November 2004
  • Quote of the Month
    • "Graditude can transform common days into thanksgiving, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings." --William Arthur Ward

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Happy Thanksgiving!

University Closed for Thanksgiving Holiday

The University will be closed for the Thanksgiving holiday on:

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Friday, November 26, 2004

REMINDER: The 2004-2005 TAMIU Holiday Schedule can be accessed at http://www.tamiu.edu/adminis/ohr/holiday.shtml.


Coming Soon!!

HR Continues to Move Towards a Paperless Operation!
The HR Office is excited to announce that work has begun to implement: 1) a web-based “recruitment, application, applicant-tracking, and hiring” system; and 2) a web-based, automated version of the “Personnel/Budget Action Form” called an EPA! The following is preliminary information about the 2 projects:

Automated Recruitment, Application, Applicant-Tracking, and Hiring System
The HR staff is currently working with PeopleAdmin, Inc. (Austin) to train and set up for a web-based system that will automate the recruitment, application, applicant-tracking, and hiring process. The system will automate the current HR forms called “Personnel Requisition” and “Referral for Interview” and allow for obtaining electronic approvals when requisitioning to advertise a vacancy. How you use the system depends on your role: A “hiring manager” will be able to submit a requisition to advertise a vacancy, review electronic employment applications received, and notify HR of selection(s) and non-selection(s). As an “applicant,” you can view job vacancy postings, create/revise your employment application, submit your application for a vacancy if you are determined to meet the minimum qualifications, and track the status of your application in the job(s) you applied for. Implementation is planned for late January or early February, and training will be provided to hiring managers before implementation.

Automated Employee Payroll Action (EPA)
Staff from both the HR and Budget/Payroll/G&C Offices are currently working with TAMUS BPP (Budget/Payroll/Personnel) Operations Center to implement a web-based, automated version of the “Personnel/Budget Action Form”, the form used to submit for approval an employee action (i.e., to hire, promote, reclassify, separate employment). This automated form will be called an EPA (Employee Payroll Action) and will allow for obtaining electronic approvals for the employee action. Training will be provided to employees who will be creating and/or approving EPA’s. An implementation date is still pending.

Construction Update
The planetarium pyramid of the Science Building is being painted, and the glass will be installed shortly! Also, the screen and other equipment for the planetarium will be worked on soon. The furniture is still scheduled for installation in February 2005.

A meeting was held with the architects from F & S Partners (Dallas) to review the kinesiology expansion “20% document” development. Progress is positive, and another meeting will be held in November to review the “50% document” development.

The master plan update is almost complete and, in November, final printed copies will be ready. Upon completion, employees will be able to see the plan on the web.

HR News & Views will continue to provide updates on campus construction.

Total Compensation Statements Will be Available in November

Total Compensation Statements for the 2004-2005 fiscal year will be distributed electronically via HRConnect to all employees in November. This statement, which employees receive every Fall, not only shows how much the A&M System gives you in the form of a paycheck, but it shows how much both you and the A&M System contribute toward your insurance benefits, retirement plans, and other employment-related programs.

If you have questions about your Total Compensation Statement, or if the information on your statement is incorrect, contact Jessica Palacios, Associate Director, at ext. 2362.


Understanding A&M Care Plan’s Prescription Drug Deductible

To minimize medical cost increases, many health plans are implementing prescription drug deductibles. A&M Care plans, for example, have such prescription drug deductibles (separate from their medical deductible).

Under the A&M Care plans, the deductible applies to the first $100 in prescription drugs that each covered person buys each plan year, whether purchased at a retail pharmacy or through mail-order. After you meet the deductible for that plan year, you will pay the applicable co-payments for any remaining drug purchases through August 31.

If you meet the deductible on a prescription drug purchase, but it doesn’t cover the full cost of the drug, the co-payment will be applied to the rest of the cost. If the remaining cost is less than the co-payment, you will pay only the remaining cost. If the remaining cost is more than the co-payment, you will pay only the co-payment. The following examples show how the prescription drug deductibles and co-payments under the A&M Care plan work:

Example 1: If your first drug purchase of the year is a generic drug that costs $60 through mail-order, you will pay the full $60. If you purchase another generic drug that costs $70 through mail order, you will pay $60 (the first $40 will be applied to meet the rest of your $100 deductible, and the remaining $20 will be your co-payment for a generic mail-order drug). This is still less than the full cost of the second prescription. For the rest of the plan year, you will pay only the co-payments because you’ve met your annual deductible for this plan year.

Example 2: Let’s say your first prescription drug purchase of the year includes three brand-name formulary drugs totaling $200 at a retail pharmacy. You will pay $175 ($100 to meet your deductible, plus the three $25 co-payments for the three drugs), and the plan will pay the remaining $25. For all other drugs purchased through August 31, you will pay only the co-payments because you’ve met your annual deductible for this plan year.

If you have questions regarding your prescription drug deductible, contact Jessica Palacios, Associate Director, at ext. 2362.


Vioxx Has Been Pulled From Shelves

The prescription drug Vioxx, which is often used to treat arthritis, was recently pulled from shelves by its manufacturer after the drug was linked to cardiovascular complications such as increased heart attack risk. Last year, Vioxx was one of the 20 most frequently prescribed drugs for A&M Care plan members. Here is how A&M System-offered health plans are addressing the change:

  • EHS issued a notice addressing the change and how it will impact plan participants who used the drug. To view this notice, as well as a letter that has been mailed to participants who used Vioxx, click here.
  • Caremark, Mercy Health Plan's pharmacy benefit manager, faxed this letter to all physicians who prescribed Vioxx in the last six months. Included with the letter was a list of the physicians' patients who have filed Vioxx claims, however, Caremark did not send notification letters to the patients.

Merck, the manufacturer of Vioxx, has announced that users who return all or the remaining portion of their Vioxx prescriptions in the original containers will receive refunds. Those who would like more information on obtaining refunds should contact the National Notification Center at 1-800-805-9542.

If you have additional questions, you may contact Jessica Palacios, Associate Director, at ext. 2362.


Mercy Health Plan Now Covers FluMist

Because of the current flu vaccine shortage, Mercy Health Plan now covers FluMist, a nasal spray influenza vaccine. Mercy will cover FluMist only when it is administered by a provider in Mercy's network. It will not be covered if administered at a pharmacy, flu shot clinic, or other such area. FluMist is not 100% effective against the flu.

If you need additional information, you may contact Jessica Palacios, Associate Director, at ext. 2362.


Spending Account Participants Can Obtain Claim Forms from Tax Saver Plan

Tax Saver Spending Account claim forms and return envelopes were inadvertently left out of the start-up kits that were recently mailed to participants. Spending Account participants who need claim forms can print them online at www.taxsaverplan.com/tax_claim.html or have them faxed or mailed by calling Tax Saver Plan at 1-800-328-4337.

If you have any questions regarding your Tax Saver Spending Account, please call Jessica Palacios, Associate Director, at ext. 2362.


Plan Deductibles and the Spending Account Debit Card

The new Health Care Spending Account debit cards are programmed to recognize each health plan’s individual office visit and prescription drug co-payments, but not the plan deductibles. This means that if you are enrolled in a health plan that has a prescription drug or medical deductible, you will need to fax Tax Saver Plan the receipts validating the prescription drug or office visit charges until you meet your deductible. You need to fax the receipts within 45 days of receiving them.

The cards are also not programmed to recognize co-insurance (percentage of the bill) amounts or double co-payments, such as two prescription co-payments paid at the same time.

Although this will require many participants to submit receipts during the first part of each plan year, Ellen Gerescher, Employee Benefits Manager at System Human Resources, said the overriding benefit of the card is that it eliminates the reimbursement process most of the time. “When you swipe the card,” Gerescher said, “the money is taken directly from your Spending Account, so you don’t have to wait for a reimbursement check from Tax Saver Plan.” Gerescher also said participants still have the option of submitting claims directly to Tax Saver Plan for reimbursement instead of using the card.

If you have question about your Tax Saver Spending Account, please call Jessica Palacios, Associate Director, at ext. 2362.


Loans and Hardship Withdrawals Are Not Allowed Under ORP
Texas state law prohibits distributions, including loans and hardship withdrawals, under the Optional Retirement Program (ORP) until a participant retires, dies, reaches age 70½, or terminates employment with all Texas public institutions of higher education. The Tax-Deferred Account (TDA) program and the Texa$aver Deferred Compensation Plan (DCP) do allow loans and hardship withdrawals regardless of the participant's employment status. However, not all TDA vendors offer loans.

For additional information regarding your ORP, TDA or DCP account, please contact Jessica Palacios, Associate Director, at ext. 2362.

TDA/DCP Contribution Limit To Increase January 1, 2005

Effective January 1, 2005, the maximum contribution limit for participants under the Tax-Deferred Account Program (TDA) and the Texa$aver Deferred Compensation Plan (DCP) will increase from $13,000 to $14,000 for each plan. In addition, the catch-up contribution limit for each plan for participants who are 50 and older will increase from $3,000 to $4,000. A chart listing the calendar year contribution limits through 2006 is available online. The 2004–2005 Total Compensation Statements, which employees will receive in November, will list each employee's maximum TDA and/or DCP contribution limits for 2004 and 2005.

If you wish to change your monthly TDA contribution limit for the 2005 calendar year, complete the TDA Salary Reduction Agreement/Change of Vendor Form and submit it to the HR Office. Please contact Jessica Palacios, Associate Director, at ext. 2362 for deadline dates to ensure that your change will take effect on the first pay date of 2005.

If you wish to change your monthly DCP contribution amount, contact CitiStreet, the DCP plan administrator, at 1-800-634-5091 by 3:00 pm on November 30, 2004. This will ensure that the change takes effect on the first pay date in 2005.

If you have additional questions, please contact Jessica Palacios, Associate Director, at ext. 2362.


Guidelines Regarding ORP/TDA Vendor Solicitations
Optional Retirement Program (ORP) and Tax-Deferred Account (TDA) vendor representatives are allowed to make sales presentations regarding ORP or TDA investment products to individual employees on A&M System premises only at the employee's request (subject to the approval of the employee's supervisor). Vendor representatives may not make unrequested visits or telephone calls nor send unrequested mailings or e-mail messages to A&M System employees at their campus offices.

If a vendor representative violates these solicitation rules, please contact Jessica Palacios, Associate Director, at ext. 2362.

Welcome, New Employees!!
  Areli Cervantes, Switchboard Operator
Purchasing & Support Services
KL 006 ext. 2356
  Gerardo Rivera Jr, Staff Assistant
University Registrar
KL 168 ext. 2218
  Cecilia Cedillo, Staff Assistant
University Registrar
KL 168 ext. 2256
  Nora E. Guereca, HR Benefits Manager
Office of Human Resources
PH 314C ext. 2363
  Melissa Barrientos-Whitfield, Communication Specialist
Public Affairs & Information Services
KL 268B ext. 2183
  Michele E. Lockhart, Associate Director
Enrollment Management & School Relations
SC 126E ext. 2731
  Ericka S. Navarro, Associate Director
Career Services
SC 114E ext. 2262
  Dennis J. Koch, Director of Student Activities
Student Activities
SC 226C ext. 2284
  Ana I. Saenz, Director of the CASA
KL 205 ext. 2132

Maria A. Clark SC 125K ext. 2235
FROM: Temporary Part-Time Nurse (RN), Student Health Services    
TO: Nurse (RN), Student Health Services    
Maria I. Cantu KL 262 ext. 2300
FROM: User Services Specialist, CTS    
TO: Service Specialist I, CTS    
Silvia I. Morales KL 002 ext. 2100
FROM: Police Officer, University Police Department    
TO: Police Corporal, University Police Department    
Laura Cortez SC 127D ext. 2932
FROM: Event & Conference Services Manager, Student Center    
TO: Director of Student Center, Student Center    
Raul Garza WHTC 203 ext. 2490
FROM: Instructor, Department of Accounting, Economics & Finance    
TO: Adjunct Faculty, Department of Accounting, Economics & Finance    

  Roxanna Gonzalez, CDC Coordinator
Department of Special Populations (CDC)
  Nicole M. Romanos, Office Coordinator
Student Health Services
  Anna L. Auces, Staff Assistant
Office of Special Programs (GEAR-UP)
  Yazmin Carranza, Financial Aid Assistant
Office of Financial Aid
  Melissa Medina-Razzaque, Service Specialist I

Combining Holidays with Other Leave

When holidays fall in the work schedule, many employees like to take an extra day or more off to have a longer break or to prepare for holiday guests. In most cases, this is not a problem, but it can result in a loss of holiday pay when done incorrectly.

To be paid for a holiday, an employee must work or be in a paid leave status on the last workday before the holiday. For the Christmas/New Year break, employees are paid for the December holidays only if they are in a paid status the day before the break begins. Also, employees must be in a paid status on the first workday in January to be paid for the January portion of the break.

This means that employees who use vacation to extend a holiday or who are ill and on paid sick leave immediately before a holiday will be paid for the holiday. However, employees who take leave without pay for any reason immediately before the holiday (or immediately after the New Year holiday) will not be paid for the holiday.

Budgeted employees are eligible for holiday pay if they work 20 or more hours a week for at least four and a half months. Student workers and employees paid on wages are not eligible for holiday pay.

If you have questions about holidays, contact the HR Office or review System Policy 31.04 (Holidays) and System Regulation 31.04.01 (System Holidays), which can be accessed at http://sago.tamu.edu/policy/tocmain.htm. If you have additional questions regarding holidays and/or leave, please contact Xochitl Kladis, HR Assistant, at ext. 2364.


Updating Your HR Files...Beneficiary Designations


Significant events such as marriage, divorce, death of a beneficiary, and the birth of a child, should prompt employees to review their beneficiary designations.

If you are enrolled in any of the following: Basic Life Insurance, Alternate Basic Life Insurance, Accidental Death and Dismemberment, the Teacher Retirement System; and you experience a significant event, you should immediately notify the HR Office to review and make any necessary changes to your beneficiary designations.

If you are enrolled in the Optional Retirement Program, and you experience a significant event, you should contact your respective vendor to review and make any necessary changes to your beneficiary designations.

Please contact Jessica Palacios at ext. 2362 if you have any questions or need assistance.


Nepotism Policy
At this time, supervisors are reminded about the System Policy on nepotism, which prohibits an employee from hiring or supervising a relative. For example, employees may want to hire their children as help during a school break. However, while their children may be employed in positions on campus, they may not be hired or supervised (directly or indirectly) by their parents.

The System Policy on nepotism can be found on the web at http://sago.tamu.edu/policy/33-03.htm. If you have any questions about nepotism, please contact the HR Office at ext. 2365.

University Sick Leave Pool

The University Sick Leave Pool was established to alleviate hardship caused to an employee and the employee's family if a catastrophic illness or injury forces the employee to exhaust all leave time earned by the employee and lose compensation. At that time, an employee may request to draw time from the University Sick Leave Pool in order to remain in pay status.

Employees may contribute to the University Sick Leave Pool at any time. Anyone wishing to contribute, or if you have questions about the University Sick Leave Pool, please contact Xochitl Kladis at ext. 2364.


Family/Medical Leave: Usage and Obligations

If you have at least 12 months of state service and have worked for the state at least 1,250 hours in the past 12 months, you are entitled to 12 weeks of Family/Medical Leave per fiscal year. If you request leave (whether sick leave, annual leave, or other paid or unpaid leave) due to one of the following reasons, the leave will count toward your Family/Medical Leave entitlement for the fiscal year:

  • Birth of a child
  • Placement in your home of a child for adoption or state-certified foster care
  • Your serious health condition (illness, injury, or pregnancy)
  • To care for your spouse, child, or parent who has a serious health condition
If you are applying for sick leave for one of these reasons, you must use all available paid leave before taking unpaid leave. Additionally, you must have your treating physician complete a Medical Certification Form (available from the Office of Human Resources) and submit it with your leave request form(s.)

While you are on paid leave, your benefit coverages will continue, and any premiums you normally pay for will be deducted from your pay. If you go on unpaid leave for one of the reasons stated above, the State will continue to pay its contribution toward your health coverage; however, you must continue to pay your share of premiums. Failure to do so may end some or all of your benefits coverages. You will receive a bill for your share of the premiums each month while you are on leave, and the bill must be paid within 30 days.

It is your responsibility to check in with your supervisor every 2 weeks while on leave to inform him/her of your status and expected date of return. It is also your responsibility to inform the Office of Human Resources if you would like to add a dependent to your coverage. This must be done within 60 days of the birth, adoption, etc. of the dependent.

If you take leave for one of the reasons stated above, you will be reinstated to your job or a similar job when you return from leave, unless you would not otherwise have been employed at that time.

If you have any questions about Family/Medical Leave, please contact Xochitl Kladis in the HR Office at ext. 2364.

Employees Must Obtain Approval to Engage in External Employment and Consulting
System Regulation 31.05.02 - External Employment states that if a System employee plans to engage in outside/external employment in addition to working in his/her primary University position, the employee must obtain approval for such employment using the “External Employment and Consulting Application and Approval Form.” This form is available online from the HR website at http://www.tamiu.edu/adminis/ohr/ under FORMS. Approvals must be obtained from supervisor(s) and the appropriate VP, then the form must be routed to the HR Office for proper filing.

The regulation mentioned above also governs all external employment by faculty members that is not directly related to their professional discipline. (NOTE: Faculty engaged in consulting is covered by System Regulation 31.05.01 - Faculty Consulting, External Employment and Conflicts of Interest).

If you have any questions regarding outside/external employment, please contact the HR Office at ext. 2365.

Reminder About Bringing Children to the Workplace

It is the responsibility of University supervisors to ensure that work is accomplished in an environment in which employee health/safety is respected and there is minimal disruption to the workflow and work activities. System Policy 24.01 Risk Management, Section 2, states that “it is the objective of The Texas A&M University System to manage, control, and where appropriate reduce or eliminate risk, to the end that its employees, students and visitors are protected from hazards, its financial condition is not seriously jeopardized, and its material and natural resources conserved to the maximum extent possible and practicable.”

The workplace is not an appropriate place for children on a regular, ongoing basis for the following primary reasons:

  • Children in the workplace create a potential liability for the department and the University.
  • Children in the workplace disrupt the workplace both for the employee with the child and for others in the work unit.
  • Children in the workplace create an atmosphere that many feel is unprofessional both to employees and visitors.

A plan for managing emergency child care services is recommended for parents/guardians in order to avoid bringing dependents into the workplace. If there are no other alternatives, the employee should get approval from their supervisor prior to bringing the child to the workplace. However, the child should not be in the workplace longer than 1-2 hours.

Special occasions that are employer-sanctioned (i.e., "Take Your Kids to Work Day”) should be coordinated with and approved by the employee's supervisor. The employee's schedule for that day should take into consideration the child's presence in order to eliminate unnecessary hazards.

When considering such requests, the supervisor should contact the HR Office at ext. 2365 with any questions or concerns.


Online Training Available for Employees

The TAMUS Human Resources Office has developed online training programs for employees. The training programs currently available are:

  • Conducting Effective Interviews
  • Creating A Discrimination-Free Workplace (also available in Spanish)
  • Ethics (also available in Spanish)
  • Managing Employee Performance
  • Sexual Harrassment: What Supervisors Need To Know
  • Time Off Issues for Employees
  • Time Off Issues for Supervisors

You can access the training from HRConnect at http://hrc.tamu.edu. Simply login to HRConnect, click on the TRAINING tab, and follow the directions.

If you need assistance with this online training, please call HR Office at ext. 2365.


Getting to Know U!

Andres Rivas


Mr. Andres Rivas is a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Accounting, Economics and Finance. He is from the beautiful country of Venezuela and has been in Laredo (TAMIU) since August 2004. He has spent 11 years in the U.S. (5 years in Madison, Wisconsin and 6 years in Edinburg, Texas). He loves sharing his time with his wife, Daglys, and his 3 children, Andrea (10), Andrecito (3), and Dylan Andres (2). When not conducting research, he likes to play tennis and listen to music (as a matter of fact, Andres worked as a disc jockey for 3 years during his late teens!) His dream is to learn to pilot an airplane so he can fly himself to Venezuela. Andres says that if you want to fly with him to “the best-kept secret of the Caribbean (Venezuela),” get yourself ready because he is committed to accomplishing his dream!

TAMIU, we want to get to know you! Tell us an interesting fact about yourself, and we will feature it along with a photo in this section of the newsletter. Submit your information to Xochitl Kladis via email or at ext. 2364.

Mug O' The Month
Virginia Vincent is the Associate Director of the Center for the Study of Western Hemispheric Trade. She joined TAMIU in January 2001.

She received a prize for being the first to identify the TAMIU employee in the "Who is This?" section of the previous issue of the HR News & Views.

Virginia Vincent

Who is This?  
Who Is This?

The first person to email the HR Office and correctly identify this TAMIU employee by name and title will win a prize!

The identity of the employee who appeared in the last issue of HR News & Views can be found in "The Answer Corner" section of this newsletter!

The Answer Corner
The following are frequently-asked questions received in the Office of Human Resources. To ask us questions, use the "Ask HR" button on this newsletter.


Who was the baby in the "Who is This?" section of the last issue of "HR News & Views"?


That was Jesse Gonzalez, Project Coordinator for the Texas Center for Border Economics and Enterprise Development. TAMIU employees who wish to submit their picture for the "Who is This?" section may contact the HR Office via email or at ext. 2365.

Can a TAMIU employee be allowed to view his/her HR employee records and also be given a copy if he/she desires it?

Yes, a TAMIU employee may view (in the HR Office) his/her HR personnel file, and a copy can be provided to him/her. However, it is important to know that an HR personnel file only contains materials which the employee has already seen, had previous access to, and/or received a copy of. For assistance with such matters, please contact Sandra V. Pena, Director of Human Resources, at ext. 2361.

That Extra (S)Mile!
This section describes the deeds of TAMIU employees who have been observed going the "extra mile" for our University.
I just wanted to let you know that Patricia Hernandez, Payroll Assistant, went above and beyond the call of duty in helping me with my question regarding electronic deposits vs. "hard copy" for payroll checks. She spent time answering my question, which involved some research, and she appeared to be happy to do so. Usually, we only hear about problems with employees, but in this case, I wanted you to know how pleased I am with Pati’s assistance.
If you know of any employee performing in such a way that deserves mention in this column, send their name and details of their deeds to the HR Office via email.

Phone: 956.326.2365
Fax: 956.326.2359
Location: Killam Library 320