West Chester University is subject to Veteran’s Preference compliance requirements as a public university of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and a member of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE). The Veteran’s Preference Act provides limited hiring preference rights to eligible veterans of our Armed Forces. West Chester University has also promulgated its own local policy on veteran’s preference, entitled WCU Policy of Veteran’s Preference, which comports with the state law referenced above, as well as relevant state case law and PASSHE legal opinion letters issued as additional guidance on the subject.
- Applicants may voluntarily disclose veteran’s status by submission of the voluntary protected class self-disclosure forms, by reference in their work history or by mention during the interview process. Veteran’s preference only applies if the candidate is considered a “finalist.” If a candidate for employment at WCU achieves “final candidate pool” status, verification of eligibility for veteran’s preference status should be undertaken by the search committee by requesting a copy of the candidate’s DD-214 Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty.
- A review of the candidate’s DD-214 is the only acceptable means of establishing eligibility for veteran’s preference. This review should be done in consultation with the Office of Human Resources’ Recruitment Manager.
- The definition of “final candidate:” “has successfully completed the interview process” i.e. the search committee has deemed the applicant acceptable for employment. Even if the candidate is not the first choice of hire, if the first choice turns down employment, this candidate could be hired.
- Be sure to check the discharge status of a candidate with veteran’s preference. To be eligible for veteran’s preference, the candidate must have honorable or general discharge status.
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Employment of Faculty Who Are Citizens of Foreign Countries
Citizens of foreign countries may be employed at West Chester University if they are eligible to lawfully work in the United States, meaning they have achieved permanent residency status in the United States, or they have successfully obtained an appropriate type of temporary working visas. Permanent residency grants the holder the ability to work for any employer in the United States indefinitely. Temporary working visas entitle the holder to work for a particular employer for a specified period of time, doing a particular job.
Foreign nationals applying for faculty positions at West Chester University may already be legally residing in the United States, or they may be in residence in another country at the time they apply for employment. The Office of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) manages the application and enforcement of the complex set of federal laws, implementing regulations and associated processes for obtaining working visas, permanent residency and United States citizenship. West Chester University has also established a local University policy, entitled Employment of Citizens of Foreign Countries, to assist search committees and hiring authorities in understanding our university rules and processes. West Chester also has a third-party professional business partner who manages visa applications and permanent residency petitions. Click here for a list of who to contact regarding questions about the local policy, local procedures, or other recruitment related questions involving the employment of citizens of foreign countries.
- Applicants for employment may not be disqualified from employment at West Chester University merely because they are citizens of foreign countries.
- The process for obtaining a working visa does involve lead time, and typically may not be commenced prior to an offer and acceptance of employment are made.
- The H1-B visa is the most common temporary working visa for new tenure-track faculty. It typically takes between six and eight weeks to process.
- A citizen of a foreign country who has accepted employment with West Chester University may nonetheless be disqualified from employment if he or she is unable to work lawfully in the United States at the time their employment must begin.
- “Special Handling” is the process to allow an individual to apply for permanent residence based upon a job offer. This requires the university to have hired the faculty member through a competitive selection process and be able to prove that the applicant was the most qualified for the position.
- Applicants who apply for a temporary working visa may not do so with the intent to also apply for permanent residency; this is classified as “dual intent”. The applicant must apply for the visa with the intent to remain in the country temporarily. If after entering the country and working the applicant decides they want to become a permanent resident, the applicant may apply to become a permanent resident after being here for 6 months or more.
- If the applicant is already working with an H1-B visa, be aware of the amount of time the applicant has left on the visa. An H1-B visa is good for 6 years, regardless of where the employee is working. If an employee has been working on an H1-B visa for 5 years and the employee then comes to work at West Chester, the employee will only be eligible to work for 1 more year on the visa. The next step would be for the employee to apply for a permanent residency, which can take up to 18 months and, in turn, poses the risk of the applicant not being able to work due to their visa lapsing while not yet having established residency.
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Discrimination in Employment
Applicants for employment are protected by a myriad of state and federal non-discrimination laws in the same way employees and students are. Employment discrimination laws seek to prevent discrimination based on race, gender, religion, national origin, disability status, age, and in a growing number of jurisdictions, sexual orientation. Hiring bias against one of these protected classes would be the landscape for such a charge. Of particular note is the fact that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, prohibits not only intentional discrimination, but also prohibits unintentional acts, which nonetheless have the effect of discriminating against protected classes. Ongoing active assistance of the Office of Social Equity to faculty searches give search committees confidence in their search process and helps to avoid potential litigation.
- The Search Committee should be familiar with the University’s Affirmative Action Plan, to the extent that it is relevant to the faculty searches.
- Currently, there is no federal or state law that classifies sexual orientation as a protected class. West Chester University has a local policy regarding sexual orientation which should be applied during the recruitment process.
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Offer of Employment
An offer of employment must be extended by an academic manager with authority to legally bind the University to a contract of employment. Chairs are often called upon to iron out terms of employment but they do not have the authority to hire employees. Chairs recommend hiring the appropriate academic manager of faculty through department vote, per Article 11 of the APSCUF CBA. Once the department vote has occured and they have identified a candidate to recommend for hire, the recommendation is to be forwarded to the dean's office.
Offers must be distinguished from mere opinions or preliminary negotiations. An offer is a manifestation of willingness (by an offeror) to enter into a bargain with another person (an offeree) with an understanding by one or more of the parties (offeree) that his or her acceptance to the bargain is invited and will bind the parties to the agreement. If a bona fide offer is made to a candidate for faculty employment, and that faculty member purports to accept the offer, but under changed terms, no acceptance occurs. It is a counter-offer.
The parties must reach mutual agreement on all of the essential terms of the agreement before a contract is formed. Generally, essential terms are: who the parties are, what the subject matter is, what the time for performance is, and what the compensation is.
The offeror is said to be the “Master of the Offer”. This means that at any time prior to acceptance of the offer, the offeror may rescind the offer. An offer may not be rescinded after acceptance barring circumstances which would allow the contracted to be voided.
- Offers should not be left open indefinitely. The person making the offer of employment should specify that the offer will be withdrawn if not accepted by a specified date. Candidate pools are perishable, and waiting too long to move to a second and third acceptable candidate can, and often does, result in a failed search.
- As a precursor to the offer it is prudent to ask the candidate if any additional information is needed in order for him or her to make a decision.
- In the typical faculty search pool, most applicants are competing for positions at other colleges and universities as well. It is not uncommon for candidates who have been extended offers to indicate that they are waiting to hear from another school and can’t make a decision until that school responds. In this situation, there is no bright line answer. Pushing a candidate to accept when the possibility exists that he or she will accept a later made offer from another school and leave your department holding the bag is probably the worst scenario. But playing ball until your candidate pool goes stale isn’t any better. Keeping candidate number two warm and interested is helpful, and knowing when your “drop dead date” is and adhering to it is crucial.
- Candidates who have accepted an offer of employment and renege are another problem scenario. Remedies for breach of an employment contract do not normally include an order to work for the employer. Most employers would also not wish to employ someone who did not wish to work for them. It is wrong to renege, but under most circumstances, it is best for the employer to cut losses and move on, even if it requires a new search.
- Contracts of employment are voidable by mutual assent. In the circumstances described in #4, a candidate who has accepted employment but factors intervene which cause the candidate to walk out of the contract, a prompt, honest, discussion between the candidate, search chair and dean with the University is appropriate. Most Universities are willing to void employment contracts in return for reimbursement of costs such as travel and lodging incurred at University expense after acceptance (not interview expenses).
- Search chairs and department heads should not discuss any conditions or make any promises to the candidate not listed in the employment offer. Discussing additional terms could lead to false expectations and circumstances that cannot be met by the University.
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Acceptance of an Employment Offer
Acceptance of an offer by the offeree must be unequivocal and may not include changed terms or qualifying statements or conditions not contained in the offer. The offer must also be accepted within the timeframe stated in the offer, unless the offer is specifically extended, in writing, by the offeror.
The offeror, as the “Master of the Offer," also has the discretion to define what the acceptable method of acceptance must be. If acceptance must be done in writing with a signature, then a phone acceptance only serves to express an intent to accept in writing. If an offer may be accepted orally, then any subsequent writing becomes merely a memorialization and acknowledgement of terms of the agreement. If the offeror states no specific method of acceptance, any reasonable form under the circumstances is adequate. As a general proposition employment contracts are not subject to the Commonwealth’s Statute of Frauds, which requires certain types of contracts to be in writing and signed.
- Ask for assistance from the Office of Human Resources in terms of making sure the new faculty member has the answers he or she needs on benefit matters such as how pre-existing conditions are treated, coordinating health care coverage, when dependant tuition waiver benefits begin, etc. Often times these matters are covered briefly during the campus visit but not retained, or the candidate does not think to ask.
- Spousal employment is also a consideration for most dual income families. While some restrictions on spousal employment do exist at WCU, the Office of Human Resources can provide valuable information to help spouses jumpstart searches and gain a good understanding of the job market and promising recruitment sources.
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The period between the time an offer has been accepted and the time a new faculty member starts can be a period of heightened anxiety for the new faculty member and his or her family. Second-guessing the decision is common. Other universities may continue to pursue the new faculty member. The current employer may be seeking to retain the new faculty member with a counter-offer. Buying and selling a home may be necessary. Children’s schooling or spousal employment may be disrupted. Friends will be left behind. The department chair and the search chair should not view their work as completed until the new faculty member actually begins work.
- What can be done to lessen these anxieties which manifest after they accept? Staying in the dialogue is important. Understanding the new faculty member’s needs relative to information and support is also critical. Putting the new faculty member in touch with other colleagues who have recently gone through the same or similar situations can also help. Some short but encouraging welcome notes from department colleagues also help. Keeping the new faculty member connected to the new department through mailings or e-mailing copies of department minutes, College or University newsletters, is helpful.
- Helping the new faculty member become acquainted with both the campus and the local area could also be beneficial. Campus and Local Area Information.
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