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UCLA Guidelines for the Staff Appreciation and Recognition Plan (STAR)

The STAR Awards Program has been postponed until January 15, 2021.

Fiscal year 2019–20 performance will be eligible for consideration when the program is reinstated, subject to the availability of funding to support STAR awards within each department or organization.

The official announcement can be viewed in the New Protocols for Hiring & Compensation.

Any pending STAR Awards that have been submitted have been placed on hold at this time.

These guidelines serve as a framework for implementation of cash recognition awards for employees under the Staff Appreciation and Recognition Plan (the “STAR Plan”) at UCLA. For more information, please visit Staff Appreciation and Recognition (STAR) Plan Guidelines.

Staff Appreciation and Recognition (STAR) Plan Guidelines

I. Plan Eligibility:

Criteria for cash awards under the STAR Plan are outlined below:

  1. Policy-covered career Professional & Support Staff (PSS), Management & Senior Professionals (MSP), and Clerical (CX) and Skilled Trades Unit (K4) represented employees are eligible for STAR Plan cash awards if, at the time of the award, they:
    • Have successfully completed their probationary period, if applicable,
    • On active pay status or on an approved unpaid leave, and
    • Received a “Meets Expectations” or better overall rating on their most recent annual performance evaluation. Personnel Policies for Staff Members (PPSM 23) requires that written performance evaluations be completed annually. Employees who have not yet received an annual performance evaluation may be eligible for an award if their manager confirms on the nomination form that they are “meeting expectations.”
  2. Policy-covered employees in per diem, limited, and/or casual-restricted appointments may be eligible for a STAR Plan award at the department’s discretion. Staff hired on an employment contract are eligible for the STAR Plan if eligibility is incorporated into the terms of the contract.
  3. Clerical (CX) and Skilled Trades (K4) represented employees are eligible. All other exclusively represented employees are not eligible for recognition awards under the STAR Plan.
  4. Senior Management Group (SMG) members are not eligible for awards under the STAR Plan.
  5. An employee may not receive an award under the STAR Plan if the employee is a participant in an incentive award plan that prohibits the receipt of a recognition award.
  6. An employee’s receipt of an award under the STAR Plan does not establish any right or guarantee that the employee will be eligible for or entitled to an award in any subsequent Plan year.

II. Performance Standards

Under the STAR Plan, managers are able to recognize, acknowledge, and reward employees for exceptional performance and/or significant contributions related to and supportive of individual, departmental, divisional, and/or organizational goals and objectives. Managers may acknowledge and reward individuals and teams for:

  • Exceptional Performance: Demonstrated and sustained exceptional performance that consistently exceeds goals and work expectations in quantity and/or quality.
  • Creativity: One-time innovation or creation that results in time/dollar savings, revenue enhancement, and productivity improvement; and/or ongoing innovative/creative activities that benefit organizational systems, protocols, and/or procedures.
  • Organizational abilities: Exhibiting extraordinary skills in leadership resulting in the accomplishment of significant departmental or divisional goals and objectives; effective project management, which could include developing a project and/or implementing a project with substantial success; and/or demonstrating organizational capability leading to a greater level of effectiveness.
  • Work success: Significantly exceeding productivity, customer service, quality of care or similar goals, including demonstrating superior interactions with managers, peers, supervisors, subordinates, the University community, and/or clients and customers served.
  • Teamwork: Acting as an exceptionally effective and cooperative team member or team leader for a team that has significantly exceeded the goals/objectives of the department/unit.

Written justification of demonstrated performance and contributions, as described in the performance standards above, is required for every STAR award.

III. Award Limits and Restrictions

The following limitations and restrictions apply to STAR Plan cash awards:

  • No single STAR Plan cash award may exceed 10% of the employee’s base salary or $10,000, whichever amount is lower. Organizations may establish lower award limits. Base salary is the regular rate of pay, excluding overtime, stipends, and differential pay such as shift differential.
  • Cumulative STAR Plan cash awards paid to an employee in a Plan year may not exceed 10% of the employee’s base salary or $10,000, whichever amount is lower.
  • The total amount that an employee receives in STAR awards during the Plan year cannot exceed $10,000 or 10% of base salary whichever is lower regardless of the number of awards or sources of the awards. The home department is responsible to ensure that the cumulative amount does not exceed $10,000 or 10% of base salary amount.
  • STAR Plan cash awards are strictly discretionary and may not be promised or guaranteed in advance.
  • “Across-the-board” type awards (e.g., awards to a category of employees without regard to a recipient’s performance or relative contribution) are not allowed under the STAR Plan. Awards must be based on the recipient’s achievement as an individual or as part of a team.
  • No exceptions will be made to the above monetary award limits and restrictions.

IV. Nomination Process

The UCLA Campus STAR Award Nomination Form or equivalent documentation must be used for each nomination, due no later than June 30, 2018.

Staff Appreciation and Recognition (STAR) Award Nomination Form

  • Individual Award Nominations: Individual employees may be nominated for STAR awards based on one or more of the performance standards set forth above. Input will be required from the employee’s manager/supervisor if someone other than the employee’s manager/supervisor is nominating the employee.
  • Team Award Nominations: Team Awards may be granted to teams of employees who meet one or more of the performance standards set forth in the STAR Plan for work on a project within the same department or for work on the development and/or implementation of inter- departmental projects. Input will be required from the team leader and each employee’s supervisor/manager if someone other than the manager/supervisor is nominating the team.

The employee’s department head is responsible for confirming that the employee is eligible for an award and must approve the employee’s award regardless of the funding source for the award.

V. Award Review and Approval Authority

  • The process for all STAR Plan cash awards requires the endorsement of the employee’s immediate supervisor and approval of the next level manager and the department head.
  • Authority to approve any awards that exceed $5,000 has been delegated by the Chancellor to the Executive Vice Chancellor & Provost, Deans, Vice Provosts, and Vice Chancellors for employees within their jurisdiction. This authority may not be re-delegated.

VI. Timing and Processing of STAR Award Payments

  • STAR Plan cash awards may be presented at any time during the Plan year and should be awarded as soon as possible after the accomplishment or event in order to provide immediate recognition to employees.
  • The assigned Earn Code XSL specific to the STAR Plan must be used when implementing cash awards. (This code does not apply to non-cash awards under Business & Finance Manual provisions.)
  • All STAR Plan cash awards for the Plan year should be processed before July 31, 2019.

VII. Funding Requirements and Restrictions

  • Only local funds will be used for STAR Plan awards. The Organization Head (i.e., Dean, Vice Chancellor, Vice Provost) is responsible for establishing limitations on funding for awards. Such authority may not be re-delegated.
  • In FY 18-19, total annual award expenditures by departments may be up to 1% of the payroll base of eligible filled positions. The Organization Head is responsible for ensuring adherence to this limit. Under exceptional circumstances, requests by the Organization Head to exceed this limit may be forwarded to Campus Human Resources for consideration.
  • General funds may not be used for non-general fund positions. Requirements applicable to Federal funds must be observed.

VIII. Recordkeeping and Compliance

  • UCLA campus administration of the STAR Plan is the responsibility of the Associate Vice Chancellor—Campus Human Resources (CHR) as the Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO). For the Health Sciences, the Chief Human Resources Officer—Health Sciences is the responsible official.
  • Campus departments are required to keep local documentation of all STAR Plan awards and will be asked to provide documentation of award implementation on an annual basis.

IX. Treatment for Benefit Purposes

STAR Plan cash awards are not considered compensation for University benefit purposes, such as the University of California Retirement Plan or employee life insurance programs.

X. Tax Treatment and Reporting

Under Internal Revenue Service Regulations, payment of STAR Plan cash awards must be included in the employee’s income as wages subject to withholding for federal and state income taxes and applicable FICA taxes. Payment is reportable on the employee’s Form W-2 in the year paid.

UC Years of Service

The UC Years of Service (YOS) program is based off years of qualifying service that is used to determine the vacation leave accrual factor. A month on pay status at 50% time or more is counted as a month of qualifying service.

Depending on the employee personnel program/group and the years of service milestone, the leave accrual code may not only change how much vacation time is earned in an accrual cycle, but also the maximum vacation hours set aside for future use.

For more information regarding University service credits and UCRP service credits.

For more information regarding vacation employment service accrual chart.

The Process Regarding Notifications:

The YOS program for vacation accrual purposes is first confirmed by Campus Human Resources via a notification to the HR & Payroll Center-North (HRPCN) office. Afterwards, the HRPCN office notifies the departmental representatives.

If there are any questions regarding years of service, please contact our office:

Please note: It is important to note that the YOS program for vacation accrual purposes is not the same as the YOS used for the UC Retirement Program (UCRP). If you have any questions regarding UCRP, please speak with a retirement counselor or view your retirement information on At Your Service.

YOS Awards & Retirement Gift Program

Please refer to the memo for a descriptive summary of the Years of Service awards program and the retirement gift programs.

Years of Service & Retirement Award Memo

H&HS Recognition Programs

The Housing & Hospitality (H&HS) Recognition Programs chart describes the various types of recognition and policies governing the recognition that employees may receive, including the approval process and monetary limits. Please click the button below to download the H&HS Recognition Programs chart.

H&HS Recognition Programs

H&HS "Hats Off Award!"

The Housing & Hospitality Services Hats Off Award! is designed to provide a timely “tip of the hat” for a job well done, recognizing team members for exceptional service, commitment, and performance in day-to-day work. Hats Off-worthy actions demonstrate an exemplary commitment to organizational goals, strategic initiatives, or True Bruin values (integrity, excellence, accountability, respect, service). For further clarification on when a Hats Off Award! may be appropriate, please see Award Criteria.

The pickup of Hats Off Award cards has been temporarily suspended until further notice. No awards will be denied at this time and pending awards will be eligible for pickup when traditional hours of operation resume.

Award Criteria

The Award Criteria PDF describes the eligibility criteria for receiving a Hats Off nomination and award, including examples of acceptable reasons (primarily for nominators):

Award Criteria

Award Nominations

Award nominations may be submitted by any H&HS team member by logging onto the Team Member On the Spot Recognition form and selecting “Hats Off Awards!”. For instructions on completing the form, please download the Nomination Form Instructions.

Team Member On the Spot Recognition Form

Nominations will be reviewed and approved by departmental directors on an on-going basis. Approved awards are processed for distribution every two weeks.

Hats Off Recipients

Hats Off recipients are eligible to receive a non-cash award valued at $75 in the form of a gift card to one of three retailers. Team members may receive a maximum of three non-cash awards per calendar year. Subsequent awards will be in the form of a letter only.

To update gift card preference, please visit:

Update your Gift Card Preference

Award Letters

There are two variations of the Hats Off Award! recipient letters. The following are guides that explain the different variations, as well as the format and components of the letters.

Please Note: there is a guide for H&HS on-campus team members and a separate guide for H&HS University Apartments and Lake Arrowhead Conference Center team members:

On-Campus Units: Hats Off Guide

UA & LACC: Hats Off Guide