REG 10.10.08 - Postdoctoral Scholars

Authority: Vice Chancellor for Research, Innovation and Economic Development

History: First Issued: June 28, 2010. Last Revised: January 8, 2013.

Related Policies: 
NCSU POL10.00.02 - Research Policy
NCSU POL04.25.05 - Equal Opportunity and Non-Discrimination Policy Statement 
NCSU REG01.25.01 - Conflicts of Interest and Conflicts of Commitment
NCSU REG05.35.01 - Mediation Procedure for Faculty and Staff 
NCSU REG05.00.01 - New Employee Orientation 
NCSU REG05.00.02 - Reasonable Accommodations in Employment 
NCSU REG04.25.06 - Discrimination and Harassment Prevention and Response Training
NCSU REG04.20.07 - Adverse Weather and Other Emergency Conditions Policy
Family Medical Leave Policy

Additional References: 
Office of Postdoctoral Affairs (OPA)  
Chapter 126 of the North Carolina General Statutes (State Personnel Act)
Performance Review Form/Worksheet 

Template/Sample Appointment Letter  
Individual Development Plan (IDP)  
Faculty Salary Ranges  
Postdoc Medical Plan  
Office of International Services (OIS)  
Benefits Office
UNC Voluntary 403b Program 
NC Deferred Compensation Plan (457) 

Student Health Services
HR Web Leave System
International Employment Office
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)
National Science Foundation

Contact Info: Director of the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs (919-515-0326)


1. INTRODUCTION AND SCOPE

Postdoctoral scholars (postdocs) gain important training and research experience through their relationship with the University in ways that support and fulfill the research and scholarship missions of the institution.  Postdocs receive training under the supervision of a tenured, tenure-track or other appropriate faculty member who serves as a mentor.  Postdoctoral appointments are viewed as preparatory for full-time careers in research or scholarship, and the responsibilities associated with the appointment involve substantial research and/or scholarship.  This regulation describes the terms and conditions of postdoctoral appointments.  Clinical interns and residents (house officers) in the College of Veterinary Medicine are not covered by this regulation.

2. QUALIFICATIONS AND PROCEDURES FOR APPOINTMENT TO A POSTDOCTORAL POSITION

2.1 North Carolina State University (NC State) uses the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) definition of “postdoctoral scholars” as follows:

2.1.1 the appointee was awarded a Ph.D., equivalent doctorate or terminal degree (e.g., M.D., D.V.M., Sc.D.) in an appropriate field;

2.1.2 the appointment is temporary;

2.1.3 the appointment involves substantial research or scholarship;

2.1.4 the appointment is viewed as preparatory for a full-time academic or research career;

2.1.5 the appointee works under the supervision of a scholar or a department in a university or similar research institution (e.g., national laboratory, NIH, etc.); and

2.1.6 the appointee is expected to submit for publication the results of his/her research or scholarship conducted during the period of appointment, in consultation with his/her mentor.

2.2 An applicant for a postdoctoral scholar position must have been awarded a Ph.D. or equivalent doctorate (e.g., M.D., D.V.M., Sc.D.) in an appropriate field.  In addition, the applicant must have been awarded his/her doctorate no more than five (5) years prior to the appointment.  If the hiring official wishes to offer the postdoctoral appointment to an applicant whose Ph.D. was awarded more than five years prior to the appointment, the Director of the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs (OPA) must approve the appointment.

2.3 Creation of Postdoctoral Positions

New postdoctoral positions of .50 FTE or higher must be established in the HR System for tracking purposes.  Vacant postdoc position tracking numbers may be “reused” by a college or department rather than creating new positions with every appointment.

2.4 Recruitment of Postdoctoral Scholars

Given the nature of postdoctoral training experiences, postdoctoral scholars may be identified directly through national or international academic professional channels.  Academic departments should publicize widely postdoctoral vacancies on campus bulletin boards, departmental websites, and also utilize professional networks in order to identify qualified candidates and to promote equal opportunity.  While open recruitment through the University’s online employment system is preferred, it is not required since postdoctoral positions are temporary ones.  Hiring officials are strongly encouraged to review the guidelines for conducting searches for postdoctoral scholars prior to their recruitment activities.

2.5 Appointment of Postdoctoral Scholars

Proposed offers of appointment must be reviewed for compliance and endorsed by the Office of Research, Innovation and Economic Development’s (ORIED) Integrated Support Services Center (ISSC) before being issued by the appointing department.

3. POSTDOCTORAL TITLES, DEFINITIONS, AND JOB CODES

A postdoctoral scholar must hold one of the following approved titles.  The term, “postdoctoral scholar,” broadly refers to all postdocs throughout this regulation; however, there are distinct classifications based on the responsibilities and/or the funding source of the postdoc:

3.1 Postdoctoral Research Scholar – an individual who is engaged primarily in original research under the supervision of a faculty mentor.

3.2 Postdoctoral Teaching Scholar – an individual who is engaged primarily in teaching under the supervision of a faculty member.

3.3 Postdoctoral Fellow – an individual who receives a fellowship directly from a sponsoring agency and is not compensated through the NC State payroll system though he/she conducts research activities or academic scholarship under the supervision of a faculty mentor at NC State.  Sponsoring agencies typically have their own guidelines and governance for participation in their programs.

3.4 Postdoctoral appointees are assigned to the following job (JCAT) codes with the Human Resources system:

3.4.1 “(#904X00)” if a Postdoctoral Research Scholar;

3.4.2 “(#906X00)” if a Postdoctoral Teaching Scholar; or

3.4.3 “(#902X00)” if a Postdoctoral Fellow

4. POSTDOCTORAL APPOINTMENTS

4.1 Terms and Conditions of Appointment

4.1.1 Except for Articles 6 and 7 of Chapter 126 of the North Carolina General Statutes (State Personnel Act), postdoctoral appointees are not subject to the State Personnel Act. 

4.1.2  Postdoctoral appointments are “at-will” and subject to continuation or discontinuation at the discretion of the Vice Chancellor for Research, Innovation and Economic Development (Vice Chancellor), Dean of the College, or the Vice Chancellor’s designee.  Postdoctoral appointments, though at-will, may not exceed five (5) years total.  If the position is contingent upon the continued availability of non-state appropriated funds to support the position, the appointment letter must state that continuation of the postdoctoral appointment is contingent upon the continuing availability of such funds to support the position, must specify the source of such funds, and must state that the effect of such contingency may apply without the additional notice otherwise required by Section 4.1.5 below.

4.1.3  All postdoctoral appointments are contingent upon:

(a) verification of the individual’s academic credentials;

(b) verification of the individual’s eligibility to work and be paid in the United States; and

(c) a satisfactory background check.

If any of the above-listed contingencies is not met, the offer of employment shall be canceled or, if the postdoctoral scholar has begun work, the appointment as a postdoctoral scholar shall be rescinded.  In addition, falsification of an employment application or other employment-related information shall be grounds to cancel any employment offer or rescind the appointment.  In cases where the falsification of the employment application or other employment-related information is discovered after the postdoctoral scholar has begun work, the postdoc shall be separated from employment immediately. 

4.1.4 All postdoctoral appointments are subject to annual performance reviews that are documented and placed in the postdoc’s personnel file.  Documents that can be utilized in the review process can be found in the Faculty Resources section of the Office of Postdoctoral Affair’s (OPA) website.  ORIED’s ISSC requests departmental confirmation, via e-mail, once performance reviews are completed.

4.1.5 Unless the appointment ends in accordance with Section 7 below (i.e., discharge for cause), discontinuation shall be subject to notice of discontinuation as follows:

(a) no less than 30 calendar days notice prior to discontinuation of appointment or the payment of severance pay for 30 days;

(b) in the second, third, fourth and fifth year of the postdoctoral appointment, no less than 60 calendar days notice prior to discontinuation of appointment or the payment of severance pay for 60 days.

(c) benefits are not continued beyond the last working day if severance is paid in lieu of notice.

The Dean of the College, Vice Chancellor or the designee has the discretion to determine whether the notice will be a working notice or whether the payment of severance will be made.

4.1.6 Postdoctoral scholars may end their appointment at any time for any reason but are expected to give thirty (30) calendar days notice.

4.2 Postdoctoral Scholars Not Paid by the University

4.2.1 Postdoctoral scholars who have “no-pay” appointments must be established in the Human Resources system.  The no-pay appointment provides such externally-funded postdocs with access to the University’s information technology resources, gym, library and other campus resources.

4.2.2  Postdoctoral fellows in “no-pay” appointments are not eligible for the Benefits outlined in Section 9. 

4.2.3  Postdoctoral fellows with external funding who are paid through the University’s payroll may only participate in the Postdoc Health Insurance program.  All other benefits outlined in section 9 are not applicable to this group.

4.3  Postdoctoral Scholars on Academic Year (9-Month) Appointments

4.3.1  Postdoctoral scholars who are on teaching appointments may, at times, be placed on an academic year (9-month) appointment which indicates they are working at the university during the academic year.

4.3.2  For postdoctoral scholars on academic year (9-month) appointments, July and August paychecks include prepayment for the upcoming academic year; May and June paychecks include post-payment for the preceding academic year.  For new academic year appointments, these installments begin in August (2/12s of salary) and end in June unless otherwise specified by the Payroll Office.  Postdoctoral scholars whose employment with NC State ends before the completion of the fall semester will owe the university reimbursement for a proportionate amount of the prepayment.

4.3.3  Academic year (9-month) postdoctoral scholars earn one (1) day of annual leave and one (1) day of sick leave for each month of the nine months they work for a total of nine (9) annual days and nine (9) sick days over a 12-month period.  Leave accrual rates are prorated based on the FTE percentage.  Leave accrual and use must be tracked in the HR Web Leave System.

4.3.4  Unless noted in this section, all other information throughout this regulation applies to all other non-academic year postdoctoral appointments.

4.4 Appointment Letter

The Dean of the College, Vice Chancellor, or the designee (e.g., department head, center/institute director) appoints an individual to a postdoctoral position by using a letter that includes the following:

4.4.1 designation of the appointment as “at-will” and subject to continuation or discontinuation at the discretion of the Dean/Vice Chancellor;

4.4.2 statement that the postdoctoral appointment (individually and cumulatively) shall not exceed five (5) years total;

4.4.3 statement that the appointment is contingent upon the verification of educational credentials, satisfactory background check, and availability of non-state appropriated funding (if applicable);

4.4.4 statement of the conditions regarding subsequent or continued appointment, if any (i.e., in the case where a postdoctoral scholar is appointed on a one-year term with the possibility of continuing additional years; again, a postdoctoral appointment cannot exceed five [5] years total);

4.4.5 salary and benefits information; and

4.4.6 notice regarding professional development opportunities offered through the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs (OPA).

4.4.7  Any changes or deviations from the appointment letter template require prior review and approval from the ORIED’s ISSC.

4.5 Individual Development Plan (IDP)

Postdoctoral scholars are encouraged to articulate an individual development plan in concert with their faculty mentor.  The Office of Postdoctoral Affairs (OPA) has an example of an individual development plan (IDP), which has been adapted from the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB)’s Science Policy Committee.  The IDP can be considered one component of a broader mentoring program and be referred to in grant applications, such as those for NSF which require a mentoring plan for postdocs as outlined in Section II.C.2.d.i of the National Science Foundation.  OPA is available to help postdoctoral scholars with the creation of their IDPs as well as principal investigators (PIs) submitting proposal to federal agencies.

5. SALARY REQUIREMENTS FOR POSTDOCS

5.1 All postdoctoral appointments extended on or after the effective date of this policy must compensate the postdoctoral scholar at a rate that is at least 60% of the minimum starting academic year’s salary for an assistant professor in the appropriate discipline as published in the University’s approved faculty salary ranges established by Human Resources. 

5.2 Part-time appointments are compensated on a pro-rata basis and need to follow the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) regulations.  Any postdoctoral scholar paid a salary of less than $455 per week, whether full-time or part-time, does not meet the minimum salary basis to be FLSA exempt.  The salaries of non-exempt postdoctoral scholars (as well as other employees) are calculated on an hourly basis and the employing department is responsible for ensuring that postdoctoral scholars’ work hours are tracked and maintained through time records.

5.3 Salary increases for postdoctoral scholars are determined on a case-by-case basis at the discretion of the postdoctoral scholar’s direct supervisor, unless otherwise proscribed by state, university system, or campus directives.  Proposed salary increases must first be reviewed and endorsed by the ORIED’s ISSC prior to implementing them.  Faculty mentors are encouraged to provide annual salary increases based on performance, merit and equity considerations that are similar to that year’s increase for all other NC State employees.

6. EXPECTATIONS OF POSTDOCTORAL APPOINTEES

6.1 NC State performance expectations for postdoctoral scholars are as follows:

6.1.1 conscientious fulfillment of agreed-upon duties;

6.1.2 adherence to ethical standards of research and scholarship;

6.1.3 adherence to NCSU POL10.00.02 - Research Policy and all other applicable University policies, rules and regulations on research and research-sponsored activities;

6.1.4 compliance with good laboratory practice and recognized University standards which includes maintenance of laboratory notebooks and/or other comparable records of research activity as outlined in NCSU POL10.00.02 - Research Policy;

6.1.5 observation of established federal, state and municipal regulations and guidelines for research involving hazardous materials, human subjects or animals;

6.1.6 open and timely discussion with mentor regarding the postdoc’s individual development plan, research progress, distribution of reagents or materials, or any disclosure of finding or techniques privately or in publications;

6.1.7 timely publication of the results of his or her research or scholarship in consultation with his or her mentor;

6.1.8 collegial conduct towards co-workers;

6.1.9 compliance with all applicable University policies and procedures regarding employment; and

6.1.10 prior to resignation, it is requested that the postdoc provide at least thirty (30) calendar days written notice.

7. DISCHARGE

A postdoctoral scholar may be discharged for cause.  Stated causes for discharge shall include, but not necessarily be limited to, incompetence, unsatisfactory performance, neglect of duty, or misconduct that interferes with the capacity of the appointee to perform effectively the requirements of his or her appointment, violations of University policies, rules or regulations, and failure to meet the expectations as set forth in Section 6 of the policy.  Discharge for cause is to be preceded by written notice of intent to discharge.  When a postdoctoral scholar has been notified of the intention to discharge him or her for cause, the Dean, Vice Chancellor or the designee may place the appointee on administrative leave with pay.  The postdoctoral scholar has five (5) business days, of receiving notice of the intent to discharge, to make a request to meet with the Dean, Vice Chancellor or the designee to invoke his or her due process rights; this request needs to be made in writing.  This meeting should occur within five (5) business days of receiving the request from the postdoctoral scholar.  The Dean, Vice Chancellor or the designee will make a final decision within ten (10) business day of the meeting and put the decision in writing to the postdoctoral scholar.  If the decision is to discharge the postdoctoral scholar, then the postdoc may be discharged without further review.

8. PROCEDURE FOR WORKPLACE CONCERNS UNLESS COVERED BY ANOTHER NC STATE POLICY, RULE OR REGULATION

A postdoc may use the following procedures to address matters of workplace concern related to his/her appointment:

8.1 The postdoc should make a reasonable effort to resolve the matter through direct discussions with his/her supervisor.

8.2 The postdoc is encouraged to utilize mediation services available, free of charge, through the university.  Mediation services that support the informal resolution of workplace concerns are available through Human Resource’s Employee Relations unit. 

8.3 If the matter is not adequately resolved by discussion with the supervisor or mediation, the postdoc may formally request review by the supervisor’s department head, center director or other unit administrator directly responsible for the postdoc’s supervisor’s professional activities.  Such a request must be accompanied by a written statement describing the matter of concern, the supporting facts, and the disposition of prior discussions.  The responsible department head, center director or other unit administrator responsible shall review the matter promptly and provide a written response outlining the reasons for the decision.

8.4 If still unresolved, the postdoc may formally request resolution from the respective Vice Chancellor, Dean of the College or the designee.  Such a request must be filed within five (5) business days of the previous decisions and accompanied by a written statement describing the matter of concern, the supporting facts, and the disposition of prior discussions.  The Vice Chancellor, Dean or the designee should meet with the postdoctoral scholar within five (5) business days of receiving the request to discuss the concern.  The Vice Chancellor, Dean or the designee shall review the matter within ten (10) business days, providing a written response outlining the reasons for the decision.  Such decision shall be final and there shall be no further review.

9. BENEFITS AND LEAVE PROVISIONS 

The benefits and leave provisions provided to postdoctoral scholars (excluding postdoctoral fellows) are outlined below.  Note that some of the benefits and leave provisions are different for postdoctoral scholars on 9-month academic year appointments and these differences are denoted in section 4.3.

9.1 Retirement

Postdocs may participate in voluntary retirement programs through the UNC System Voluntary 403(b) Program and the NC Deferred Compensation (457) Plan provided under Sections 403(b) and 457 of the Internal Revenue Code, respectively.

9.2 Health Insurance

9.2.1  Health insurance is offered through the Postdoc Medical Plan to all postdoctoral scholars who are on at least a .75 FTE and who are paid through the University payroll system.  To be covered under this benefit plan, postdocs must be on an active, paid postdoctoral assignment.  Dependents may be covered under this health plan as long as the postdoctoral scholar participates; however, dependent premiums are not payroll deducted and must be paid by bank draft directly to the plan administrator.  Health insurance coverage is effective on the first day of the month following the hire date and ends the last day of the month in which the postdoctoral appointee terminates (unless the termination date is the first of the month; then the coverage ends on the first of the month).  If applicable, a waiting period may apply for pre-existing conditions for new postdoctoral scholars and covered dependents.  Postdoctoral scholars are expected to first use Student Health Services for their medical needs prior to seeking services from an off-campus provider; more information about the Postdoc Medical Plan is available online.  Postdoctoral fellows who are not paid through the University are not eligible to enroll through the university but may be able to obtain payment for their health insurance through arrangements with the funding agency or country. 

9.2.2 All J-1 Exchange Visitors and their accompanying family members are required to have   health insurance that meets certain federal requirements. If the postdoc will not be paid by NC State and does not have insurance, then the postdoc will need to purchase insurance in the United States.  A list of insurance companies that sell policies meeting the minimum requirements of the J-1 program may be obtained from The Office of International Services (OIS).  Postdocs who have their own funding through another agency or their country and who are not paid through the University’s payroll system may be able to obtain payment for their health insurance through arrangements with the funding agency or country; those postdocs will need to review information from the funding source to see if this option applies.

9.3 Types of Leave

9.3.1  All postdoctoral scholars earn leave, and the amount of leave earned is based upon their FTE.  Full-time (1.0 FTE) postdocs earn one day of paid time off for annual leave and one day of sick leave on a monthly basis for a total of 12 days each (i.e., 12 annual leave days and 12 sick leave days) per year.  Leave is prorated for part-time postdocs who work half-time or more (.50-.99 FTE).  Leave accrual and use must be tracked in the HR Web Leave system.  See Section 4.3 for information regarding postdoctoral scholars who are on academic year (9-month) appointments.

9.3.2 The maximum number of unused days of annual leave that a postdoctoral employee may accrue and carry forward from one calendar year to the next shall be twenty-four (24) days.  Accrued, unused sick leave carries forward without a limit within the term of appointment.  Once the postdoc exceeds twenty-four (24) days of annual leave, the remaining days will be converted to sick leave at the end of the calendar year.

9.3.3 Unused annual and sick leave will not be paid out when the postdoc appointment ends and will not be converted or carried forward if the postdoc subsequently accepts a regular EPA or SPA position at NC State University.  If a postdoc transitions from one department to another as a postdoc with no break in service, then the unused leave will be restored.  “Break in service” is defined as no more than thirty (30) calendar days between appointments at the university.

9.3.4 Postdoctoral scholars are subject to the same University official holidays and closings as all other employees at NC State.

9.3.5 Postdoctoral scholars are subject to the Adverse Weather and Other Emergency Conditions Policy.

9.3.6 Postdocs are eligible for family and medical leave as outlined in the Family Medical Leave Policy or as required by law. 

9.3.7 Postdoctoral scholars are not subject to or eligible for shared leave, community service leave, family illness leave, or other leave provisions applicable to EPA employees unless stated otherwise in this regulation or as required by Federal or State law.

9.3.8  Postdoctoral scholars may request leave without pay (LWOP) for short-term extended illnesses and/or other needs as deemed appropriate by the postdoc’s supervisor.  The postdoc must exhaust all earned leave prior to taking LWOP.  Approval of LWOP requests are at the discretion of the postdoc’s supervisor, and LWOP for postdocs cannot exceed a total of twelve (12) weeks over the duration of the postdoctoral appointment.  Postdocs must provide a written request to their supervisor for leave without pay.  The request must include:  (1) reason for the leave; and (2) dates expected for beginning leave, duration of leave, and expected date of return to work.  In addition, the postdoc must notify his/her supervisor immediately if the conditions of the leave change.  If a postdoc does not provide a written notice of the intention to return within two (2) weeks of the expected date of return to work, the supervisor is not required to provide reinstatement, but may do so if feasible.  Failure to report at the expiration of a leave, unless an extension has been requested and approved, may be considered a postdoc’s resignation.  LWOP will not extend a postdoc’s appointment but instead will be applied as time on the appointment.  Once LWOP is granted, the postdoc is to contact the Benefits office.

10. OTHER PROVISIONS APPLICABLE TO POSTDOCTORAL SCHOLARS

Except as otherwise addressed in this regulation, postdoctoral scholars are governed by the same university policies and regulations that apply to EPA Professional employees, including but not limited to conflict of interest, equal opportunity, external professional activities for pay, research, research misconduct, intellectual property and technology transfer.  Information applicable to international postdoctoral scholars can be found through the university’s International Employment Office and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.