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Best Employers for Workers Over 50

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Cornell University

Winner: 2009 Best Employers for Workers Over 50

Winning Years: 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005
Industry: Education/Post-Secondary
Location: Ithaca, N.Y.

Highlights of 2009 Winning Strategies

In 2009, Cornell University marks its fifth straight year on the list of AARP's Best Employers for Workers Over 50. Job advancement at Cornell is formalized in the university's Qualified Employees Seeking Transfer, or "QUEST" program, which is a performance-based arrangement designed to help employees identify opportunities for internal transfers.

Retirees benefit from continued access to life insurance, the employee assistance plan, the wellness program, and long-term-care insurance at rates that are the same or similar to those paid by active employees. The Cornell Retiree Association provides for emeritus employees' continued engagement with the university through library and fitness-center privileges, continuing education, access to the computer lab, and volunteer opportunities.

Recruiting: Cornell uses placement agencies for older job seekers to successfully target mature workers and retirees. In addition, Cornell recruits from within its own ranks of retirees through the Cornell Retiree Association and the Cornell Association of Professors Emeriti.

Workplace Culture and Continued Opportunities: Full- and part-time employees working at least 20 hours per week may take advantage of tuition reimbursement, in-house classroom training, online training, and certification classes. Employees working at least 35 hours per week may take classes free of charge. Approximately 42 percent of employees used at least one of the educational opportunities in 2008, at an average time of 28 hours per employee.

The university celebrates long-service anniversaries with announcements, awards, and through the annual Service Awards dinners.

Cornell makes use of an employee feedback program, which has led the administration to introduce a long-term care insurance benefit and leadership training for employees in technology roles.

Cornell employees receive the following opportunities for professional development: temporary job assignments, team projects, supervisory training, and organizational consulting. The university also offers workplace accommodations through its Medical Leave Administration.

Workplace accommodations, such as vision-enhancement software and coordinated office and classroom locations, have enabled employees with visual and mobility impairments to meet the demands of their jobs and also to advance to new positions.

Benefits/Health: The health benefits Cornell offers to full- and part-time employees include individual and family-medical coverage and prescription-drug coverage, individual and family vision and dental coverage, individual and family long-term-care insurance, and both short- and long-term disability. To receive all the benefits, employees are required to work 20 hours per week. However, for short-term disability benefits, employees only have to complete one hour of work per week for eligibility.

Retirees under and above age 65 can receive individual and spousal medical, dental, vision, and long-term-care insurance. They are also eligible for the employee assistance program and the individual death benefit. New hires are eligible for all of these retiree benefits. Retirees also can apply unused sick leave toward future health-care premiums.

Cornell offers flexible spending accounts (FSAs) and health savings accounts (HSAs) to assist with out-of-pocket medical expenses.

Benefits/Financial: Among the financial benefits Cornell provides is  a 403(b) retirement plan and a money-purchase defined-contribution plan with an employer match; the plan is open to full- and part-time employees. All employees are automatically enrolled in the plan. Employees can choose to invest in life-cycle funds, and employees age 50+ can make catch-up contributions. Employees receive financial training and planning information from members of the Cornell staff, the firm that administers the 403(b) plan, and external financial-planning experts.

Cornell provides employees paid time off for caregiving, and short- and long-term, unpaid leave to attend to caregiving.

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