December 2003/January 2004


TAMIU State Employee Charitable Campaign

This year's TAMIU State Employee Charitable Campaign (SECC) was the most successful campaign ever!  For their diligent work on this campaign, thank you to the SECC campus coordinators, Mary Trevino (Associate VPAA) and Pat Martinez (Executive Secretary to Associate VP).  Through the SECC, employee donations will help various charity organizations in Laredo and the surrounding area.  Good going, TAMIU!  Just look at your impressive statistics this year!

  • The total contribution was $37,284.  This is a 20.3% increase over last year's total contribution of $30,850.
  • There was a 23.8% increase in participation over last year with 297 participants this year.
  • Support staff continues to represent the largest number of contributors, but is should be noted that administrative staff showed a 34% increase in participation and faculty showed a 55% increase in participation.
  • Thirty-three offices posted 100% participation, with the Canseco School of Nursing being the largest academic department with 100% participation and Physical Plant the largest administrative department with 100% participation.

December/January Holidays

The University will be closed for the holidays from Wednesday, December 24, 2003 thru Friday, January 2, 2004.

As a reminder, the 2003-2004 TAMIU Holiday Schedule can be accessed at http://www.tamiu.edu/adminis/ohr/holiday.shtml.


Have a Hassel-Free Payday...Sign Up for Direct Deposit!

Why rush to pick up your paycheck and take it to the bank...when it can be directly deposited into your account on payday!

Why run to pick up your paystub...when you can access all your paystubs online anytime via HRConnect!

Sign up for direct deposit today! Access the Direct Deposit Authorization form at http://www.tamiu.edu/adminis/ohr/forms.shtml. Complete your section, have your bank complete their section, then bring the form to HR.

Next, set yourself up to receive your paystub electronically by following the steps below. Once you have signed up, you will receive an email a few days in advance of payday telling you that your paystub is available online.

  • Log-on to HRConnect.
  • Click on the PAYROLL DATA tab and scroll down to the bottom of the page.
  • At "Electronic Payroll Earnings Information," select CLICK FOR DETAILS.
  • Follow the instructions on the "Payroll Earnings Notification" page.

If you have questions or need assistance with direct deposit, please contact Jessica Palacios (ext. 2362) or Cassandra Wheeler (ext. 2363).


Applications for the Employee Educational Assistance Program Being Accepted

The HR Office is now accepting Employee Educational Assistance Program (EEAP) applications for the 2004 Spring Semester. Applications are available online at http://www.tamiu.edu/adminis/ohr/forms.shtml . Application deadline is the 12th class day of the semester (February 4, 2004 by 5:00 pm).  Please ensure your application is submitted by the deadline as applications received after the deadline will not be processed. The EEAP was established to support the development and continued education of TAMIU employees.  The EEAP reimburses full-time, benefits-eligible employees for tuition and fees for educational courses, according to the following guidelines:

  • Reimbursement is on a first-come, first-serve basis.
  • Reimbursement is provided at the end of the semester, after grades have been verified, and is subject to availability of funds.
  • Reimbursement is provided for 3 in-state credit hours per semester, not to exceed 6 credit hours per academic year.
  • Employee must maintain a GPA of 2.0 (undergraduates) or 3.0 (graduates) per semester.
  • Employee must have a full-time, benefits-eligible status.
  • Employee must have worked for TAMIU in a full-time position for the 6 months prior to the 12th class day, if applying for Fall or Spring semesters, and the 4th class day, if applying for the Summer Sessions.
To check the status of your application or if you have questions about the EEAP, please contact Gracy Buentello via email or at ext. 2365.

Benefit Booklets and Brochures Have Been Revised

The TAMUS Human Resources Office has updated many of the brochures and "summary plan description" booklets (SPD's) on the System Human Resources website (see below). If you have questions about your benefits, please contact Jessica Palacios (ext. 2362) or Cassandra Wheeler (ext. 2363).

The following updated materials are now available online:


Spending Account Participants With Direct Deposit Reimbursements Will Receive "Non-Negotiable Check"

Tax Saver Spending Account participants who requested that their reimbursements be deposited directly into their checking accounts will still receive check stubs, and attached to each check stub will be a piece of paper resembling a reimbursement check.  However, this is not a check and  has no cash value.  These checks will have the words "non-negotiable" printed in the signature space and "direct deposit advice" printed at the bottom.

Please contact Jessica Palacios (ext. 2362) or Cassandra Wheeler (ext. 2363) if you have any questions.


Spending Account Participants Can Now Purchase Over-the-Counter Drugs Using Their Care Spending Accounts

The U.S. Treasury Department and the IRS recently announced that certain over-the-counter drugs can be purchased with pre-tax dollars through health care flexible spending accounts. Although many questions regarding this change remain, what is known is  that Health Care Spending Account funds can now be used to purchase over-the-counter allergy medicines, pain relievers, and cold medicines, but not vitamins nor dietary supplements. For a listing of approved over-the-counter expenses, please visit the Tax Saver website at  http://www.taxsaverplan.com/ocdrugs.html .


Employees/Retirees Must Update Home Addresses with the A&M System


Large quantities of employee/retiree benefit-related mail have been returned to System Human Resources because of incorrect home/mailing addresses. Please help us keep your records current by updating your home/mailing address on HRConnect. Simply select the PERSONAL DATA tab and click on "Edit/Update My Personal Information."


BCBSTX Website Updated


BlueCross/BlueShield of Texas has redesigned its web site (www.bcbstx.com). Site enhancements include a "News & Updates" column and quick access to "Blue Access for Members," where plan participants can view their personal health plan information.

In addition,  the BCBSTX' customer service telephone number for A&M Care participants has changed from 1-800-521-2227 to 1-866-295-1212.


Highlights from SEBAC Meeting on 9/30/03

The System Employees Benefits Advisory Committee (SEBAC) met on September 30, 2003 in College Station.  Representing TAMIU at the meeting were Elizabeth N. Martinez, Associate VP for Administration, and Jessica Palacios, HR Benefits Manager.

Highlights from this meeting can be viewed at http://sago.tamu.edu/shro/sebac9-03.pdf.

The next SEBAC meeting will be held on Tuesday, February 17, 2004.  As a reminder, all employees and retirees wishing to share comments and concerns about employee benefits can call the HR Office at ext 2365.


Welcome, New Employees!!
  Joe A. Valdez, Media Production Specialist
Educational Technology & Outreach
WHTC 213A ext. 2793
  Graciela Huerta, Half-Time CDC Coordinator
Dept. of Special Populations
BCH 102 ext. 2926
  Cristine M. Miller, ILI Teacher
International Programs (ILI)
PH 302I ext. 2726
  Diana E. Rodriguez, Half-Time ACP Coordinator
Dept. of Special Populations
KL 321A ext. 2687
  Ana P. Clamont, Publications Design Coordinator
Public Affairs & Information Services
KL 268 ext. 2182
  Eduardo X. Garcia, Publications Design Assistant
Public Affairs & Information Services
KL 268 ext. 2185
  Luz M. Contreras, Staff Assistant
Office of Special Programs (GEAR-UP)
SC 118 ext. 2700

Marta L. Medina, Accounting Assistant (Accounts Payable) Business Office

KL 169 ext. 2157

  Cynthia V. Flores
BCH 104 ext. 2421
  FROM: Half-Time CDC Coordinator, Dept. of Special Populations    
  TO: CDC Coordinator, Dept. of Special Populations    
  Patricia Canseco KL 262 ext. 2171
  FROM: Project Coordinator, TCBEED    
  TO: Director of Alumni Relations, Institutional Advancement    

  Rosa E. Coronado
Publications Design Assistant, Public Affairs & Information Services
  Roberto Herrera
Police Officer, University Police Department
  Maria G. Gonzalez
Accounting Assistant (Accounts Payable), Business Office

Let's Review Time Card Rules

By following these instructions, you will assist the Office of Human Resources and the Payroll Office in expeditiously processing timecards and accurately maintaining your records. For questions related to timecards and leave requests, please contact Xochitl Kladis via e-mail or at ext. 2364.

Timecards Must Be Maintained Daily
To avoid errors, we suggest timecard entries be made daily. To correct an error, draw a line through the error, enter the correction, and initial the change. Timecards must be completed in ink, and correcting fluid should never be used.

Timecards Must Be Totaled
All hours (hours worked, hours paid, coded hours, OCT, SCT) must be totaled and entered in appropriate sections. Also, OCT and SCT balances must be carried forward onto your new timecard.

Timecards and Leave Requests Must Match
If your timecard indicates time off for any reason, a corresponding leave request should be submitted via LeaveTraq prior to taking leave or immediately upon return from leave. Do not wait to submit your leave request until you submit your timecard.

Timecards Must Be Signed
Timecards must be signed by the supervisor and the employee prior to submitting to the Payroll Office.

Timecards Must Be Turned In On Time
Timecards for full-time and part-time classified staff, as well as student workers and workstudies, are due in the Payroll Office, KL 159, by 12:00 NOON on the due date. The Payroll Office has furnished supervisors with a red inter-office envelope to submit timecards and the HPPR (Hourly Payroll Preparation Report). For a schedule of the bi-weekly pay periods that includes due dates for timecards and HPPR's, call the Payroll Office at ext. 2376.


Updating Your HR File When You Get Married

It is important that personal data in HR records are always up-to-date as such data is tied to the benefits of the employee and eligible dependents. In the case of marriage, personal data must be updated immediately. The following is a helpful checklist of items to take care of in the Office of Human Resources when there is a "Family Status Change" due to marriage:

• Notify your local SS Administration Office of any name change. Name changes cannot be made in HR without official documentation from the SS Administration.

• Within 60 days of marriage, notify HR if you plan to make any changes to your health, dental, or optional coverages.

• You may want to update your beneficiary(ies) designations under the following optional coverages and retirement plans: Basic Life, Optional Life Insurance, Accidental Death & Dismemberment, Teachers Retirement System, and Optional Retirement Program.

• Complete a new W-4 Form to change your tax withholding status and to record any name change.

• Complete an "Employee Personal Data" form to update HR records with a name change, address change, telephone number change, etc.
• Complete a "Request for ID Card(s)" form if you wish to obtain an ID Card for an eligible dependent.


Military Leave

The Texas A&M University System supports its employees' service in state or national military units and provides military leave to eligible employees. Below is an overview of the types of military leave available; however, more detailed information can be found in the System online brochure called "A Call To Arms: A Guide to Military Leave." If you have questions or need assistance with military leave, please contact Xochitl Kladis, HR Assistant, by e-mail or at ext. 2364.

Paid Leave for Training and Duty:
You are entitled to 15 work days of paid military leave each federal fiscal year (October 1 through September 30). This leave may be used when you are engaged in National Guard or U.S. armed forces reserves training or duty ordered or approved by proper authority. The days may be consecutive or scattered throughout the year. If you are appointed to work less than 12 months each year, you are expected to arrange your military duty for the months when you are not scheduled to work. If this cannot be done, you must explain the reason(s) in your leave request. To cover monthly training obligations without using your 15 days of paid leave, your work schedule will be adjusted, whenever possible, so that 2 of your non-work days each month coincide with 2 days of military duty.

Paid Leave for Emergency Military Duty:
If you are a member of the National Guard and are called to active duty by the Governor of Texas because of an emergency, you will receive leave with pay. This leave will not be charged against your 15 days of military leave.

Unpaid Leave for Authorized Military Training or Duty:
After using the 15 days of paid military leave, you may use accrued vacation or be placed on leave without pay for up to 5 cumulative years.


Conducting Interviews and Checking References

As supervisor/interviewer for your department, you have the critical responsibility of selecting the best-qualified candidates for vacancies in your department, while adhering to all applicable laws and regulations. By implementing a proper pre-employment screening practice, you can increase the chances of selecting qualified, motivated, and dependable workers for your department. The following helpful tips for interviewing and checking references can guide you during your selection process. (You can also refer to the System online training called "Conducting Effective Interviews" which can be accessed via HRConnect under the TRAINING tab.)

When asking interview questions, consider three rules of thumb:
Ask only for information that you intend to use to make hiring decisions.
  2. Know how you will use the information to make that decision.

Recognize that it is difficult to defend the practice of seeking information that you do not use
Review the job description
  - Draft and agree upon the interview questions to be asked.
Review the candidate's resume/application.
  - Agree on the format of the interview.


Ensure that you know and can identify the indicators of the candidate's ability to perform the job.
  - Introduce committee members (if applicable).
  - Describe the format of the interview.
  - Ask open-ended informational, situational, and behavioral questions.
  - Let the applicant do most of the talking.
  - Keep the interview on track.
  - Observe non-verbal behavior.
  - Take notes.
  - Leave time for the candidate to ask questions.
  - Ask if you can check references and pursue references not listed on the resume.
  - Describe the remainder of the search process and the time it will take.
  - Thank the candidate for his or her time.
  - Evaluate the candidate.
  - Document the interview.
  - Check the same number of references for all candidates.
Ask if there is anyone you should not contact and why you should not contact this person.
  - Ask the candidate to notify individuals whom you will call for a reference.


Ensure that all references are individuals who have worked with the candidate in a professional capacity and who are not relatives or friends of the candidate.
  - Ensure that at least one reference is a former or current supervisor of the candidate.
  - Ask the candidate if he or she worked under any name other than the one given you.
  - Consult with the TAMIU HR Office if there is need to check credit reports, criminal records, and/or driving records.
  - Review (or seek) letters of recommendation.
  - Verify dates of employment, titles, and periods of time in each position.
  - Verify salary (if applicable).
  - Verify education and licenses.
  - Identify strengths and weaknesses.
  - Ask references how well the candidate works with others.
  - Obtain opinions about how the candidate would perform in your position.
  - Ask about the candidate's work ethic.
  - Ask why the candidate left the position in question.
  - Ask the candidate's former supervisor (if identified as a reference) or the HR office of the candidate's former employer if the candidate is eligible for rehire.
  - Document all reference-checking activities.

Unraveling the Mysteries of Overtime

The deadline for an important project is approaching, so you work a bit late one night. Does that mean you get compensated with extra time off (compensatory time)? It depends. Whether you are compensated depends on your job and how you are compensated is determined by state and federal law.

Under federal law, each job must be designated as "exempt" or "non-exempt" from federal overtime. Only those jobs designated as "non-exempt" are eligible for the 2 types of compensatory time, Overtime Compensatory Time (OCT) and Straight Compensatory Time (SCT). Your supervisor, the Office of Human Resources, or the latest Pay Plan can tell you if your position is "exempt" or "non-exempt."

OVERTIME COMPENSATORY TIME (OCT): Only jobs classified as "non-exempt" are eligible for OCT. OCT is release time (time off) that is earned from hours that are physically worked over 40 in a workweek. (For TAMIU, a workweek is Thursday through the following Wednesday.) As required by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), those excess hours physically worked over 40 must be calculated at time and a half (multiplied by 1.5). EXAMPLE: If you physically work 44 hours in a workweek, 4 hours are the excess over 40 and are calculated at time and a half (4 X 1.5 = 6). So, you accrue 6 hours of OCT.

In some cases, however, if you work more than 8 hours in one day, your supervisor may require you to work fewer hours another day in the same workweek in order to avoid the accumulation of OCT.

Employees may accumulate up to 240 hours of OCT, however, those in a public safety, emergency response, or seasonal job may accumulate up to 480 hours.

You keep your rights to your accumulated OCT until you use the time or are paid for it. When you leave employment, you will be paid for any remaining OCT, or, with your supervisor's approval, you may remain on the payroll to use it up.

STRAIGHT COMPENSATORY TIME (SCT): In some cases, "non-exempt" employees may be eligible for SCT. If the number of hours physically worked in a workweek are 40 or less, but the combined worked time and time off (i.e., vacation, sick leave, holiday, etc.) in the workweek total more than 40, you will receive SCT for the hours that exceeded 40 in that workweek. Furthermore, those SCT hours are not calculated at time and a half (in other words, for each hour of time in excess of 40, you will receive exactly one hour of SCT). EXAMPLE: If you physically work only 36 hours and are off for 8 hours of sick leave in a workweek, so that the combined worked time and time off total 44, then the excess over 40 are 4 hours. These 4 hours are accrued as SCT.

State law prohibits payment for SCT upon end of employment. However, under A&M System policy, you may remain on the payroll to use up your SCT.

USING OCT AND SCT: A "non-exempt" employee must always have permission from his/her supervisor before working overtime. And as is the case with all other requests for time off, an employee must have the supervisor's permission before using any accrued OCT and/or SCT.

If you should have any questions or need more information about OCT and/or SCT, please contact Xochitl Kladis by e-mail or at ext. 2364.


On the Web:
University Rules and System Policies/Regulations

The Texas A&M International University Rules and the Texas A&M University System Policies and Regulations are available on the world wide web for your reference. You can access them from the TAMIU Human Resources homepage by clicking on "System Policies & University Rules." The TAMUS Policies and Regulations site even offers a search feature to help you quickly find the item you need.

If you have questions concerning the University Rules and/or the System Policies and Regulations, please contact the Office of Human Resources at ext. 2365.


Attention International Employees

If your visa status changes or is about to change, please notify the Office of Human Resources immediately. A change in visa status requires updating your HR records (I-9 Form) and may affect your tax withholding rate (W-4 Form). If you have any questions regarding international employee issues, please contact Sandra V. Pena via e-mail or at ext. 2361.


Immigration Services

The HR Office provides immigration services and must be informed at least 5-6 months prior to the start of employment of any incoming faculty member who is a foreign national in need of the proper employment visa. Employment is contingent upon receipt of the appropriate visa, and the process to obtain certain visas can be lengthy. Please let us know if you have anyone needing assistance.

Also be reminded that ALL immigration requests, forms, petitions, documents, etc. must be routed through the HR Office, and that the President, Dr. Ray M Keck III, is the University's authorized endorser of immigration forms.

Beginning FY 2003-2004, the HR Office is contracting immigration services from TAMU-College Station (Office of International Faculty & Scholars Services or IFSS).  IFSS is providing counsel and services, however, the HR Office is still the first contact, acts as liaison between IFSS and the employee, and remains involved throughout all processes.

Should you need assistance or have questions regarding immigration issues, please contact Sandra V. Pena via email or at ext. 2361 .


Mug O' The Month
Dana Crabtree is the Program Coordinator for the Fine and Performing Arts Center. She joined TAMIU in September 2003.

Dana 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.

Who is This?  

The first person to email Cassandra Wheeler 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 Mr. Brendan Townsend, Assistant Professor/Director of the Laredo Philharmonic Society in the Department of Fine and Performing Arts. TAMIU employees who wish to submit their picture for the "Who is This?" section may contact Cassandra Wheeler via e-mail or at ext. 2363.



Why is it that the University staff are not given the opportunity to evaluate their directors, supervisors, etc?  It seems this would be a great idea since it would let them know how they are doing or if they need to improve on having a better relationship with their staff.

There is not a formal process for employees to evaluate supervisors, however, there are always avenues for communication.  The approach that most effectively minimizes employee relations difficulties is to maintain an open line of communication that is direct, professional, and factual.


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