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Busting Compensation Myths with HR

HR is combating misinformation and debunking some of the most common myths surrounding compensation at UC Davis. While the most simple answers are provided below, details matter. So, if you have questions, talk with your HR Business Partner

The following Q&A took place during HR's "Myth Busters" Sessions, which took place during Staff Assembly General Meetings on June 14th (sections 1-2) and July 12th (sections 3-10).

Table of Contents

  1. Salary
  2. Equity Increase
  3. Talent Acquisition
  4. Compensation and Classification
  5. STAR Awards
  6. Benefits
  7. Personnel Files
  8. Labor
  9. Sick and Vacation Time
  10. Flexible Work

Salary Questions

1. Is it an actual policy that lateral transfers (transferring to another department in the same title code/grade/classification) cannot receive any salary increase?

Generally, yes. Exceptions might apply if the employee:

  1. Transfers from an individual contributor to a supervisor or manager position
  2. Transfers from a non-exempt to an exempt position
  3. Transitions from a PSS or MSP contract to career status
  4. Takes on added responsibility for staff supervision with a resulting compression of salary between supervisor and subordinate
2. When moving jobs internally at UC Davis to another position (in a higher title and classification) you cannot receive more than a 5 or 10% increase in salary. Myth or truth?

Myth. Historically, 5% was the default salary increase for one grade change but the current parameters range from 0 to 25%. This percentage is determined on an individual basis, depending on a number of factors (employment unit, labor contract, position transfer, market standards, etc.)

3. Even if they change positions multiple times within one year, the maximum pay increase an employee can receive in one year is 25% of their starting salary, even if the newest position’s posted wages exceed that amount?

Myth. All employees hired into a role must be compensated within the salary range that was posted, regardless of the employee’s starting salary.

4. Any raise over 10% has to be reviewed by central HR. Myth or truth?

Myth. At UC Davis Health, central HR reviews all pay increases along with the hiring manager or relevant authority. On UC Davis campus, all salaries raised above the midpoint salary range will be reviewed, including recruitments, reclasses and equities. 

5. It is impossible to have your salary increase via the steps for the position once you've gotten the job. The only chance to raise your salary is with the union agreement raises each year or moving into a new position and requesting a specific step salary amount. Myth or truth?

Myth. Employees in a step-based salary system may progress from step-to-step via merit increases, based on performance. Progression through a step-based salary range is governed by the applicable UC/union contract. Limitations may apply based on labor contracts, policy restrictions on equity increases, the market value of a position and the organization’s ability to pay. 

Ad hoc and annual equity reviews are additional opportunities to assess for salary equity. You can request an equity review as a UC Davis Campus employee or as a UC Davis Health employee. 

6. How is it that someone can make a higher salary doing the same job at a different UC, but work remotely?

Salaries within the University of California system are, in part, determined by geographic pay differentials that account for variations in cost of labor and cost of living. If an employee makes a lateral transfer to a UC where those costs are relatively high, they will be paid accordingly- even if they work remotely. 

In light of the mass shift to flexible work in recent years, conversations are being held across the country about whether salaries should be locally adjusted for remote employees; potential changes in UC policy would come from the Office of the President. 

7. Is it HR policy that higher paid, non-represented staff may not receive an equity increase because the gap between the higher paid senior staff and the lower paid, represented, (or non-represented staff) is too large?

Myth. There is no policy that limits equity increases on the basis of a gap between the wages of higher and lower paid staff. 

8. Retention bonuses- real or not?

Real. The Office of the President recently developed a retention bonus policy which states non-represented UC employees in highly critical positions may be paid a one-time sum of up to 10% of their current salary, in exchange for a year of additional employment. Retention bonuses must be approved by UC Davis Human Resources, the UC Davis Chief Human Resources Officer, the Office of the President and the systemwide Vice President of Human Resources. 

Equity Increase Questions

1. If a new staff member from outside the university starts at a higher wage than current staff, are equity increases effective back-paid to when the new employees started at higher pay?

No. Equity increases are effective at the beginning of a new pay period from the date of receipt that the request is received in HR.

2. Is there a policy in place to hold management accountable for ensuring that staff are paid equitably, and ensuring that new staff aren't getting paid higher wages than current staff? Managers submitting staff for an equity increase doesn't always happen. 

There's no policy that requires managers to submit staff for equity increases or pay current staff more than new staff. However, management does have responsibility to determine wages equitably and in a way that attracts, motivates and retains employees. Both UC Davis Campus employees and UC Davis Health employees can request an equity review to correct potential issues with salary.

3. Staff in their first year of the role are not eligible for an equity increase, even if other team members in their same classification are receiving one. Myth or truth?

Myth. Staff in their first year are eligible for equity increases. However, if they’re under a probationary period they are ineligible for merit increases.

4. Why are titles that are currently being accredited or bargained into a unit, such as the SYS ADM 2-3 titles, prevented from receiving any salary increases through equity or merit programs? Is that a real policy or just a UC negotiating tactic? 

Any positions being accredited or bargained into a unit exist in a ‘status quo period’ wherein it is illegal for the university to change the mandatory terms and conditions of employment, including all economic employment benefits. 


Talent Acquisition

1.  Does a staff member have to inform their manager that they are applying/interviewing for another position at UCD?

No. However, if a staff member needs time off to interview during business hours then the staff member should relay that information to their manager.

2.  Signing bonuses— real or not?

Yes. Signing bonuses for new hires are available for positions that are critical to the university, hard to fill or competitive in the market. They are not available for current UC employees.

3. Does HR require employment verification? Is it required now?

Yes, HR onboarding teams are currently required to validate licenses and educational requirements, as well as employment verification.

4. Is it an HR policy that there must be more than one viable candidate to move forward in an interview/hiring process?

 No, there is no policy that mandates this. However, it is considered best practice to have a competitive talent pool before moving forward with a recruitment.

5. Is it true that hiring authorities cannot negotiate higher than the first quartile for wage negotiations?

No. While a department may have their own budget parameters and internal equity that pose limitations on a salary offer, there is no policy that dictates that an offer must be within the first quartile.

6. Is it true that a degree of any kind, even if not related to the position, outweighs years of experience?

No. Offers are based on a candidate’s combined knowledge, skills, ability and education relative to the minimum and preferred qualifications of the role.

7. Is it true that someone working in a position for 10 years could be making the same as someone who is hired into that position today, even if the other person has more institutional knowledge?

Yes, this is possible. Salaries are based on a variety of factors beyond years of experience in a specific role. These factors can include market trends, the needs of a department and a candidate’s level of education or specialized skill set.

8. Can a department offer an applicant (or an employee) a lower salary because they wish to work remotely some/all of the time?


Compensation & Classification

1. Truth or myth? Represented staff do not get merit increases for performance on top of their union contract increases.    

True. Increases for represented employees are bargained.

2. Is there a policy that positions can only be on contract for up to five years? And are there consequences for a position remaining on contract for over five years? 

Yes. Contract positions can last up to four years and typically are eligible for a year-long extension.

3.  In an exempt title is it true that when a co-worker is out on extended leave, I am ineligible for a temporary stipend to recognize the extra work I do- provided their pay classification is at or below my pay classification?

Yes, employees do not receive additional compensation for same- or lower-level work.

4.  Is there a recommended number of direct reports for a supervisor to have? Is there a maximum number?

Yes, supervisors and managers are required to oversee a minimum of 2 full-time career employees. There is no maximum number.

STAR Awards

1.  Myth or truth: A STAR award cannot be issued for more than $500?

Myth. STAR awards can exceed $500.

2.  Is it HR policy that a staff member cannot receive a STAR award unless they perform a one-time extraordinary duty that would be outside their position description? Even with a faculty letter supporting the nomination? The HR form states: Exceptional performance: demonstrated and sustained exceptional performance that consistently exceeds expectations in quantity and/or quality.

STAR awards are typically awarded for work above and beyond an individual’s job scope, special projects, or accomplishment. However, there is also the merit process for performance.

3. Is there a policy that represented staff in most bargaining units cannot receive STAR awards? It doesn’t appear to be explicitly prohibited in contracts. If it is prohibited, why is it in the interest of either the university or the unions to prevent recognizing exceptional work through a program like STAR awards?

STAR awards are governed by the office of the President and can be given to all policy-covered career employees and MSP employees and Clerical Unit (CX) employees

Benefits Questions

1. When you resign from the university, do you have to actually work your last day, except for when you are retiring?

 Yes. Only Retiree employees can utilize vacation time post-resignation.

2. What happens to a staff member’s sick and vacation hours when they separate from the University?

 Vacation is paid out. Sick leave is not paid out for separation, but it can sometimes be turned into retirement credit. If the employee moves to another state job, sick leave can also roll over to another position. If an employee is rehired by the university, sick leave can be reinstated up to a certain amount.

3. When you leave the UC system you get paid out for your unused vacation hours- what pay rate are those hours paid at?

 Payment is at the employee's rate on their last day of employment.

4.  Is it true that if you leave the university before age 50, you do not retire from the university, or can you leave at one date but officially retire later? I’m not sure if I can get retiree health benefits if I have earned them by having enough service credit but I am not yet 50 years of age when I reach 20 years of service.

A person can leave before retiring and choose to retire anytime when eligible. An employee can leave before being eligible for retirement and retire once they reach the correct age. However, retiree health benefits need to be within 120 days of separation to receive retiree health benefits.

Personnel Files

1.  Are employees able to make an appointment to review their HR files?

Yes. HR files can be reviewed upon request. To make an appointment, send an email request to or directly to Christin Espinoza at

2. Staff in their first year in a role cannot receive an “exceeds expectations” rating on their performance evaluation. True or false?

False. Exceeded expectations ratings can be given for an employee working within their first year.

3. Is it an HR policy that only one staff member in a unit can receive “exceeds expectations” rating on their performance evaluation? Is it true that supervisors are required to “bell curve” grade their staff for performance evaluations even when the whole team has performed exceptionally?

 Myth. There is no UC / HR policy that restricts or specifies rating distributions.

4.  Is it an HR policy that two members of the same family cannot work for the same department?

No. However there is a near-relative policy where the department requests and reviews an employee to ensure there will not be a conflict and that the arrangement is in the best interest of the UC. There is, however, policy to negate supervision of family or close relatives over one another.

5.  Is it true that HR does not require exit interviews?

HR invites all employees to take an exit survey and can request an interview. Departments may hold exit interviews although they are not required.

6.  Is it true that if Development Officers are not succeeding in a current role that they won’t be allowed to transition to a different role on campus?

There is nothing prohibiting an employee to move to another department if they are not performing well in their current role.


1.  Are union employees allowed to opt out of lunch voluntarily?

Each collective bargaining agreement has differing terms and conditions for hours of work, so this is not a one size fits all answer. That said, the CBAs incorporate unpaid meal breaks into their hours of work, so working through lunch will typically result in premium overtime. This requires supervisor approval and it would have to comply with the terms and conditions of the appropriate CBA.

2. Are union employees not allowed to work onsite without a supervisor present?

There are no requirements in the collective bargaining agreements mandating supervisors be present. That said, each department has its own work rules relating to work assignments and supervision, and many may require supervisors to be present to actively supervise line staff, whether represented or non-represented.

3.  Is it true that preferential re-hire is only for the same position/classification that an employee was last employed? Does policy still exist?

Preferential rehire is a function of layoff. Where an employee has been indefinitely laid off from a bargaining unit position, most collective bargaining agreements include the option for preferential rehire or opting out of preferential rehire to instead receive severance pay. Non-represented staff who are laid off receive severance pay and so are not eligible for preferential rehire. The terms vary by collective bargaining agreement, but typically represented staff with preferential rehire rights have rights to be placed in a vacant career position in the same bargaining unit and at the same campus as the position from which they were laid off, so long as that vacant career position has the same or lower salary range maximum as their former position and is the same or lesser percentage of time as the position from which they were laid off.

Sick and Vacation Time

1.  You cannot take vacation the first 6 months with the university. Truth or myth?

This depends on the collective bargaining unit to which the employee belongs. Employees and supervisors should check the relevant collective bargaining agreement. UC path does not reflect vacation accrual until month 3 in some cases.

2. It is a policy that the expectation is to have less than 12.5 days of sick call outs a year. Myth or truth?

Myth. However, some locations such as UCDH have attendance policies limiting unplanned absences to ensure continuity of operations including patient care. The UCDH policy limits the use of sick leave to 48 hours in a six-month period, other than for protected leaves of absence.

3. You have to provide a doctor’s note if you are out sick for more than three days. Myth or truth?

Myth. HR policies and collective bargaining agreements do not mandate the requirement of providing a medical certification from a health care provider after three consecutive days out ill, but our policies and CBAs provide the University the authority to request one. Departments can have a consistent practice in place to request one after 3 days. No additional note required if the leave is already designated and approved as FML. UCDH has a practice of requesting the doctor’s note after three days off in a row to determine whether the leave is eligible for family medical leave.

4.  Exempt staff don’t need to utilize a vacation/wellness day on their time sheet as long as they work a minimum of four hours. Myth or truth?

Exempt staff use sick and vacation leave in 8-hour blocks, so if an exempt staff member is not available to work their entire assigned work day they should take a vacation day. Exempt staff should not work only four hours and then take the rest of the day off without using vacation leave. Of course, exempt staff can make up the hours after the normal work hours to the extent it is operationally appropriate. When exempt staff fall ill during a shift, they should leave work to keep the workplace healthy and safe. If they have worked any hours, they should not use any sick leave accruals even if they’ve gone home ill after working a portion of their assigned workday. If exempt staff repeatedly or regularly call in sick after only working a partial workday and it appears those exempt staff are inappropriately abusing their exempt status to take days off without using leave accruals, that is a performance management issue that could result in disciplinary action.

5. Can exempt staff work a 4 days/10 hours a week schedule?

Flex work arrangements are available, including 4/10s, in some departments, but these are left to the discretion of each department based on operational needs. There is no requirement that any department allow flexible schedules, including 4/10s.

6. Can staff remain on regular pay status (and not have to use vacation) when searching, applying and interviewing for a position at UCD?

This varies by policy and collective bargaining agreement, so supervisors and employees should check those locations for particular cases. Generally, the University supports providing reasonable release time to attend interviews at the same location during an employee’s normal working hours. This does not generally include release time for time spent preparing for the interview (e.g., working on a resume, conducting job searches, etc.).

Flexible Work

1.  Is it HR policy that everyone is expected to work the same amount of days in-person during the summer as we do during the academic year?

No. Remote work is operationally driven and depends on the needs of the department.

2.  Is it an HR policy that management must live in California?

No. There is no policy that mandates this.

3.  Is it campus practice that if a staff member temporarily works remotely (family member becomes ill and they have to provide care), that they have to forward their work phones to their personal devices?

If the employee requests to temporarily work remotely, the University will likely not issue them a work phone and so may require them to forward their work phones to their personal devices. In this instance, another option is the use of the program Jabber to conduct work phone calls from the employee’s work computer. Note that if the employee is working remotely they’re expected to be working, not providing care to a sick family member during work hours. If the employee seeks to be absent without using accrued leave but is not intending to work, the department should deny the request to work remotely and review the possibility of providing the employee appropriate leave to provide family care.