Only full-time Officers of Research are entitled to the leaves described below (Leaves for Scholarly Purposes, Exemptions from Research Duties, Leaves for Lapse of Funding, and the University’s Salary Continuation during Medical Leave). Part-time officers of research are only entitled to leaves provided by applicable law.
A leave is generally granted with the expectation that the officer will return for at least one year of full-time service on completion of the leave. No one is guaranteed an appointment beyond the stated term of service as a result of taking a leave, with the exception of officers who have been granted leaves for medical reasons or military service. Appointments of those officers are continued at least to the end of the period of the leave if it is longer than the stated term of service.
The appointments of research officers may be terminated at the end of leaves if the officers are given written notice, as described below (see End of Appointment), with the following exceptions: Research officers on leave for military service are reinstated in the same position or one that is equivalent in rank and salary, provided that they would not have been terminated in the absence of the leave and that they meet the legal requirements for requesting reinstatement. Similar arrangements are made for officers returning from a medical leave.
Leaves for officers of research of one month or more must be approved by the Office of the Provost on behalf of the President. In the case of leaves of less than one month, the Provost has delegated that authority to the appropriate dean or executive vice president.
Except as required by law, all leaves of absence require the approval of the officer’s principal investigator and, as appropriate, chair, director, dean, or executive vice president before they are submitted to the Office of the Provost. Except as specified below, officers of research are granted leaves according to the policies and procedures that apply to officers of instruction (see Leaves in Chapter 3). For information on how leaves of absence affect their participation in the University’s benefits programs, officers of research should contact a counselor in the Columbia Benefits Service Center.
Officers of research should request leaves of absence well in advance of their start date so that their principal investigator and chair, director, dean, or executive vice president can plan for their replacement. Leaves require the necessary approvals before they can begin. Officers of research should not go on leave without requesting and receiving approval from the Office of the Provost for the leave.
Prior to requesting a leave, all officers of research who are principal investigators or other senior/key persons on sponsored projects must work with Sponsored Projects Administration (SPA) to obtain appropriate prior approvals from the relevant sponsors and otherwise ensure that all sponsor obligations are fulfilled during the leave if their leave will be three months or longer; any portion of their salary is supported by sponsored projects; if they will disengage from any of their sponsored projects; if they will reduce their effort on their sponsored projects; if the leave will affect their ability to fulfill any sponsored project objectives on schedule; and/or if they will be conducting research at any other non-Columbia entity, domestic or foreign. In some cases, their sponsored projects will require a new principal or co-principal investigator.
Leaves for Scholarly Purposes
Full-time professional officers of research (excluding visiting officers) may take leaves of absence to participate in research at another academic or research institution. Full-time staff officers of research may take leaves for this purpose only with the prior special permission of the Provost. Postdoctoral officers of research are not entitled to these leaves. They may, however, resign from their appointments and be reappointed, at the University’s discretion, once they are ready to resume their responsibilities. Leaves for research purposes are granted for a maximum of one year and are ordinarily not renewable.
Exemption from Research Duties
Exemptions from research duties are granted for periods during which a full-time officer of research whose salary is funded from a government grant or contract is assigned instructional responsibilities. Special rules govern the manner in which the officer is paid during the period of the leave (see Compensation). An exemption from research duties ends with the completion of the term in which the officer is teaching. Such leaves require approvals from the appropriate chairs, directors, deans, and/or executive vice presidents, but not the Provost.
An officer of research should not receive an offer letter for an instructional appointment or start teaching before approval is obtained from their principal investigator, and as appropriate, chair or director, dean or executive vice president, and the Provost. The prior approval of the Office of Sponsored Projects Administration may be required to ensure that the grant or contract permits the officer of research to teach and that the funding agency has approved the researcher’s reduction of effort on the project to accommodate the effort spent on teaching.
Since officers of research on an exemption from research duties receive their full salary from the University, their benefits remain unchanged while they are on this type of leave. However, it is essential that the instructional appointment and the exemption from research duties on the research appointment be submitted in an expeditious way to ensure that the officer of research gets paid properly and that their benefits remain intact. Paperwork terminating the instructional appointment and returning the officer of research from the exemption from research duties must also be submitted by the end of the instructional appointment to ensure that the research appointment is reinstated properly, that the officer of research gets paid properly, and that their benefits remain intact once the instructional appointment ends.
Leaves for Lapse of Funding
If it is necessary to suspend the payment of salary during the course of a stated term of service because of a sudden and unexpected loss of funding, a full-time officer of research, except as noted below, is placed on a leave of absence for lapse of funding until the end of the stated term or until funding is resumed, whichever occurs first. The leave may be extended, along with the officer’s appointment, for up to 12 months beyond the end of the stated term if the chair, director, dean, or executive vice president expects the officer to obtain new funding within that period and the Provost concurs.
All ranks of Lamont research professors are ineligible for leaves for lapse of funding since their salaries are guaranteed for the stated term of their appointments. Postdoctoral research fellows, postdoctoral clinical fellows, and postdoctoral residency fellows are also not granted this type of leave because they do not receive salary through the University.
An officer of research on a leave for lapse of funding continues to participate in the University’s health plans and receives basic life and basic long-term disability insurance for the duration of the leave. Both the University’s and the individual’s shares of the cost of these benefits are paid by the school, department, institute, or center in which the officer was serving. Elective insurance benefits such as additional life insurance and optional long-term disability insurance may be continued at the officer’s expense. Eligibility for the salary continuation plan ends with an interruption in salary, and the University ceases to contribute to the officer’s retirement account. Officers and their family members retain the right to tuition exemption during the term in which a leave for lapse of funding begins but are not granted the benefit for any remaining duration of the leave.
Full-time officers of research suffering from a disabling illness or injury are given a leave of absence for medical reasons upon submission of the appropriate documentation completed by a physician. To preserve confidentiality, officers should submit that documentation only and directly to the Leave Management Office in the Office of Human Resources, which will advise the chair, director, dean or executive vice president, and the Provost on how long the officer will be unable to perform their normal responsibilities. In addition to the information their doctor sends to the Leave Management Office, the officer of research should personally submit a letter requesting a medical leave to their principal investigator, chair, director, or dean. The letter should not include an explanation of the medical reasons for the leave, but should simply state that the individual’s doctor has recommended that they go on medical leave and include the specific dates of the duration of the leave. In cases where a claim of disability appears questionable, the University reserves the right to have the officer evaluated by a physician of its own choosing before granting the leave.
During a medical leave, full-time officers of research, with the exception of postdoctoral research and clinical fellows, receive full salary and benefits for up to six months under the University’s salary continuation plan. Starting in the seventh month, with the approval of the University’s long-term disability carrier, a full-time officer of research who continues to be disabled is given a leave of absence without salary and is eligible for payments from the University’s insurance carrier according to the terms of the long-term disability program. Full-time officers of research who are able to perform a portion of their normal responsibilities will be given a leave of absence with partial salary, which will be supplemented with prorated disability payments from the insurance carrier. Information on the long-term disability program may be obtained from the Office of Leave Management in the Office of Human Resources.
Full-time postdoctoral research fellows are entitled to a medical leave of absence for the period surrounding the birth of their child and are eligible for six weeks of paid parental leave at full salary under the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the University and the Columbia Postdoctoral Workers-UAW Local 4100. Under the New York State Paid Family Leave Law, they are eligible for 12 weeks of partial paid leave to bond with their child.
Full-time postdoctoral research and clinical fellows receiving stipends are not covered by either the University’s salary continuation plan or its long-term disability insurance. While the University grants medical leaves (excluding leaves surrounding the birth of their child) to these officers when they experience a disabling illness or injury, the continuation of the fellowship stipend depends on the rules of the granting agency. The University will continue the stipend for as long as the granting agency permits. If the granting agency prohibits the officer from receiving the stipend while on a medical leave (excluding leaves surrounding the birth of their child), the department, school, institute, or center is responsible for providing salary for the period of the medical leave, and the officer’s appointment is changed to a full-time postdoctoral research scientist/scholar.
Leaves of absence for medical reasons are granted for a maximum of one year at a time. The Office of the Provost will renew a medical leave upon receiving confirmation that the officer is unable to return from leave.
Child Care Leaves
A full-time officer of research who is pregnant is entitled to a medical leave of absence, according to the policies described above, for the period surrounding the birth of the child during which the officer’s doctor certifies that the officer is unable to work. Once the medical leave ends, the officer may take a child care leave to take care of the newborn child. Effective January 1, 2021, full-time officers of research who have been employed by the University for a minimum of one year and who become a parent of a newborn child or adopt or foster a child under the age of six may be granted up to six weeks of paid parental leave at full salary. This leave may be taken any time within the first 12 months of the birth, adoption, or foster placement of the child. This period of paid leave runs concurrently with, not in addition to, all other approved leaves including FMLA and New York State Paid Family Leave (PFL) which are described below. For those eligible for payment under a pregnancy-related disability, the parental leave begins after the medical disability period ends. If the officer is not eligible for PFL and does not perform any responsibilities during the child care leave, the leave is without salary. With the approval of the principal investigator, chair or director, dean or executive vice president, and the Provost, the officer may alternatively continue to perform a portion the officer’s normal responsibilities on a leave with partial salary. Under normal circumstances, the total period of medical and child care leave (including any period of Paid Parental Care Leave or Family Leave) may not exceed 12 months.
Non-birthing parents who are officers of research holding full-time appointments may also take full or partial leaves for up to 12 months to care for their newborn child. Similar privileges are given to all full-time research officers who: (1) adopt a child of less than school age, or (2) have a child who is younger than 18 years of age, disabled, or meets New York State’s legal definition of “hard-to-place.” Lamont research professors may also participate in the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory’s parental workload relief plan detailed in the Lamont Research Professor Handbook. They should contact the Observatory’s Office of Human Resources for further information.
Full-time postdoctoral research and clinical fellows may take a child care leave without stipend or with partial stipend according to the policies described above if permitted by the rules of the relevant funding agency. Such fellows must be provided the opportunity to complete their appointments at the University following their leave, provided that the stipend can be resumed and the continuation is in accordance with the rules of the funding agency.
Full-time and part-time officers of research who are ordered to report for active military duty are eligible for leaves under the University’s Uniformed Services Leave Policy. Officers who meet the policy’s eligibility requirements receive salary for up to six months equal to the difference between their service pay and their base salary prior to the start of their leave. Thereafter, they may ask for a leave without salary. Full-time officers of research are also eligible to continue to participate in the University’s benefits plans for up to one year. Once their uniformed service ends, they are entitled to return to their prior position or one that is equivalent in rank and salary, subject to the eligibility requirements in the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994. The total period of allowable leave for uniformed service is five years. For further information on the Uniformed Services Leave Policy and the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994, officers should consult Human Resources and contact one of its representatives.
Full-time officers of research, with the exception of those who are appointed in a visiting rank, may also be granted leaves for public service and are also eligible for leaves for compelling personal reasons.
Postdoctoral research and clinical fellows receiving stipends should consult with their funding agency to determine whether they are eligible for leaves for public service, compelling personal reasons, or military service.
Full-time and part-time officers of research are entitled to leaves of absence under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993 if they have been employed and paid by the University for at least 12 months immediately preceding the leave and have worked for at least 1,250 hours during that period. Any compensated employment – regardless of title and including periods on the casual payroll – counts in determining if an officer meets these requirements. Postdoctoral research and clinical fellows who receive stipends as well as postdoctoral residency fellows are ineligible for this type of leave.
Officers of research who meet those requirements may take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave each year to care for a newborn, a newly adopted child, or a new foster child; to care for a seriously ill family member; or as a result of a medical disability. They may take up to 26 weeks if the leave is needed to deal with a qualifying exigency, as defined by the federal Department of Labor, arising out of the military service of a spouse, child, or parent. The University’s policies governing the leaves of absence that full-time officers of research may take for these purposes are, with the exception of certain benefits provisions, more generous than the requirements of the FMLA. Consequently, the University considers the first 12 weeks of any such leave as fulfilling the requirements of the FMLA, except for leaves arising from a family member’s military service, in which case it counts the first 26 weeks.
Find further information on the Family and Medical Leave Act from the Office of Human Resources or by contacting one of its representatives in the Leave Management Office.
New York State Paid Family Leave Program
In accordance with the New York State Paid Family Leave Program (PFL), full-time and part-time officers of research (excluding postdoctoral residency fellows) are eligible to take this paid leave 1) to bond with a child within the first 12 months after the child’s birth, adoption, or foster care placement; 2) to care for a family member (child, spouse, domestic partner, parent, grandchild, grandparent, or parent of a spouse or domestic partner) with a serious health condition; or 3) to help relieve family pressures when someone is called to active military service. As of 2021, eligible officers may take up to 12 weeks in any given 52 consecutive week period where the 52-week clock starts on the first day the officer takes PFL. Find more detailed information about the New York State Paid Family Leave program, which runs concurrently with FMLA leaves.
New York Safe and Sick Leave Policy
All officers of research who work in New York State are eligible to accrue up to a maximum of 56 hours per fiscal year in paid safe/sick time. For full-time officers of research, these 56 hours per year are included in the six-month salary continuation plan the University offers for medical leaves. Part-time officers of research are eligible for the 56 hours per year. Find out more about the New York Safe and Sick Leave Policy.