6 Employee Benefits
The following section provides a summary of benefits as provided by the Texas A&M University System and Tarleton. Detailed descriptions of the benefits available for employees and their eligible dependents can be found at http://tamus.edu/offices/shro or by contacting your Employee Services representative at 254-968-9128 in Stephenville or 254-519-5457.
Participation in the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS) is a condition of employment for regular members of the faculty and staff of Tarleton State University. However, full-time faculty and certain nonclassified employees may elect to participate in the Optional Retirement Program (ORP) instead of TRS. A regular employee is defined as one budgeted for 50 percent time or more for 4 1/2 months or more. (see System Policy 31.02, Employee Insurance and Retirement Benefits)
Under TRS and current legislative guidelines, the University reduces a specified percent from the employee's gross earnings and pays this amount to the retirement system. Each September, a nominal membership fee is also deducted. The State of Texas also contributes a specified percent of the member's annual salary to the retirement system. Contributions are deposited to the credit of the individual in the state retirement fund. Interest is credited annually to the individual member's account. Employees may contact Employee Services for the current employee and state contribution percentage.
TRS provides three basic benefits to its participants: retirement benefits, disability benefits, and survivor and death benefits. Each of these benefits varies according to age, salary, and length of service. The formula used for computing retirement benefits depends on the employee’s years of TRS service and age on September 1, 2005; more information and benefit calculators can be found at http://www.trs.state.tx.us/global.jsp?page_id=/global/calculators.
A University employee who has made TRS deposits is entitled to a refund with interest of those deposits upon termination of employment or ineligibility for TRS membership. A form to request refund of deposits (TRS 6) is available at the Department of Employee Services. This form cannot be processed until the approved termination action is processed. Refunds are not made until the final deposit of the withdrawing member is received and posted to his or her account. Members may expect a 60-day wait after TRS receives the final deposit and application for refund before their refund is processed and mailed. If an employee is accepts reemployment in a position eligible for TRS membership before the refund is received, the refund must be returned to TRS. If the refund is made in error, TRS is required by law to secure the redeposit of the withdrawn account. Questions about TRS refunds should be directed to the Department of Employee Services. (see System Regulation 31.02.08, Teacher Retirement System of Texas)
All regular full-time faculty and certain nonclassified employees of the University appointed on or after May 1, 1969, and otherwise eligible may elect to participate in the Optional Retirement Program instead of TRS.
Under ORP, the University reduces in monthly installments a specified percent of the annual salary of each participant. The State of Texas also contributes a specified percent of the participant's annual salary. These funds are deposited to the credit of the participant with any system-authorized vendor designated by the participant. The deposits credited to a participant under ORP are used to produce benefits under a fixed and/or variable annuity plan. Employees may contact Employee Services for the current percentage of employee and state contributions.
Eligible personnel are allowed 90 days from the date of employment to elect participation in the Optional Retirement Program. If ORP participation is not elected on the first day of employment, the new employee automatically becomes a member of the Teacher Retirement System with the right to change to ORP within 90 days and apply for a refund of the TRS contribution. Any individual who is ORP eligible, but who declines to exercise this option until some time during the 90-day eligibility, will forfeit the contributions made by the State to TRS unless the individual (1) ceases to be employed by an institution of higher education; (2) drops below 100 percent FTE; or (3) becomes employed by the Texas Public School System other than in an institution of higher education. Any person not exercising the option to participate in the Optional Retirement Program during the applicable option period shall be determined to have chosen to continue membership in the Teacher Retirement System.
A University employee who has made any deposits under the Optional Retirement Program is entitled to a refund upon termination of employment. A form is completed by the Director of Employee Services, which authorizes the employee's ORP carrier to release the funds. If the employee is vested under ORP, both the employee's contribution and the State's contribution are released to the employee. If the employee is not vested, the ORP carrier is required to release only the employee's deposits, and the State's contributions must be returned to the University. The ORP vesting period is one year and one day, beginning when the employee elects to participate in ORP.
At termination, employees are urged to seek the assistance of their vendor representative(s) for advice on the disposition of their accumulated funds under ORP. (see System Regulation 31.02.09, Optional Retirement Program)
Employment with Tarleton State University is predicated at all times upon each individual's ability to perform satisfactory service in normal and expected assignments. Retirement from employment with Tarleton will occur when an employee (a) elects to retire under the provisions of the Teacher Retirement System or Optional Retirement Program; (b) elects to participate in the Texas A&M System's Early Retirement Program with Modified Service; or (c) sustains disabilities preventing continued active employment (as determined on a case-by-case basis).
Persons contemplating retirement under the Teacher Retirement System of Texas or the Optional Retirement Program should contact the Department of Employee Services at least 90 days in advance of their anticipated retirement date so that appropriate advance preparations can be completed. If advance preparations are not completed, the person's receipt of annuity payments could be delayed, with a consequent loss of benefit income, because retirement payments are not made retroactively.
The Department of Employee Services provides counseling to employees interested in obtaining an estimate of annuity payments or annuity value, furnishes information concerning employment after retirement, assists with completion of required forms and documents, and determines eligibility for continued coverage under life and medical insurance policies.
The Texas A&M University System program for Early Retirement with Modified Service (ER/MS) is designed to allow employees an option to retire from full-time service after age 55 and begin benefiting from retirement annuities while still contributing to the University through reduced-service employment. Full-time regular employees of the University may request participation in ER/MS at age 55 or thereafter if:
- they have credit for five or more years with the Teacher Retirement System of Texas, or five or more years of participation in the Optional Retirement Program, or five or more years of participation with a combination of TRS and ORP, and
- Under current policy, they would otherwise be eligible for continued employment.
Participation in the ER/MS program is not a right of employees and will be approved only when it can be shown to be in the best interests of the University. Reemployment in the ER/MS program after retirement involves a University commitment to employ the participant through a specific date, subject to normal rules for dismissal, after which date the University has no obligation to offer continued employment to the ER/MS participant. (see System Regulation 31.07.01, Retirement and Employment After Retirement for additional details)
At Tarleton, there is no mandatory retirement age, with the following exception: Employees who are in a bona fide executive or high policymaking position for the 2-year period immediately before retirement and who are entitled to an immediate nonforfeitable annual retirement benefit may be retired at the end of the fiscal year in which their 65th birthday occurs or anytime thereafter at the option of the Board. Additionally, the Chancellor may establish a mandatory retirement age standard for certain employment classifications where age is a bona fide occupational qualification. (see System Regulation 31.07, Retirement)
The State of Texas provides a monthly contribution for the eligible employee's basic life and health insurance coverage.
All budgeted employees are eligible to enroll themselves and their eligible dependents in one of several health insurance plans. Out-of-pocket premiums for those employees electing any type of family health coverage will be paid automatically, via payroll deduction, with pre-tax dollars unless the employee waives this procedure.
Budgeted employees are enrolled in the life insurance plan, which provides the employee with $5,000 of group life insurance and $5,000 of accidental death and dismemberment coverage. The state's monthly contribution may be used to pay for participation in this insurance plan.
Budgeted employees are eligible to purchase an additional amount of group term life insurance. The amount of coverage is based on the employee's salary. Employees may elect coverage from 1/2 to 6 times the annual salary, not to exceed a maximum of $1,000,000. Coverage of 5 or 6 times the annual salary requires evidence of insurability.
Term insurance for eligible dependents is available at group rates and offers two options. Option A provides coverage for the spouse equal to 50% of the employee's optional life insurance and for each child 10% of the employee’s optional life insurance. Option B provides $5,000 coverage for the spouse and each eligible dependent child.
Regular employees are eligible for this insurance, which provides a monthly income to an employee who becomes totally disabled through sickness or injury. The amount of monthly income provided will be 65% of the basic monthly salary the employee was earning at the onset of disability minus other disability benefits he/she is eligible for. The premium is based on the employee's current salary. For further information regarding this plan, contact the Department of Employee Services.
Budgeted employees are eligible to purchase AD&D insurance to provide coverage against certain types of dismemberment or death from any type of accident, on or off the job. The employee's family may be included on this policy. These benefits are payable in addition to any other coverage which may be in effect. Employees may purchase up to $250,000 of coverage in $10,000 increments, regardless of their annual budgeted salary. If an employee’s annual salary exceeds $25,000, he/she can buy up to 10 times the annual salary with a maximum coverage of $800,000. The coverage amount available to the employee's family is based on a percentage of the employee's amount of insurance.
Long-term care insurance is available to eligible employees or retirees, spouses, and parents of employees. Evidence of insurability is not required for the employee and spouse if elected within 31 days of the effective date of employment, but it is required for retirees and parents of employees to apply for coverage.
This plan provides benefits for medical and/or custodial care in a nursing facility, at home, or at an adult day care center due to severe illness or injury or chronic condition(s).
Section 125 of the Internal Revenue Code allows payment of certain qualified expenses (health care and dependent day care expenses) on a pre-tax basis. The tax-saver plan is a tax shelter. An employee may participate through a salary reduction agreement, which may be entered into once a year and must be renewed yearly for continued participation.
All University personnel are eligible to participate in the TDA program. This program allows any member of the faculty or staff to sign a salary reduction agreement in an amount to be determined by the employee, but not more than 100 percent of the employee’s salary. For those who elect to participate in the program, careful consideration must be given to the total contributions remitted on a tax-deferred basis under the Teacher Retirement System, the Optional Retirement Programs, or The Texa$aver Deferred Compensation Program. Calculation of the maximum exclusion allowance is the responsibility of the employee and the soliciting agent or company. Each faculty or staff member shall select, from a list of authorized companies available at the Department of Employee Services, the company from which his or her non-forfeitable annuity contracts will be purchased. For more information on the Tax-Deferred Annuity Program see http://tamus.edu/offices/shro/retirement/
The Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act (EGTRRA) made great enhancements to the Texa$aver Deferred Compensation Program. This program is voluntary and employees can participate in addition to their participation in other retirement plans such as the Teacher Retirement System of Texas, the Optional Retirement Program and the Tax-Deferred Annuity Program. For more information on the Deferred Compensation Program (Texa$aver), see www.texasaver.com or http://tamus.edu/offices/shro/retirement/.
Application cards and current information about purchasing savings bonds through payroll deduction are available in the Department of Employee Services.
Most employees of Tarleton State University are subject to the provisions of the federal Old Age Survivor Insurance under a special act of the legislature providing for contributions for employees of state agencies. Employees receive the same retirement, survivor, disability and death benefits as are provided by O.A.S.I. for any person participating in the Social Security program. The State of Texas pays a benefit replacement amount to offset a portion of the employee’s social security contribution, up to $16,500 maximum earnings per year. Employees hired on or after September 1, 1995, are not eligible for this benefit replacement amount.
Any employee desiring detailed information about Social Security contributions or benefits should call the nearest Social Security office.
Tarleton State University employees are covered by the Texas Unemployment Compensation Act. This coverage allows the University to offer its employees unemployment compensation benefits equivalent to those offered in industry. Any questions concerning unemployment compensation benefits and claims should be directed to the Department of Employee Services.
Employees who have less than a 12 month appointment may elect to have their salaries spread over 12 months. The Employee Services office can provide more information about the Extended Pay Plan.
All regular employees (except teaching faculty with less than 12-month budgeted appointments) shall earn vacation time. Vacation time is earned in proportion to the percentage of employment and longevity, with credit for prior state service. An employee must work six continuous months before being eligible to take vacation, and no payment is made if termination occurs before the end of six months. If an employee transfers directly to another state agency without a break in service, vacation time cannot be paid in a lump sum payment; it must be transferred to the receiving agency. At termination of university employment, the employee will receive a full lump sum payment for accrued vacation; or, if the department agrees, remain on the payroll for the period of his or her accrued vacation.
All regular employees receive System holidays. The holiday schedule is established each year by the Board of Regents. Employees who work on a scheduled holiday will be entitled to equivalent time off with pay to be taken during the 12-month period following the end of the work week in which the holiday occurred and on such day(s) as may be mutually agreed upon by the employee and his/her supervisor. Eligibility for holiday pay is normally predicated upon an employee being in a paid status the day before the holiday begins. An employee may use accrued vacation to observe Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Good Friday, or any other holy day. (A “religious holy day” means a holy day observed by a religion whose places of worship are exempt from property taxation.)
Regular employees (including faculty) who are budgeted for at least 50% FTE for 4-1/2 months and do not require student status as a condition for employment are entitled to sick leave with pay. Sick leave shall be earned by full-time employees at the rate of eight hours for each month or fraction of a month of employment. Eligible part-time employees accrue sick leave on a percentage basis for the time worked, e.g., half-time employees earn four hours per month. The rate of accrual does not change according to months of service. There is no maximum to the amount of sick leave an employee may accrue. There is no probationary period before sick leave can be used. It may be used the first month a person is employed.
An employee, who transfers directly from one state agency or institution to another or from one System Member to another, without a break in service, will be given credit by the receiving agency or institution for the unused balance of accumulated sick leave. On termination of employment, sick leave will not accrue nor be taken while employee remains on the payroll as an optional method of receiving pay for accumulated vacation.
Sick leave with pay may be taken when sickness, injury, or pregnancy and confinement prevent the employee’s performance of duty, or when the employee is needed to care for and assist a member of his/her immediate family who is actually ill. Immediate family is defined as those individuals related by kinship, adoption, or marriage, or foster children (so certified by the Department of Human Services) and are living in the same household.
An employee’s use of sick leave for family members not residing in that employee’s household is strictly limited to the time necessary to provide care and assistance to a child, parent or spouse of the employee that needs such care and assistance as a direct result of a documented medical condition.
Use of sick leave must be documented and reported as described in the Reporting Leave Requested/Taken section of this handbook.
Employees who are absent from duty because of illness will notify the supervisor of the fact at the earliest possible time. Upon return to duty, an employee will, without delay, report the reason for absence to the supervisor. This requirement also applies to all faculty members, even though no classes were missed, if the absence occurred during the normal workday for regular employees.
For absences of more than three continuous days, the employee must submit a physician’s statement indicating the cause or nature of the illness, its duration and the estimated date of recovery.
Malingering and other abuses of sick leave entitlement will constitute grounds for dismissal.
No lump-sum compensation for unused sick leave is authorized when employment is terminated for any reason other than death. An employee who is retiring under the Teacher Retirement System may be eligible to purchase one year of service credit if they have at least 400 hours of accumulated state sick leave. (See System Regulation 31.03.02, Sick Leave, and Tarleton Rule 31.03.02.T1, Sick Leave)
A sick leave pool has been established for all eligible employees who have exhausted their sick leave and vacation leave due to a catastrophic illness or injury which would otherwise force the employee to lose income from the state. For this purpose, a catastrophic illness or injury is a severe condition or combination of conditions affecting the mental or physical health of the employee or the immediate family and that requires the services of a licensed practitioner for a prolonged period of time in excess of 160 working hours. The maximum benefit is 1/3 of the pool balance or up to ninety working days.
Employees may contribute their sick leave to the Sick Leave Pool at any time. Contribution must be in 8 hour increments. See the Department of Employee Services for Sick Leave Pool Contribution forms.
To qualify for use of the sick leave pool, an employee must exhaust all leave - sick leave, vacation, and compensatory time - in order to request a withdrawal. There is no probationary period to be met prior to requesting hours from the pool. An employee does not have to contribute time to the sick leave pool to request a withdrawal.
An eligible employee may also use sick leave pool hours for an illness/injury other than that of a "catastrophic" nature if that individual has contributed to the sick leave pool and has exhausted his/her sick leave balance. Such an employee may receive no more than the total number of hours he/she contributed.
Pregnancy is not treated as a catastrophic illness except in cases where severe illness and prolonged complications arise with respect to either the mother or the child.
Under no circumstances can Sick Leave Pool be used for a workers' compensation related injury or disease.
Contact the Employee Services Department for exact information on requirements that must be met and documentation that is required as soon as there is an indication that an employee might have need of the sick leave pool. (See System Regulation 31.06.01, Sick Leave Pool Administration and Tarleton Rule 31.06.01.T1)
Tarleton provides Emergency Leaves of Absence with Pay in the event of the death of a family member or friend. For details on eligibility and amount of paid leave given, see Tarleton Rule 31.03.03.T1, Emergency Leaves of Absence with Pay. An emergency leave request form should be completed at the time of the leave and sent through for approval. If for some reason all or part of the time is not approved, this time must be charged to appropriate available leave. The leave form should follow the signature order at the bottom of the form. Staff must have signatures through the Vice President for Finance and Administration. The emergency leave form may be obtained through your Department Head, the Employee Services Department or on the internet at: /~hr/forms.htm.
Additionally, Tarleton provides emergency leave for the following:
- Unsafe Working or Travel Conditions
- Emergency Evacuation Order
- Other Circumstances as determined by the President of Tarleton State University
Emergency leave may not be used under any circumstances to replace workers compensation income benefits.
In the event an employee is called to jury duty service, the employee will receive regular compensation while serving. Part time employees will be paid for hours that would be considered part of their normal work day/week. An employee called to jury duty may keep any payment received from the appointed court in addition to regular compensation. In addition to reporting this time off, you must submit a statement to Employee Services from the Clerk of the Court specifying the date(s) and time(s) served, in order to be compensated for this time.
Leaves of absence are granted for military training and active duty. Long military leave is generally unpaid; however, if you are a member of the state military forces or Reserves, you will be granted paid leave for up to 15 days each federal fiscal year for military training or duty. You will also be entitled to emergency leave with pay if you are a member of the National Guard called to emergency active duty by the governor. If possible, you must notify your supervisor in advance of your need for military leave. Employees who take leave of absence for military duty should contact the Employee Services department for details and requirements associated with the military leave.
The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) requires the A&M System to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave each fiscal year to “eligible” employees for certain family and medical reasons. Employees are “eligible” if they have worked for the state for at least one year and for 1,250 hours over the previous 12 months.
Reasons for Taking Leave
If you are an eligible employee, you will be granted unpaid leave for one or more of the following reasons:
- for the care of your child immediately following birth or placement in your home; for adoption of foster care;
- for the care of your spouse, child or parent who has a serious health condition; or
- for a serious health condition that makes you unable to perform your job.
You must take all paid leave for which you are eligible before using unpaid leave. Any paid or unpaid leave you take for these reasons will count toward the 12 weeks of FMLA leave that you are allowed each fiscal year.
Advance Notice and Medical Certification
- You must provide advance Leave notice and medical certification. Ordinarily, you must provide 30 days advance notice when the leave is “foreseeable.”, or as soon as practicable.
- You must provide medical certification to support a request for leave because of your or a family member’s serious health condition.
- You must provide medical certification that you are able to return to work.
- You also must provide medical certification if you are unable to return from leave because of a serious health condition.
Intermittent or Reduced Leave
- You may take intermittent leave or may work a reduced hour schedule to reduce your usual number of hours per day or work week.
- Intermittent or reduced leave schedules are subject to your employer’s approval unless the schedules are medically necessary.
- Intermittent or reduced leave may only be taken for serious health conditions of the employee or immediate family member.
Job and Benefits Protection…
Upon return from FMLA leave, you will be restored to your original or an equivalent position with equivalent pay, benefits and other employment terms, unless you would not otherwise have been employed at that time, or you are considered a “key” employee under FMLA.
You will not lose any employment benefit that accrued before the start of an FMLA leave, except accrued leave used as part of the FMLA leave.
The use of unpaid FMLA leave will not affect your exempt status if you are a bona fide executive, administrative or professional employee under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Medical Insurance Coverage
For the duration of FMLA leave, the state will pay its contribution toward your health insurance coverage (or optional coverage, if applicable) under the conditions coverage would have been provided if you had continued working.
Employees who are not eligible for FMLA leave are entitled to a parental leave of absence without pay, not to exceed 12 weeks, for the birth of a natural child or the adoption or placement of a foster child younger than 3 years. This period begins with the date of birth or the first day the adoptive or foster child is formally placed in the home and expires 12 weeks later.
As with FMLA, employees must use any available vacation or sick leave as part of the parental leave. However, use of sick leave is strictly limited to situations clearly falling within the definition of sick leave. The employee must submit proof of adoption or placement of a foster child. Employees may continue to participate in insurance benefit plans, but once an employee goes on unpaid leave, he/she is responsible for payment of all insurance premiums. (See System Regulation 31.03.05, Family and Medical Leave Act)
After exhausting all accrued leave, including approved sick leave pool time, an employee, who is unable to return to work due to sickness, injury, or pregnancy and confinement, or is needed to care for an immediate family member who is actually ill, may submit a request for sick leave without pay. For eligibility and approval requirements, see System Regulation 31.03.02, Sick Leave, or call the Department of Employee Services.
The Texas A&M University System policies provide for various other leaves of absence, with and without pay. Please contact Employee Services to inquire about other leave provisions not mentioned in this handbook.
Time off is normally reported through the LeaveTraq system. LeaveTraq is accessed through the Single Sign On page (http://sso.tamu.edu) which can be accessed from the Tarleton Home page under Faculty and Staff. If LeaveTraq is unavailable to an employee, then contact theEmployee Services department for assistance.
Leave is reported in hourly increments. The number “2” indicates 2 hours, not two days; ½ (.5) indicates half an hour. Leave should be rounded off to the nearest quarter hour (e.g., .25, .5. .75).
If sick leave is for less than 3 continuous working days, a brief statement as to the reason must be recorded in LeaveTraq. If the sick leave is for more than 3 continuous working days, a doctor’s statement must be submitted to Human Resources. These same requirements are also applicable for dependent sick leave.
IF ANY TYPE OF LEAVE REQUESTED WILL CAUSE THE EMPLOYEE TO EXHAUST ALL AVAILABLE LEAVE AND GO INTO A LEAVE WITHOUT PAY STATUS, NOTIFY EMPLOYEE SERVICES IMMEDIATELY.
Jury duty, military training, fireman training, etc. all require documentation to be submitted to Employee Services.
Emergency Leave, Sick Leave Pool, Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and Leave Without Pay (LWOP) all require prior approval. Please contact Employee Services for documentation requirements.
Faculty members will upon return to duty report time off even though no classes were missed if the absence occurred during the normal workday for regular employees.
All employees of the University are covered by Workers' Compensation Insurance that follows the general laws of Texas regarding the benefits available to participants. Benefits include provisions for medicines, medical care, hospitalization, and surgery necessary for recovery from both disabling and non-disabling injuries sustained during the course of employment; compensation for time lost from employment; and specific benefits for death resulting from injury during the course of employment.
You must report any injuries you sustain on the job to your supervisor immediately even if your injury does not appear serious. All accidents must be reported within 30 days of occurrence. For more information see the Texas Department of Insurance Division of Workers’ Compensation web site at http://www.tdi.state.tx.us/wc/indexwc.html or contact the Department of Employee Services.
University employees enjoy various privileges, including educational and recreational opportunities. Seasonal schedules for various programs, concerts, and events are available from the appropriate facility or organization.
By prior arrangement with the head of the department and with approval of the administration, a budgeted full-time employee of the University may take as many as 4 semester hours of academic work each semester or 12-week summer session if such activities do not interfere with the schedule of regular employment. Time off from the regular work week to attend classes must be made up outside of normal duty hours, which may include the lunch hour. There is no limitation on the number of credit hours that may be taken when classes are held outside the regular hours of work. An employee may petition to enroll for more than the number of hours prescribed above and permission may be granted if it is determined to be beneficial to the University. Part-time employees may register for as many credit hours as their terms of employment will permit. They will be paid only for the hours worked and will obtain the consent of their supervisors in the arrangement of their classes if the work schedule will be influenced by the class schedule.
Faculty and staff members wishing to audit courses may do so if such activities do not interfere with the schedule of regular employment. Application to audit a course must be made through the Registrar's Office. Written consent from the instructor and the head of the department conducting the class is required prior to attendance.
Scholarships are available to regular employees and their family members. Contact the Scholarship Office at 968-9922 for further information.