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University employees are employees-at-will, meaning employment may be terminated at the will of either the employer or the employee, with or without notice. Managers should refer to the information below for guidance on voluntary and involuntary terminations.



In most voluntary termination cases, an employee will need to submit a resignation letter to his or her supervisor at least 30 days (for exempt staff) before the intended date of termination. The letter should state the reason for and an effective date of termination.

In the case of a student leaving employment due to graduating from the university, the student does not need to submit a resignation letter. Please refer to the Student Employment site for more information on student employees.

In the case of an employee retiring, the employee should submit his or her intent to retire to his or her manager with a minimum of 90 days advance notice and also notify Benefits. 

Please note: an employee's last working day cannot fall on a holiday or any other scheduled time off, except when the employee is on job protected leave or is regularly scheduled to work on the holiday.

You can direct employees to the Transfers and Departures page for more information and checklists on ending their employment with the university.

Voluntary Terminations Reasons

An employee may choose to resign from their employment with the university for a variety of reasons. The list below can provide guidance on voluntary terminations.

  • Accepted New Job: Voluntary resignation in good standing in which employee has identified a new job offer as the primary reason for resignation

  • Failure to Return from Leave of Absence (Voluntary): Rehire eligibility may depend upon circumstances for not returning and whether the employee gave notice that they would not return.

  • Graduation (Student): Graduated from GW (student only) Employee does not need to submit resignation in this case.

  • Job Dissatisfaction: Dissatisfied with factor(s) of the job

  • Personal Reasons: Voluntary resignation in good standing with no more specific reason given

  • Relocation: Employee resigns due to relocating to another area.

  • Retirement: Employee has met all rules for retirement from GW and retirement has been approved/processed by Benefits. Employee should give a minimum of 90 days advance notice to his or her manager and notify Benefits.

  • Returned to School: Employee resigned to return to school.

Voluntary Terminations Checklist

It is important that voluntary terminations actions are processed in a timely manner to comply with laws that require the university to inform employees of their benefits upon termination within a defined period and to prevent overpayment of wages, salaries, and benefits to employees who have left the university. When supervisors are notified of an employee intent to leave the university's employ, they must:

  • Prepare a Change In Status (CIS) form noting "termination" as the action requested

    • Include number of accrued annual leave days to be paid or number of annual leave days used but not accrued

    • Provide a copy of the last month's leave record

    • Provide a pay record for hours worked that have not been paid

  • Attach resignation/retirement letter or other documentation provided by the employee noting his or her intention to end employment

  • Ask the employee if they would like to participate in an exit interview with HR Service Delivery and direct them to contact Benefits to discuss their benefits upon termination

  • Collect GWorld card, keys, procurement/credit cards, cell phones, laptops, uniforms, other GW equipment and supplies on the last workday

  • Forward CIS and supporting documentation to Budget Office on or before the effective date of the termination

  • Contact DIT to disable the employee's computer access (EAS, BANNER, etc.) and long distance access

  • Make arrangements for the employee to remove personal items from his or her workspace either at the time of termination or after work hours or on the weekend

  • If the departing employee had access to any group accounts within the department, change the passwords to those accounts

  • Check future pay/labor reports to ensure that employee's pay has ceased


In some instances, an employee may have their employment relation with the university concluded involuntarily.

Involuntary Terminations Reasons

Reasons for involuntary terminations are described below:

Reasons in italics indicate ineligibility for rehire.

  • Abandonment of Job: Employee stopped coming to work with no explanation and no contact with his/her department.
  • Employment Authorization/I-9 Expired: Employee failed to provide Form I-9 documentation verifying eligibility to work in the U.S. or failed the E-verify process.
  • End of Contract: Contract appointment ends or contract is not renewed (Employee leaves in good standing.).
  • End of Temporary Appointment: Used for limited term staff positions
  • Excessive Absences/Attendance: Chronic unscheduled absences, tardiness and/or early departures (applies for situations not covered under ADA or FMLA).
  • Elimination of Position: Applies to positions not funded by grants
  • Failure to Return from Leave of Absence: Rehire eligibility may depend upon circumstances for not returning and whether the employee gave notice that s/he would not return.
  • Gross Misconduct: Egregious violations of rules/laws resulting in termination
  • Lack of Funding: Involuntary termination in good standing due to lack of grant funding for position (Primarily used for Research positions)
  • Misconduct/Violation of Rules: Serious inappropriate behavior; used when one of the more specific reasons does not cover the situation, such as conflict of interest, insubordination, sleeping on the job, or violation of university policy.
  • Unsatisfactory Performance: Employee failed to meet expectations of the position, including failing to satisfactorily complete the introductory employment period.

Involuntary Terminations Checklist

When an employee terminates from the university, there are a number of considerations that must be addressed as part of the exit.

Please note: an employee's last working day cannot fall on a holiday or any other scheduled time off, except when the employee is on job protected leave or is regularly scheduled to work on the holiday.

Please use this checklist to assist with the transition. 

Complete these actions:

  • Work with your HR Business Partner to seek prior approval if termination is involuntary.

  • Collect resignation letter and prepare final leave record through termination date to complete electronic termination process. Work with the HR representative to process termination, preferably one to two business days prior to termination date. Inform employee of their leave balance, especially if there is a negative balance.

  • Determine the Final Paycheck process.

  • Talk with your HR representative and Payroll regarding final payments to the employee and when to expect payout.

  • Check in with online directory liaison to remove exiting employee information from your departmental listing.

  • If the departing employee had access to any group accounts within the department, change the password to those accounts.

  • Determine when to cancel access to university systems and resources, including (but not limited to):

    • Voicemail

    • GWorld

    • Group calendar  

    • Shared directories/EAD

    • Update passwords on group email accounts  

    • Banner

    • EAS

    • VPN

    • Other systems

  • Collect university property, such as:

    • GWorld Card (Note that some employees may need their GWorld Card temporarily to exit a garage. If the employee is also student they will need to obtain a new, student-specific GWorld Card)

    • Laptop

    • VPN Token

    • Cell Phone/pagers/radios

    • P-Card

    • Keys (building, office, desk, file cabinet, vehicle, locker, etc.)

    • Tool/gear/instruments or other job accessories

    • Records (files, documents, correspondence, etc)

Work with the employee to complete these actions

  • Exit interviews may be scheduled and conducted in person with an HR representative.

  • Ask the employee to immediately submit any pending expense or reimbursement requests (with receipts) for approval.

  • Refer the employee to information on Benefits Upon Leaving GW for information on COBRA, retirement, disability, flexible spending accounts, health savings accounts and more.  

  • Remind the employee to check with the GWorld Card office for any Colonial Cash/debit dollar balance.

  • Remind the employee to return any library books to GW libraries.


Unit heads along with their management teams are responsible for determining the organizational structures that best meet the operational needs and available resources of their units. If the need to eliminate one or more positions (sometimes also referred to as a "reduction in force" or "RIF") is contemplated, the unit's Human Resources representative should be contacted early in the planning stage for assistance.

Circumstances that may result in a position elimination can include:

  • Restructuring/reorganization
  • Change in academic priorities and/or business needs
  • Outsourcing of function to a vendor
  • Reallocation of funding
  • Budget reductions

This guidance applies to the elimination of regular, benefits-eligible staff position(s) resulting in separation from employment, except for the following regular positions:

  • Positions funded through grants or contracts where the employee has been notified of the potential for elimination of his or her position due to a lack/end of funding
  • Positions held by regular staff who have a term-limited employment appointment or contract with the university
  • Positions held by temporary or wage account employees, student employees and postdoctoral staff
  • Librarians who fall under the Code for Librarians

A change in an employee's position, pay, or job responsibilities without a loss of employment, such as a transfer from one department to another, a reclassification of a position, a change in supervisory reporting lines, or a reduction in salary or work hours, is not a position elimination and is not subject to this guidance. Supervisors should consult with their Human Resources Business Partner for guidance on these issues.

If there is a direct conflict between this guidance and an applicable collective bargaining agreement, the collective bargaining agreement will prevail.

Submitting a Position Elimination Request

Unit heads proposing to eliminate a filled staff position must submit a written justification to their Human Resources representative for the proposed action along with a current and proposed organizational plan. The materials will be reviewed by Human Resource Management and Development, in consultation with the unit head. In the course of the review, additional information may be requested.

The written justification should include the rationale for the position elimination(s) based on job function and an explanation of how the responsibilities of the position will be redistributed or modified (for example, will the job responsibilities, if still needed, be redistributed among existing staff, will the function be outsourced to another unit or external vendor, etc.). The written justification should also include any external factors that may have resulted in the position elimination, such as changes in technology, regulatory changes, modified business operations, etc. In the case of a restructuring of operations that results in the creation of new positions as well as the elimination of positions, job descriptions for the current and proposed positions should also be provided.

Positions will be selected for elimination based on the needs of the department. In addition, when there are multiple positions in the unit with the same title and classification and not all of such positions are being proposed for elimination, the incumbents' relevant experience, skills, qualifications, knowledge and competencies should be considered in determining which positions to eliminate.

Requests to eliminate positions will be reviewed and approved by Human Resource Management and Development. Human Resource Management and Development may consult with other university offices during the course of the review.

Notification, Severance and Transition Assistance

The specific notification, severance and transition assistance details are subject to the university's specific offerings at the time of the position elimination. Upon approval of the position elimination by Human Resource Management and Development, the Human Resources representative will prepare the documents to be given to the affected employee(s), which currently generally include the following:

  • Notification letter providing two weeks of paid notice. Departments may decide, in consultation with the Human Resources representative, whether the affected employee(s) should work through the notification period.
  • Severance agreement and release agreement, provided by the Office of the Senior Vice President and General Counsel offering:
    • One week of base pay for each year of completed university service, with a minimum of two weeks and a maximum of up to 20 weeks of pay, less the appropriate withholdings
    • One month of health insurance premium under COBRA or university retiree plan, if applicable
    • Outplacement assistance
    • Continuation of tuition remission until the end of the semester in which the elimination occurs, if applicable
  • Contact information for verifying employment history at the university
  • Benefits information
  • Employee Assistance Program (EAP) guidance resources

The Human Resources representative will also work directly with the unit to develop implementation and communications plans.

An affected employee will not be eligible to receive severance benefits if he or she obtains another position at the university prior to the payment of severance.

Positions that have been eliminated may not be reinstated for 12 months.