Discretionary Bonus Guidelines


A discretionary bonus may be given to non-bargaining unit staff members as a special and immediate recognition and reward for exceptional performance, significant contributions, and substantial accomplishments well beyond normal or regular work responsibilities. A discretionary bonus does not increase the base salary nor serve as a means to give a larger annual increase. This bonus is given at the discretion of management. There is no guarantee or promise to pay a staff member a discretionary bonus. Examples of situations where a discretionary bonus may be given include significant contribution and/or substantial accomplishment associated with:

  • Major projects or initiatives (e.g., system implementation, new program implementation, and audits by certifying agencies, funding agencies, or government agencies)
  • Significant cost saving or cost avoidance realized beyond normally expected or established standards
  • Extraordinary effort during times of critical department need (e.g., meeting critical deadline that could otherwise have an adverse impact on critical business operations or major project)
  • Contribution that clearly and significantly impacts the accomplishment of important and critical business operational goals, deliverables and/or time line

A discretionary bonus is not appropriate for:

  • Outstanding or excellent performance of ongoing, normal or regular job duties and responsibilities as well as achievements that may be reasonably expected from a staff member. These should be recognized as part of the annual performance and salary review process
  • Staff effort or work time that has no significant impact on a major project or initiative, or critical business need
  • Recognizing a staff member's long term service, loyalty or commitment
  • Accomplishment of personal and career goals, skills and competencies, professional degree, certification, and registration


  • A staff member must be in active employment status (non-terminated, full or part time) at the time the discretionary bonus is awarded.
  • A staff member should have received no disciplinary actions in the past six months, including verbal warnings.
  • A staff member may not be rewarded twice for the same achievement.
  • A staff member may be eligible for discretionary bonus provided the following performance standards are met:
    • Significant and outstanding contribution and effort well beyond normal expectations and day-to-day responsibilities
    • Contribution is regarded as major, key or vital
    • Extraordinary effort to meet quality and quantity requirements while meeting the essential requirements and performance standards of the regular job


  • A discretionary bonus must be made as a one-time payment and must not be added to a staff member's base salary.
  • Departments must consult with human resources when considering a discretionary bonus to staff to ensure compliance with applicable laws and regulations and compliance with established university guidelines.
  • Departments must apply extreme care when awarding a discretionary bonus inasmuch as these awards may give rise to perceptions of favoritism and inequity. Departments must consistently and fairly apply the criteria and standards for awarding a discretionary bonus.
  • Appropriate documentation for the discretionary bonus must be in writing and must include the following information:
    • Brief and specific description of the accomplishment or contribution
    • Date or timeframe of contribution or event
    • Discretionary bonus amount
  • Departments must ensure that funds are available and must observe their formal recommendation and approval process, including obtaining the appropriate dean, vice president or designee's approval before awarding discretionary bonuses.
  • A discretionary bonus will not be included in employee benefits-related calculations (i.e., retirement and pension benefits).