This online Student and Employer Employment Handbook includes student employment policies that apply to all hourly student employees of Cornell University Departments. We encourage both students and employers to carefully read and familiarize themselves with the policies.
Review your rights and responsibilities as a student employee here.
For questions regarding student employment not answered here, contact us at 607.255.5145 or stop by our office any weekday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (Tuesdays 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.), and we’ll be glad to assist you.
Student Employment Policies
The following policies apply to all student employees appointed to Cornell University’s hourly payroll. Each department may establish its own additional policies regarding student employment provided they are not inconsistent with the policies stated here. Students are entitled to request and receive a copy of any written statement of additional employment policies that apply in their department.
University Policy Statement on Student Employment
Cornell University has, since its inception, supported the concept of student employment. In addition to earning money to help cover educational cost, students can gain significant experience and skills from their work. In support of that concept the university strives to provide job opportunities through Cornell departments that require various levels of responsibility, experience, and skill. Student employees are not entitled to university benefits with the exception of New York State workers compensation and short term disability. The university reviews its student employment policies often.
Review the links below for subject-specific Student Employment policies and guidelines:
- Define Student Employee
- Eligibility Information
- Employment Relationship
- Attendance & Punctuality
- Assignment & Scheduling Work
- Homework, Reading, & Smoking
- Rest Breaks
- Meal Periods
- Pay Periods
- Time Cards
- New Hires
- Student Remote Work Arrangement
- Breaks in Work
- Merit Increases
- Changes in Job Level
- Wage Exceptions
- Incentives and Bonuses
- Workers' Compensation
- Short Term Disability
- Performance Evaluation
- Sexual Harassment
- Other Policies
Any candidate for a Cornell degree who is registered full-time at Cornell may be hired as a student employee. Continuing students employed during the summer must be eligible to, and be planning to register for the next fall term. Students who have graduated may not be hired, or may not continue, as student employees. Individuals who are not admitted as degree-seeking students at Cornell University, and spouses of students may not be hired as student employees. Contact The Office of Financial Aid and Student Employment for exceptions.
The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 created a national employment verification system that places responsibility for verification of the identity and employment eligibility of all employees on employers. Effective June 1, 1987, the law requires employers to request and examine documentation of the identity and employment eligibility of all newly hired and rehired employees, both students and non-students. All United States citizens, permanent residents, and non immigrant visa holders must submit documentation. After their documents are reviewed, employees must complete and sign an eligibility verification form (Department of Homeland Secuity form I-9) in the presence of their supervisor or designated representative of the university. Students who accept an offer of employment with Cornell must complete the process on or before the first day of work. Otherwise they will not be eligible to be appointed to the Cornell payroll. For specific guidelines and instructions for non US citizens or resident aliens, contact the International Students and Scholars Office during ther regular business hours.
A student employee serves only during the period for which he or she was hired. Employment during any period creates no expectancy of future employment. Student employees may be appointed for any portion of the academic-year or summer employment periods. During the initial thirty-day period of employment in a given university department, a student employee serves in a probationary status. An employing department may extend the probationary period for an additional thirty days. At any time during the probationary period a student employee may be terminated at the sole discretion of the university. Such a termination is not an act of discipline. The employment of a student may be terminated at any time for financial or program reasons as determined at the sole discretion of the department. Departments whose hiring of student employees depend on the student’s eligibility for wage subsidies (i.e. Federal Work Study (FWS) funding), must so inform the students at the time of their appointment to the payroll. Students who want to resign their positions should provide at least two weeks notice to their supervisors.
It is a student’s responsibility to report to work on time for every scheduled shift. If a student cannot work because of an illness or an emergency or will be late to work, he or she must notify his or her supervisor as soon as possible before the shift begins. Departments may require a student who is unable to work during any portion of a regularly scheduled shift to find a substitute. Occasionally situations arise in which a student employee must miss work for reasons other than sickness—the most common such reason is an academic conflict. Student employees are expected to make every effort to plan academic, personal, and work schedules that do not conflict. Potential conflicts should be discussed well in advance with supervisors. Tardiness and failure to provide adequate notice of absence (as determined by the supervisor) are considered grounds for disciplinary action by the employing department.
Student employee work shifts and work assignments are determined at the discretion of the employing department. Departments requiring students to work over fall, winter or spring breaks must inform student of this at the time of the job offer. Similarly, if students are expected to continue to work past the end of the term or return to work before the beginning of a term, departments are required to inform students of this at the time of their offer of employment.
During work hours, student employees are required to perform their work assignments. Homework, reading and other personal work are not permitted during work hours. Student employees must also adhere to the University smoking policy.
Requirements for attire are determined at the discretion of the employing department and should be communicated at the time of the job offer.
Each department, at its own discretion, may choose to allow paid rest breaks within the guidelines listed below.
- A rest break should not exceed fifteen minutes.
- To qualify for a rest break, an employee must work a time block of at least four hours.
- Rest breaks may not occur at the beginning or the end of the work day and may not be added to a meal break or other off duty time.
- Rest break time may not be accumulated.
The following guidelines exist for student employee meal periods. Under New York State law the department must provide and the student employee must take a meal period as outlined under these guidelines:
- Lunch Periods - Students are allowed at least thirty minutes for the noonday meal. The noon- day meal period is recognized as extending from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. An employee who works a shift of more than six hours which extends over the noon-day meal period is entitled to at least 30 minutes off within that period for the meal period.
It is acceptable to require student employees to take at least a 30 minute meal period when the employee works a shift of more than four hours which extends over the noon-day meal period. The administration of the employing department/unit/division will have the ultimate oversight responsibility in making this alternate choice.
- Other Meal Periods - Students employed for a period or shift starting before 11:00 a.m. and continuing later than 7:00 p.m. shall be allowed an additional meal period of at least 20 minutes between 5:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.
The standard work week for the university begins Thursday at midnight and ends at 11:59 p.m. the following Wednesday. Employees are paid on a biweekly basis with checks issued on alternate Thursdays. Students, like other overtime-eligible employees, will receive their paychecks one week after the close of the pay period.
Student employees are required to document the hours they have worked on an approved university time card. For a student to be paid, the time card must be completed, signed, and approved by the supervisor or payroll clerk according to the published payroll schedule. Those actions are the responsibility of the student. Time should be recorded electronically in Colts III or Kronos. The time card must be an accurate account of the hours worked for each week. The supervisor who signs the employee’s time card must be a regular university employee – not a student supervisor – and must have personal knowledge of the hours worked by the employee. Supervisors must certify the accuracy of the time card. Deliberate falsification of a time card by any student employee is a ground for dismissal.
Rates of hourly student employees are determined by the student employee Job and Wage Classification System. The system provides for several job levels into which all hourly student jobs are classified by The Office of Financial Aid and Student Employment. Job levels are broad categories encompassing general duties and expectations of responsibilities and include job titles. Each job level has a basic starting range wage. In addition, an optional merit amount may be awarded at the department’s discretion. Requests for classification of new jobs not appearing in the index and reclassification of old jobs must be made in writing to The Office of Financial Aid and Student Employment. The university reserves the right to compensate student employees at rates of pay other than those expressed in the wage scale as, in its judgment, special circumstances may require.
New hires are defined as students who were not employed by the hiring department within the preceding twelve months. New hires are paid at an hourly rate based on the appropriate wage range for the job. Students are hired above the minimum when the employing department determines that their skills or experience, or market conditions, warrant higher pay within a range.
Rehires are defined as students who were employed by the hiring department within the preceding twelve months. Students who are rehired to a position at the same level must receive a wage that is not less than their previous wage plus any merit increments that were awarded during their former tenure in the department. In addition, no increments may be granted that exceed the limits specified within the Job and Wage Classification System.
A student remote work arrangement is an option that allows a student employee to work at home or another off-site location, for a specified number of hours per week, and for a pre-set limited duration. Given the nature of the work performed and the fluidity of scheduling that exists for student employees, traditional flexible work arrangements (e.g. job share, compressed work) typically do not apply. However, non-student supervisors may permit remote work arrangements when appropriate for business and student needs. Supervisors and employees are required to adhere to all student employment policies and practices regarding scheduling and time keeping.
Remote work for a student employment position is at the discretion of the supervisor, and should only be considered on a limited, need-by basis. The arrangement may be changed by the supervisor to ensure that the business needs are being met.
There are many determining factors that must be considered before a student employee should be offered to participate in a remote work arrangement, such as, but not limited to:
- Has the student employee demonstrated that they are reliable, self-motivated, and are able to work autonomously without constant reinforcement?
- Does the student employee have the right resources/software to work from home or at another off-site location? If not, how will the department provide the needed resources/software?
- Does the student employee have the proper training/access needed to perform the specified tasks remotely? If not, how will the department provide the proper training/access?
- To ensure the student employee can enter their time worked on a daily basis, does the student have the capability to access their time card from home or at the off-site location?
Effectively managing remote work is based on establishing deadlines, clear expectations, and holding people accountable. As such, the Student Remote Work Arrangement Work Expectations form should be completed and agreed upon by the supervisor and student employee. A copy of the completed form is to be kept on file with the hiring department, and a copy is to be provided to the student employee.
Supervisors and student employees with questions regarding time-keeping and scheduling policies may seek assistance from their department leadership, local human resources representative, and/or the Office of Financial Aid and Student Employment. Supervisors with questions on how to manage student remote work arrangements may request consultation from Michelle Artibee (firstname.lastname@example.org, or 255-5298) in the Department of Inclusion and Workforce Diversity.
A student employee who takes a break in work twelve months or more is generally considered to be a new hire on returning to a previous department and therefore will be appointed at a pay rate within the basic wage range for the job. Departments should request exceptions in writing. The Office of Financial Aid and Student Employment must approve such exceptions. Students who have a break in service of more than 12 months must complete a new I-9 form.
Department may elect to award merit increments to student employees. Merit increments may be awarded at a supervisor’s discretion up to the annually established maximum (5%) for each academic year or summer employment period. Merit increments can be awarded at the beginning of each employment period or mid- academic year, but cannot exceed the specified total increment for each employment period.
A promotion occurs when a current employee is appointed to a position at a higher job level. If a promotion occurs within the same department, the student employee will be appointed at a wage within the basic wage range of the new job, or at the wage of the old job, plus any increments, plus $.05 per hour, whichever is higher. A student who receives a promotion by accepting a job at a higher level in another department is hired at a pay rate within the discretion of the university. A current employee who accepts a position in another department at a lower job level is appointed at a pay rate within the basic wage range of the lower job level. A student who is appointed to a lower job level within the same department must be paid a rate within the basic range plus all the increments that he or she has been previously awarded. Changes in job levels may be processed at any time during an employment period.
Exceptions to the wages and merit limits set by the student employee wage scale require approval by the Office of Financial Aid and Student Employment before an offer of employment is made to a student. Requests should be made in writing to the Office of Financial Aid and Student Employment. The final decision on all wage exceptions rests with the Office of Financial Aid and Student Employment. Wage exceptions may be made for an individual student or for a particular job within a department.
Payment on a fee basis is generally not permitted. Students (except for students hired as independent contractors) may not be paid by means of accounts payable voucher; wages must be paid on an hourly basis through the non exempt payroll. Departments needing information regarding the processing of Graduate School student appointments for positions comparable to teaching or research assistantships should contact the Fellowships Office of the Graduate School.
Departments that rely heavily on student employees for staffing during examination and vacation periods may apply for approval to offer incentives or bonuses (such as a lump sum payment). Applications must be made in writing to the Office of Financial Aid and Student Employment, and approval is required before any incentive or bonus plan or changes in existing plans may be offered to student employees
Student employees are paid overtime at a rate of one and a half times the regular rate of pay for work in excess of forty hours in a standard work week. The standard work week begins Thursday at midnight and ends the following Wednesday at 11:59 p.m. A student employee who works for more than one Cornell department must be paid overtime if his or her total service to university departments during a work week exceeds forty hours. According to university policy, the department listed as the secondary department will automatically be charged for all overtime payments.
Workers' compensation provides benefits to employees for injuries or illnesses arising out of and in the course of employment. Contact the benefits office in the Office of Human Resources for more details.
Short-term disability benefits provide income continuation for employees who are unable to work due to a non-job-related illness or injury. Contact the benefits office in the Office of Human Resources for more details.
Employers are strongly encouraged to conduct periodic evaluations of their student employee’s performance. The method of evaluation is determined by the employing department. The criteria on which student employees are to be evaluated must be available to student employees. Evaluations of job performance should be conducted by the employee’s immediate supervisor. Employers who want to use a standard performance appraisal instrument may obtain sample copies of such a form from the Office of Financial Aid and Student Employment. Student employees must have an opportunity to comment on the evaluation of their job performance. In addition to providing regular feedback on job performance, evaluations are used in determining merit increments to a student employee’s hourly wage. A student’s performance during the fall, spring, or summer term that is judged to exceed job expectations may be considered for a merit increment. In job situations with routine tasks, qualities such as reliability, dependability, attitude and motivation should be taken into account in determining whether a student employee will receive merit increment. A student who did not receive a written performance evaluation from his or her supervisor and was not awarded a merit increment may request a written evaluation. The substance of this evaluation of student- employee job performance is not subject to grievance procedures.
In cases where disciplinary action is required because of unsatisfactory performance or attendance or because of misconduct, the following procedures should be used. Initial action should be in the form of oral discussion and warning. Such action is encouraged before a formal written disciplinary notice is prepared. That notice should detail the extent of the problem, suggest courses of corrective action (where appropriate), the time period for resolution, and the penalty or sanction to be imposed. At the time the notice is prepared, the employee is to be advised that he or she may request confidential counseling at the Office of Financial Aid and Student Employment concerning the problem. A notice that contains a penalty or sanction may be the subject of a grievance action (see Student Employee Grievances). When deemed appropriate by the employing department, a student employee may be suspended without pay; the suspension must be in writing. In no event should a suspended employee be permitted to return to work before an investigation is made and a consultation with the Office of Financial Aid and Student Employment occurs. Discharge, the final disciplinary step, ordinarily must be preceded by discussion with the Office of Financial Aid and Student Employment. Major offenses, however, such as insubordination, assault, or theft, are grounds for immediate discharge. The commission of such major offenses must be documented.
Student employees and employers are encouraged to discuss any work-related problems before commencing disciplinary action or a formal grievance. Counselors in the Office of Financial Aid and Student Employment and in the Office of the University Ombudsman are always available to assist both employees and employers in resolving work-related problems. Should such informal methods of resolution fail, a student employee may formally grieve an alleged violation of student employment policies under the terms of the student employee grievance procedure. Review student grievance procedures here.
Sexual harassment in the workplace is a violation of federal and state laws, as well as university policy. The university defines sexual harassment as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when: submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or conduct of an individual’s employment or academic status; submission to or rejection of such conduct of an individual is used as the basis for an employment decision affecting that person; such conduct has the purpose or effect of substantially interfering with an individual’s work or academic performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working or learning environment. The Office of Workforce Policy and Labor Relations, is available to assist all student employees with sexual harassment problems or questions. All discussions are confidential.
Telephones and all other university materials and resources present at a work site are for business use only and are not to be used for personal matters. Student employees should advise their friends not to make social calls to them while they are at work. All proprietary and other information concerning the business and affairs of the university and its clients should remain private and confidential and should not be repeated to others or used for personal gain. Cornell University is an equal opportunity, affirmative action educator and employer.