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Enhancing the Health of Veterans through Research and Education

Employee Basics

The mission of the VAPORHCS is to provide health care services to veterans, conduct research that enhances the quality of patient care, and offer education to health care providers. The medical center’s Research and Development (R&D) Service consists of over 100 investigators who have active research projects in the areas of biomedical research, health services research, rehabilitation research, and other clinical areas. 

The Portland VA Research Foundation, Inc. (PVARF) is a non-profit corporation formed to work in conjunction with R&D Service to support the activities of research. Foundations, private citizens, private industry, and other non-profit organizations contribute funds to support various research initiatives. The Research & Development Committee reviews all research conducted at the VAMC prior to administration of funds by the PVARF.

As a member of our research community, you will need some basic information to feel comfortable and confident about your employment at PVARF. Upon being hired you will be issued an employee handbook which describes the medical center’s organization, including the various areas of research, and how the PVARF staff can assist you with problems, information, and/or suggestions. This is a reference handbook that you should keep at work. It covers work safety, injury reporting, time and attendance, and benefits. 

PVARF employees are not state or federal employees, but they often work side by side with employees of the VAPORHCS and Oregon Health & Science University. Work policies of these employers differ slightly from the PVARF. If questions arise in the course of your employment because of differences in treatment of employees, please refer these questions to the human resources department of your designated employer.

Most PVARF employees work on the premises of the VAPORHCS but the work site for some employees may be on the campus of the Oregon Health & Science University or in other locations. If a work site needs to be located outside of the VAPORHCS, then prior arrangements and administrative approval need to be completed before the individual begins work at that site.

This information is not all-inclusive; you will receive additional training throughout your employment at PVARF. Your supervisor will provide training on the various procedures and safety issues that are specific to your assigned research project. The administrative staff of R&D Service also schedules various mandatory training seminars throughout the year.

At Will Employment

The Portland VA Research Foundation is an at-will employer. This means that both the employer and employee can terminate the employment relationship at any time for any reason, with our without notice. This policy is neither a contract nor a guarantee of continued employment but will be used by PVARF as a guideline only. PVARF reserves the right to deviate from the policies and use its discretion in making all employment decisions.

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New Employee Orientation

As a new employee of PVARF, you will receive general information by reviewing this handbook and completing several short computer modules to learn laboratory safety requirements. Your supervisor, the Principal Investigator, provides specific training on issues and procedures that relate to your project. On or about your first day of work you will need to report to the PVARF administrative office, located in Building 104, Rooms G-217 & G-218. At this time you will be given an overview of benefits available and additional training requirements.

Your PI is responsible for covering the following items that are pertinent to your employment at PVARF:

  • Lab clothing: Lab coats, lab shoes, aprons, masks, glasses or goggles, and respirators.

  • Laboratory sanitation: Overall neatness, regular trash, red bag wastes, separation of glass, and sharps disposal.

  • Regulatory organizations

  • Location of safety, chemical hygiene, emergency preparedness, infection control manuals and Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS).

  • Lifting, handling of dangerous materials and disposal through the drain or special methods, and bottle protection and labeling.

  • Safety in the proper use of hoods, and other laboratory equipment.

  • Safety in chemical or acid disposal and storage.

  • Chemical labeling, liquid transfer, and gas tank safety.

  • Accidents: How to report medical emergencies through the use of employee health, emergency room, and first aid.

  • Use of safety equipment such as showers, eye washes, and spill stations.

  • How to complete an accident report and who needs to process it.

  • Fire safety: Location of alarms, extinguishers, exits, fire bell codes, and fire drills.

  • Security of doors to the laboratory through the key system, security of the laboratory areas through disk reader keys, and how to report a problem.

Your PI will provide detailed information on specific safety and lab procedures that apply to his/her scientific project. Additional information is available on computer modules, handouts and manuals.

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Employment Classifications

Each employee is classified into an employment category. Depending on the classification, employees are eligible for certain benefits. Current classifications are listed below. A chart outlining specific benefits eligibility is shown on Appendix A of the Employee Handbook.

Regular full-time employees are regularly scheduled to work between 30 and 40 hours a week and are eligible for participation in all of PVARF’s benefits.

Regular part-time employees are regularly scheduled to work less than 30 hours each week and are eligible to participate in some of PVARF’s benefits.

Intermittent employees do not work a set number of hours each week but will work as needed and are not eligible to participate in most of PVARF’s benefit programs.

Temporary employees are hired for a set period of time not to exceed 90 days and are not eligible for most PVARF benefits. After hiring, a temporary employee can be converted to regular status by notification to the PVARF administrative office. At the time of such change, the employee will become eligible for various benefits. The employee will need to make an appointment to go over these benefits at the PVARF administrative office.

In addition, jobs are classified as exempt or non-exempt based on the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Exempt Employee

An employee who is paid on a salary basis and who regularly works in a position that meets federal and state classification requirements for executive, administrative and professional positions and other federal and state classification requirements is an exempt employee. Exempt employees are paid a salary for completion of their job, regardless of the number of hours worked. Exempt employees are expected to work the hours required to complete their job, which may be more than 40 hours per week.

Non-exempt Employee

An employee, whether paid on a salaried or hourly basis, whose position does not meet federal and state requirements for exemption from wage and hour overtime laws, is a non-exempt employee. A non-exempt employee is paid overtime at the rate of time and one half their regular rate of pay for all hours worked beyond 40 hours in a workweek, in accordance with applicable federal and state wage and hour laws.

The PVARF standard workweek is Sunday through Saturday. However, some PVARF employees are designated as being exempt from overtime payments. Your PI will be able to tell you which category you will fall into. If you have questions about this, please see the PVARF HR Administrator.

Employees who transfer from one classification to another may no longer be covered by some of PVARF’s benefit plans.

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