University HR is prioritizing approved exception requests in their reviews wherever possible.

How will exceptions be evaluated?

Most exception requests will first be reviewed by a triage panel to determine if one or more of the exceptional circumstances is met. The triage group may request additional information from the requesting unit before completing their review.

The triage group will forward requests that meet the exceptional circumstances to the institution-level panel, consisting of VP for Finance and Administration Jamie Moffitt and Executive Vice Provosts Brad Shelton and Janet Woodruff-Borden. The panel is also staffed by CHRO Mark Schmelz and Director of Talent Acquisition Nancy Nieraeth.

Requests for exceptions to continue tenure-related faculty searches, or senior-level searches managed by search firms, will be sent directly to the panel.

Either the triage group or the panel may decline requests for exceptions to the freeze or ask the unit to postpone the request.

How will I know if my exception request has been approved or declined?

Unit contacts and their approving vice president or dean will be notified when the request review has been completed. Talent Acquisition can also provide a status report on any individual requests, or for all requests in the school/college or division, upon request to talent@uoregon.edu.

Can I appeal the triage group’s or panel’s decision to decline my exception request?

If a unit has additional information to provide about how an exception is required to address the required circumstances, they can submit it to talent@uoregon.edu, and it will be included in an appeal review.

How long does it take for exception requests to be reviewed and decisions made?

Both the triage group and the review panel are currently meeting twice a week. For requests submitted with justification documentation and where deans or vice presidents have approved the request, based on current volume most requests are now being reviewed within one week of receipt. If requests need additional follow-up, final decisions may take up to several weeks.

What happens to my search in progress if my exception request has not been approved?

Recruiters in Talent Acquisition reached out to units beginning March 20 regarding the status of open searches and to discuss options for next steps, including submitting an exception request or cancelling open searches. Recruiters then worked with units on outreach to candidates in active searches.

We want to convey a consistent message to potential employees about the University’s hiring activities during this dynamic time. For that reason, during the week of April 13, searches that have not been approved for extension will be suspended from the University’s Careers site listing open faculty and staff jobs, unless the unit has discussed keeping their postings open with their assigned recruiter. Suspended searches will no longer be visible to candidates or to the hiring unit; if for any reason, units need to review search details or continue outreach to candidates in suspended searches, they should reach out to their assigned recruiter in Talent Acquisition.

What are candidates being told about the hiring freeze?

Recruiters provided some standard language that units could use in reaching out to current candidates in their searches. The university’s careers page also carries an announcement regarding the current status of hiring, which also displays on the “current opportunities” list and each individual job listing.

Will I have to go through all the typical recruitment reviews and approvals to resume my suspended search once the hiring freeze is lifted?

No. The suspended status allows units to resume the search in progress once the hiring freeze is lifted without seeking additional approvals. Depending on the duration of the freeze, the type of position, and changes in a unit’s staffing needs in the intervening time, units may opt to reconfigure positions and relaunch searches once the freeze is lifted. If positions are changed substantially, new reviews or approvals may be required.

If one of the exceptional circumstances is that a position is grant-funded, do I need to submit an exception request to keep my research pool listed on the careers page and make a hire?

You do not need an exception request to keep a research pool posted—you will need an approved exception request to make a hire out of a posted pool.

In some circumstances, it may be appropriate to keep a research pool posted even if a hiring freeze exception request has not yet been submitted or approved (for example, if the PI is anticipating new grant funding or a no-cost extension). If you would like to keep the pool posted, just reach out to your assigned recruiter, and they will discuss your specific needs and timeline.

My exception request was approved, and I’ve made a verbal offer, but I am not able to change the candidate’s status and create an offer card in MyTrack.

With the implementation of the hiring freeze, hiring managers and HR administrators no longer have the ability to advance a candidate to the status of “Contingent Offer Accepted.” If you have an authorized exception, or an offer that was made prior to the freeze but not yet updated in MyTrack, please reach out to your assigned recruiter to discuss next steps.

Am I required to change the start date for new employees due to the hiring freeze or modified campus operations?

Wherever possible, even for offers that were made prior to the hiring freeze, units are encouraged to consider postponing a new employee’s start date to after June 30. However, if the new employee wants to keep their original start date, the unit should honor that start date, as long as current guidance for remote work and social distancing can be followed.

Once my exception has been approved, is there anything more I need to do?

Yes. The exception approval process does not supersede the regular process of submitting an offer for completion of the hire, or the search and offer reviews completed by University HR. Hires that have been approved through the exception process are subject to normal requirements. For more information, contact your assigned recruiter.

If I don’t get an exception approved, can I just assign the work of the vacant position to a current employee?

Work reassignments are covered by collective bargaining agreements and University policy. If you’re considering a work reassignment to cover duties of a vacant position, we encourage you to consult with your assigned recruiter.

I have a retiree whose post-retirement is about to expire. Do I need to request an exception to the hiring freeze to extend their assignment?

No. Extensions of post-retirement appointments are not subject to the hiring freeze. To extend the assignment, submit a PRF with the extended date.

I have an OA employee in an interim assignment that is about to expire. Do I need to request an exception to the hiring freeze to extend their assignment?

No. The extension of existing interim OA assignments held by current employees does not need to go through the exception process. Extension requests should be submitted to Talent Acquisition via email to talent@uoregon.edu with a brief description of the reason for the request and the duration of the requested extension. The duration of interim positions is typically two years maximum; during the period of the hiring freeze, longer durations may be appropriate. Extensions are subject to Vice President or Dean approval provided on the PRF. Assignments of non-current UO employees to interim appointments would be considered new direct appointments; see the response related to direct appointments.

Is there a freeze on other position and pay actions like reclassifications, expansions of duties, retention offers, stipends and overloads?

Yes. Please refer to this site for more information.

What limitations are there on new student employment offers during the hiring freeze?

Current circumstances have limited work opportunities for many of our student employees. To clarify previous guidance, student employment positions are not subject to the hiring freeze, with the understanding that units will evaluate their needs for new student employees carefully and according to these guidelines:

  • Units that are experiencing work stoppages or insufficient work for regular ongoing staff members or graduate employees may not make new offers to student employees, even if they have previously worked for the unit. Student employees may not be assigned the work of classified or graduate employees. Units that are experiencing work stoppages or insufficient work for regular ongoing staff members should consult with Talent Acquisition (talent@uoregon.edu) prior to making new offers. Units who have unmet needs related to graduate employee positions should consult with the Graduate School.
  • If student work is available, units should first ensure their existing student employees have sufficient work before considering making new offers of employment. After ensuring current student employees have sufficient work, units can give priority in making new offers to students who previously worked in the unit.
  • New employment opportunities should be listed in Handshake and offered competitively wherever feasible. For competitively recruited positions, units can continue to give preference in hiring to Federal Work Study-eligible students.
  • Selection processes for student employees, onboarding, and work need to be conducted according to current university requirements for remote interviewing, social distancing, and remote work.

I have an approved exception to continue my search. What do I need to be thinking about as I go through the selection process?

We have compiled guidance for search chairs and hiring managers to consider when recruiting during COVID-19 modified operations.