Student Employment Guidance

Student Employment Guidance

The following guidance applies to all student employees appointed to Cornell University’s hourly payroll. We encourage both students and employers to carefully read and familiarize themselves with this guidance. Guidance from departments should be consistent with the guidance stated here. Students are entitled to request and receive a copy of any written statement of additional employment guidance that applies in their department.

For questions regarding student employment not answered here, contact us by phone at 607.255.5145, by email at, or stop by our office any weekday from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., and we’ll be glad to assist you.

Review your rights and responsibilities as a student employee here.

University 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 costs, 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 guidelines often.

Review the links below for subject-specific Student Employment guidelines:

Definition of a Student Employee

An individual enrolled as a degree-seeking student and holding an hourly appointment that supports a college or business unit within Cornell University.

Form I-9 - Identity and Employment Eligibility Verification

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 verify the identity and employment eligibility of all newly hired and rehired employees.

Students who accept an offer of employment with Cornell University must complete Section 1 of the Form I-9 in Workday on or before the first day of work. Student employees will then appoint a designated person to complete their Form I-9 Section 2 remotely. A Cornell representative will submit the Form I-9 for final U.S. employment authorization after the reviewer completes Section 2.

All United States citizens, permanent residents, and non-immigrant visa holders must complete the Form I-9. The Office of Global Learning’s International Services - Employment and Taxes site provides detailed information and special restrictions related to employment eligibility for non-US citizens or resident aliens.

Employment Relationship

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 each 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 depends on the student’s eligibility for wage subsidies (i.e., Federal Work Study 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.

Attendance and Punctuality

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, the student must notify their 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.

Assignment and Scheduling Work

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 employees of this requirement 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.

Homework and Reading

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 Policy 8.7, Smoking and Using Electronic Cigarettes.


Requirements for attire are determined at the discretion of the employing department and should be communicated at the time of the job offer.

Rest Breaks

Each department, at its 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 workday and may not be added to a meal break or other off-duty time.
  • Rest break time may not be accumulated.

Meal Periods

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.
  • 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.

If a particular work schedule is not covered in the above examples, then whenever a student works a shift of more than six hours, a minimum 30-minute meal period must be taken approximately mid-way between the start and end of that shift.

Pay Periods

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.

Time Cards

Student employees are required to document the hours they have worked on an approved university time entry system. For a student to be paid, the hours worked must be entered, submitted, and approved by the supervisor or payroll representative according to the published payroll schedule. Those actions are the responsibility of the student. Time should be recorded electronically in Workday Time Tracking. The time entered must be an accurate account of the hours worked for each week. The supervisor who approves the employee’s time must have personal knowledge of the hours worked by the employee. Supervisors must certify the accuracy of the time entered. Deliberate falsification of a timecard by any student employee is grounds 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, expectations of responsibilities, and 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.

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.

Breaks in Work

A student employee who takes a break from work for 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.

Discretionary Merit Increments

Departments may elect to award merit increases to student employees, however managers should seek approval with their respective College or Unit leadership.

Wage Exceptions

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.

Changes in Job Level

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 they have been previously awarded. Changes in job levels may be processed at any time during an employment period.


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 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 Graduate School.


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 their total service to university departments during a work week exceeds forty hours. According to university policy, the position(s) that exceeds 40 hours a week will be charged for overtime payments. Overtime earnings will not be funded through Federal Work Study funds; any overtime accrued will be reversed from the FWS account and charged back to the department at 100%.

On April 3, 2020, Governor Cuomo signed into legislation New York’s paid sick leave law that establishes the right to paid leave for all individuals who receive an IRS Form W-2 from a private sector entity in New York regardless of industry, occupation, part-time status, and overtime exempt status.

Workers' Compensation

Workers' compensation provides benefits to employees for injuries or illnesses arising out of and in the course of employment. Contact Medical Leaves Administration at 607-255-1177 or, in the Division of Human Resources, for more details.

Short-term Disability

Short-term disability benefits provide income continuation for employees who are unable to work due to a non-job-related illness or injury. Contact Medical Leaves Administration at 607-255-1177 or, in the Division of Human Resources, for more details.

Evaluation of Job Performance

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 their 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 they 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 a 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 Employee Grievances

Student employees and employers are encouraged to discuss any work-related problems before commencing disciplinary action or a formal grievance. The Office of Financial Aid and Student Employment and 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

Sexual harassment, such as unwelcome sexual advances, request for sexual favors, or unwanted conduct of a sexual nature (e.g., verbal, graphic, physical), is a violation of federal and state laws and Cornell Policy 6.4, Prohibited Bias, Discrimination, Harassment, and Sexual and Related Misconduct. The Office of Institutional Equity and Title IX and the Office of Workforce Policy and Labor Relations are available to assist all student employees with questions or concerns about sexual and/ or gender-based harassment. Students may also make a report at the Cornell Guardian.

Student Remote Work Arrangement

For further information regarding a Student Remote Work Arrangement, please contact Student Employment.

Use of University Resources

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. 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.