Summer Salary FAQs
Answer: Across the country, research institutions have undergone federal audits and there have been several large civil settlements related to overcharging on federal grants. In response to this, the National Science Foundation Office of Inspector General (OIG) undertook several labor distribution audits in the past two years. Auditors are finding numerous items including improper calculation of summer faculty compensation; charging of salary to sponsored projects during the summer when the effort was actually expended during the academic term; charging of salary for 100% effort over the entire summer term when the faculty member had significant non-sponsored activity commitments; and charging of salary to sponsored projects when the investigator was, in fact, on vacation. Northwestern University was fined $5 million, Johns Hopkins University $2.7 million, University of Alabama/Birmingham $3.4 million, Mayo Foundation $6.5 million. These entities represent only a fraction of those with findings and resulting fines. The University of Idaho has developed a summer salary worksheet and guidelines to help faculty in planning their summer activities and to document those activities in order to be in compliance with applicable federal, state and University rules and regulations.
2. Can I flex my time during the week in the summer in the same manner that I do during the academic term (meaning that I may vary my work days in my lab over the pay period but still end up working the full time expected of me) or am I expected to clock my time and report on an hourly basis?
Answer: Faculty can flex their time during each week they are working and receiving compensation on a grant in much the same manner they would during the academic term. Faculty are not considered hourly employees. The University and federal sponsors look at effort over a given period, not time expressed in terms of hours.
3. I do not know the exact dates that I would like to take a vacation during the summer. What happens if I fill out my summer salary worksheet saying that I am going to work the full 30 days at 100% effort between May 15th and June 26th but I decide to take a two week vacation during that time period?
Answer: You would need to amend your summer salary worksheet to reflect the period you are going to be gone and an EPAF will be processed in Banner to stop your pay during that time period. When you return to work a new EPAF will be put on the system appointing you on the appropriate sources for the remainder of the time you specified.
4. Why can’t I just take the amount of salary I can charge to a sponsored project and average it over the thirteen weeks to come up with a lesser amount of effort spread out over the entire summer? (Example: I wrote $5,000 in to my grant proposal for one month of summer salary. Spread over thirteen weeks this would be 67% effort).
Answer: This would be appropriate as long as you intend to be working on your research project for the entire summer. This reduced amount of effort gives you time during the other 33% of your total effort to devote to non-sponsored activities. However, if you are going to be physically away from campus and not engaged in research during any part of that reduced time during the summer, you should amend your summer salary worksheet to reflect the change. Annual leave is not a benefit the University provides for academic year faculty, therefore it would not be appropriate to charge salary to a sponsored project for time that you are not working on that project.
5. I am planning on working the entire thirteen weeks of summer on my sponsored project at 100% level of effort. Does that mean that I cannot engage in brief consultations with students, answer an occasional non-project related phone call or email or attend an administrative meeting?
Answer: The government recognizes that a certain amount of de minimus activity will occur when faculty are engaged in research, instruction and scholarly activity. The University defines de minimus as a total change in effort of 5% or less.
6. I am planning on working on my research project during the period of time that covers the 4th of July and Memorial Day. Do I have to reduce the number of days that I am being paid by two days to account for the holidays that fall within that time period?
Answer: Paid holidays that fall during the summer are not a benefit afforded to academic year faculty. However, if you work the actual holiday or you flex your time during that week so that you end up working full time during that week, you do not need to reduce the number of days to account for the holiday in that period.
7. What if I am paying for a project based assignment that doesn't fit the boxes in the grid?
Answer: It is okay to "draw outside the lines" in situations that do not fit the structure of the boxes. The purpose is to explain the appointment and the rationale for payment. This is a trial year and we need to learn from the process to improve it for subsequent years.
8. If a faculty member is earning the maximum allowed summer salary (calculated on her/his institutional base rate) and then also teaches a course, is this allowable?
Answer: Yes, as an exception. Additional compensation, by nature, is for work beyond a faculty member’s teaching, research, outreach, and service (as applicable) and is therefore also a heavy workload. Approval by chair, dean, and the Provost and Executive Vice President for such activity through an additional compensation form is required before the faculty member may teach the course. Additional compensation is reported to the State Board of Education.