Guidelines for Chairs and Deans on Discussion of Retirement

golden leaves on treeAll faculty members have the right to remain on active status for as long as they are able to carry out their responsibilities, but for many faculty members, there comes a point at which making a transition to emeritus/emerita status becomes an attractive option.  For such faculty members, Berkeley is taking steps to support a smooth transition to the next phase of their career. 

In many cases, faculty members will wish to talk with their department chairs (or, for those in schools, their deans) about their plans, needs, and options for their transition.  Often, the outcome of the discussion will be the creation of an individualized plan spelling out how the faculty member considering retirement can remain involved with the University at their desired level.  The information below is intended to provide guidance to faculty and chairs in these discussions.  

Applicable law

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 applies: mandatory retirement for professors has been prohibited since 1994. 

Raising the issue of retirement

Chairs should avoid asking specific faculty members when they are planning to retire, because this question could be perceived as age discrimination or as a form of pressure or coercion. Instead, they should adopt a standard, neutral, and even-handed way of broaching the issue.   

For example, chairs might either ask all faculty members about their plans for the coming three years, or they might ask this question of all “retirement eligible” faculty members who are at least 50 years of age with 5 years of service.  It is reasonable for chairs to make this kind of broad inquiry as a matter of routine once or twice a year, especially in connection with departmental planning for hiring or for course and committee assignments. 

Conversations between chairs and potential retirees 

Chairs who have been informed by faculty members of an interest in retirement may invite a conversation about the subject, and of course faculty members are free at any time to bring up the possibility of retirement with their chairs.  The ensuing discussion may include an exchange of ideas about opportunities, both pre- and post-retirement, to support a smooth transition for the faculty member and the department.  Both the faculty member and the chair may wish to consider collaborating on the creation of a Pathway to Retirement Agreement that would document agreed-upon provisions.  

For many reasons, chairs should not offer their opinion about what is best for the faculty member to do, and chairs should not ask questions of a personal nature (e.g., about health or finances).  Chairs should certainly not make references to a faculty member’s age, even if the comment is intended to be sympathetic, humorous, or helpful.  (In some circumstances, non-derogatory comments about age could be considered evidence of age discrimination when they occur within a discussion about retirement.) 

Instead, chairs should listen for the ways in which the faculty member is describing the academic hopes or challenges connected with retirement and should give thought to the ways in which the department could support the faculty member’s research, teaching, or service interests before retirement, after retirement, or both.   Pre-retirement provisions should be considered only when the faculty member is ready to commit to a separation date within one or two years’ time.  This commitment would be provided via a Pathway to Retirement agreement. 

A common topic for conversations about retirement is recall for post-retirement teaching, research, or administrative service.  This is fine if the faculty member is at least 60 and has at least 5 years of service credit, but for faculty members who are younger than 60 or who have fewer than 5 years of service credit, discussion of recall must wait until after they have received their first pension check. 

Chairs or faculty members who would like assistance in initiating or advancing discussions of pre- or post-retirement provisions should feel free to contact Faculty Retirement Liaison Sam Davis (