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New Mexico State University

Employee Questions/Concerns

Do you have questions, concerns, or suggestions you would like Employee Counci to consider?  Send an email to empcouncil@nmsu.edu. You can remain anonymous if you prefer by indicating so in your email.

Submitted September 2011

An employee suggests that policies be put in place for NMSU on-line job postings related to the following:

1. A job gets posted online with a date when review of applicants will begin
a. The review date passes and interviews either don't ever occur or months go by without applicants being provided an update. Applicants are sometimes never notified.
b. The posting remains online for months (possibly years) after the indicated review date and sometimes after someone has already been hired.

2. Salary ranges should also be posted
a. Applicants can assess if the salary will meet their needs prior to applying.

3. Applicants who make it to interview stage should receive a follow-up letter
a. Follow-up letters aren't always sent out and it makes the university as a whole loo
k unprofessional.

4. New postings mixed in with old postings
a. Make it easier to segregate out newer job postings -- the current system is archaic.
b. Potential applicants have to sort through the same old postings over and over.

 

HR Services is currently in the process of implementing an online applicant tracking system (PeopleAdmin) for regular exempt and nonexempt positions. This online system, scheduled to go-live next month will provide HRS with better controls to ensure a more efficient and consistent application process.

This system will allow applicants to apply online and to monitor the status of a posted position. The posting format will change and will include the pay level of the position, this level can then be cross referenced to the web to determine the appropriate salary range. Additionally, the system will automatically remove the posting from the web once a selection is made and provide an email notification to the applicants.

Initially, HRS is rolling out this system for regular exempt and nonexempt postings; however, we will evaluate the system to determine how it can be utilized for other types of hires, such as faculty, temp or student. Information regarding this system implementation is available online at http://hr.nmsu.edu/employment/pa.html.

Please let me know if you have any other questions.

Dorothy Anderson
NMSU HR Services

Submitted January 2011

I am a NMSU retiree, age 61, and I am writing to urge the Insurance Committee NOT to increase our deductible again. I realize that the increased deductible has actually resulted in lower rates; however a deductible of $500 for an individual, from a recent $250, is plenty. Please do not increase it again for next year as that will create a real hardship for many people.

The retiree health plan will remain as is through December 31, 2011 based on our current agreement with BCBSNM. Once the renewal information for 2012 is received by the insurance committee, the committee will discuss options. Most options revolve around the rate increase in premiums and if changes in plan design are needed to decrease the impact of those increases. We will keep your concerns as part of that review process.

Thank you for your input.

 René S. Yoder, SPHR
HR Services
New Mexico State University
Ph: 575-646-2047
Fx: 575-646-2806

Submitted May 2010 

In the minutes of the April 8th meeting, it is noted that SB91 was approved which delays the yearly contribution NMSU makes to the retirement plan. My question is; what impact did the passage of SB91 have on the retirement plan for NMSU employees?

This bill has to do with the employer contribution for the employee to the NMERB. The easiest way for me to explain this program is as follows:

When an employee contributes to the ERB from their paycheck, that money goes to the State into an account specifically for the employee. When the university sends their contribution on behalf of the employee to the State, that money goes into a general pool of money.

When an employee retires, the calculation for the benefit is not based on what the employee contributed, but a formula based on years of service and salary (average of the high five years of salary x years of service x 0.0235 = annual benefit). The monthly benefit is paid from the account set up specifically for the employee (employee contributions). As the benefit is a lifetime benefit, at some point that money is going to run out from the employee account. When that happens, the pool of money (employer contributions) picks up the benefit payment for the rest of the retiree's life and/or their beneficiary's life (if they chose a beneficiary pay out option).

By changing the contributions, on either the employee or employer side, the monthly retiree benefit is not impacted. What is impacted is the amount available in the employee account and the general pool and either delays the benefit to be paid from the general pool or not. The more money in the employee account, the longer the employee account funds the monthly benefit vs the general pool funding the monthly benefit.

If this does not make sense, please let me know.

René S. Yoder, SPHR
HR Services
New Mexico State University
Ph: 575-646-2047
Fx: 575-646-2806

 

Submitted May 2010 

I would like to bring the topic to the group of a reconsideration of the NMSU Tax Sheltered Annuity Plan Document. Complying with fed gov regulations,NMSU developed a plan document. The "plan document" committee (if there was one) made changes such as no longer allowing hardship withdrawals and loans.
These are optional details that each employer chooses to either allow or not with no mandates from the fed. gov. I opened my account because these options were available when I signed my contract in Oct 2008. Plan was then signed and approved in May 2009. I am told they are not honoring my original contract since the Plan is now in effect. I am in no position to lock away any money that cannot be available in a time of emergency and now two years of careful monthly investing is locked away untouchable less a job separation occurs or I age about 36 years....What about contract law???
NMSU benefits offers no resolution/answer. ING says it's NMSU.

I will attempt to explain why the 403b plans are structured as they are based on the regulation changes that went into effect on January 1, 2009.

Please keep in mind I am not a lawyer so I cannot respond to the question on the contract law, however I can tell you that all "contracts" signed with the vendors are subject to IRS regulations and the plan design for the employer. I don't know that the contract the employee signed specifically stated that loans were available and if so, she needs to contact the vendor about the change in the contract with the change in the plan January 1, 2009.

The new regulations that went into effect on January 1, 2009 changed the responsibility of tracking and reporting withdrawals and loans for compliance and tax reporting from the vendor to the plan sponsor. In essence, the new IRS requirements placed significant responsibilities and burdens on plan sponsors both in terms of complexity and administration. Plan sponsors that operate their 403(b) plans in a multi-vendor environment (as NMSU does) are now responsible for ensuring loans do not exceed the prescribed limits among ALL CURRENT and PAST PROVIDERS and that hardship withdrawals are monitored and elective deferrals are suspended in the event a hardship distribution occurs, regardless if taken from a past or current provider. Lack of information sharing among all providers and increased administrative requirements from the plan sponsor influenced the safest path to compliance with regards to loans and hardships would be to eliminate certain plan features. Plan sponsors that fail to comply with the specified rules both in form and operation as adopted in the Plan Document would be subject to financial penalties and possible plan termination - ultimately, it's possible all participants under the plan could have 100% their contributions and earnings subject to taxation in the event the plan sponsor did not comply with the rules of their own plan.
Bottom line: As a result of the new regulations, many plan sponsors (NMSU included) elected to eliminate certain plan provisions, such as loans and hardships, knowing they would not be able to ensure compliance with the new regulations. As part of our benefits review over the next 12-18 months, the Benefit Services department will be reviewing this benefit to determine if we can partner with vendors to expand our 403b options in the future. I cannot guarantee loans and hardship withdrawals will be reinstated as plan options at this point, but it can be reviewed.

René S. Yoder, SPHR
HR Services
New Mexico State University
Ph: 575-646-2047
Fx: 575-646-2806

 

Submitted January 2010 

If I were approved by my immediate supervisor to come in to work an hour early daily in order for me to accumulate hours to use when needed because of a negative or near negative leave balance, annual and sick,...in order to build up my leave...is this at the discretion of the employee and the immediate supervisor?

Does someone other than my supervisor have the authority to mandate I "prove" that my hours were worked and dates they were used?  These hours are not put on banner as used annual, sick, or comp time.  A spreadsheet is used between me and my supervisor to track time accumulated and used.  Please advise.  Thank you.

Without knowing for sure if this employee is exempt or non-exempt, it is difficult to give a specific answer.  Exempt employees cannot accumulate "comp" time. They are paid a salary based on their FTE status. Any hours over or under that time are included in the salary pay with no overtime paid. Employees can be required to use annual leave or sick leave if they are working less than their FTE status. Policy also allows departments to have flexible time for exempt employees (Policy 7.20).

Excerpt from Policy 7.20
Exempt employees who ordinarily work more than 40 hours a week may be given flexibility in reporting leave of one-half day or less.

Non-exempt employees are entitled to overtime for any hours worked over 40 hours in any given work week. Non-exempt employee can elect to receive this overtime as paid time or comp time. They have an opportunity once per year to change this election for the next year. All comp time is automatically paid each July if not used.

The other issue of negative leave is not allowed. The exception is that for exempt employees we are required to pay a full day's salary if the employee does not have enough leave to cover that day, prior to being placed on leave without pay. For example: An exempt employee has 30 hours of annual leave and takes 5 days off. The employee would get paid for 32 hours (8x4) of annual leave and go into the negative for 2 hours. The employee would then need to be placed on leave without pay for 8 hours for the 5th day.

Excerpt from Policy 7.20
Exempt employees may only accrue leave based upon their designated FTE regardless of the number of hours worked, and may not be placed on leave without pay for less than 8 hours in a work day (except when the Family Medical Leave Act applies).

Non-exempt employees should not be submitting time for leave they do not have available to use. If a non-exempt employee only has 4 hours of leave available and wants to take 8 hours off, they would simply enter 4 hours of annual leave and leave 4 hours blank. If the non-exempt employee is going to be out for more than 1 day and does not have leave available, the department should place the employee on a leave without pay until their return.

Banner is the official time keeping system for NMSU. Departments should not be tracking or accumulating hours in an external system unless approved by the university administration. All time used must be entered in Banner, regardless of external systems approved for use.

I hope this answers your question. Please let me know if you need further details.

René S. Yoder, SPHR
HR Services
New Mexico State University

Submitted May 2009

Since retiree's are provided the opportunity to continue health insurance coverage why can't we (retiree's) have the same opportunity to be covered under the delta dental plan just like the regular employees? Could you see if the university would be able to include retirees on their delta dental plan?

This is an issue that has come up in the past for retirees. We spoke with Rene Yoder from NMSU HR Services and she provided the following information:

"The retiree health insurance is a private contract directly with BCBSNM specifically for the retiree population. The active employees are part of the State of New Mexico medical and dental programs. The retiree program is completely separate and does not include dental. We have, in the past, looked into dental for retirees, however most dental plans require a minimum level of participation to guarantee rates and our retiree population is relatively small. It is difficult to find an affordable dental plan for small groups."
"If an employee has the dental plan when they retire, the state of New Mexico does offer the retiree COBRA coverage for up to 18 months at 102% of the cost of the plan."

NMSU HR Services has researched adding a dental plan for retirees but the cost of the plan is such that the majority of retirees would not be able to participate. In addition, there is normally an employer contribution required and given the state of current financial issues, it is highly unlikely that NMSU would even be able to implement such a plan.

Submitted August 2009

I would like the committee to consider asking NMSU to issue student ID's to persons who are also staff. Currently only one ID card is allowed. If you are both staff and a student you are not able to take advantage of student discounts around town because you cannot present a student ID. Even if you show a business a copy of your class schedule they still will not grant a discount because you do not have student ID-you only have staff ID. This does not seem equitable for staff members who are also furthering their education.

Your question was brought forward to the Employee Council for review. The council discussed the pros and cons of this issue. It was determined that additional funding would be required as student status would need to be determined and/or updated each semester/year and would require replacement ID cards when status changed. In addition, most employees who are students are utilizing the NMSU tuition remission benefit and thus do not pay student fees. Some benefits received by students such as free admittance to NMSU sporting events and the Activity Center are covered by student fees. An attempt to separate certain student benefits from others would be very complicated to administer.

As a result, as it was determined that the benefits of being an NMSU employee outweigh those of being a student and the costs to renew/replace ID cards is cost prohibitive, Employee Council declined to make a recommendation on this matter at this point in time.

Submitted December 2008

I was talking with another employee at noon and we were wondering about something that perhaps ACAP has dealt with before but we aren't aware of it. That is, has the university ever considered combining annual and sick leave into simply "leave"? It seems like abuses that can occur with sick leave would no longer be a problem. I think it would be simpler for employees to use leave for whatever needs they have, whether it's to recover from an illness or take a vacation. Most private businesses that I am aware of have this type of leave policy. Just an idea.

In response to your inquiry regarding the combining of sick and annual leave into a single leave category, this is an issue that ACAP, through the Fringe Benefits Committee, has reviewed a couple of different times over past few years. In each instance, the Fringe Benefits Committee has not recommended approval to ACAP. This is due to several factors which I will attempt to outline, however, if you have any questions or concerns regarding this response, don't hesitate to let me know and I will obtain further information for you directly from the Fringe Benefits Committee.

  1. Currently, sick and annual leave balances are accounted for differently for retirement purposes. Sick leave is currently not included in retirement calculations, however annual leave is. The impact on retirement would need to be investigated.
  2. Sick leave and annual leave are accrued for differently for accounting purposes.
  3. The fringe benefits committee has reviewed other institutions and companies and determined that NMSU leave amounts are very generous and are reluctant to request changes.

As I stated, these are the main reasons the fringe benefits committee outlined as justification for their reluctance to recommend changes to the leave policy. Below is the link to the Fringe Benefits Committee meeting minutes. I found some information about this issue also discussed in the minutes of February 2008.

http://www.nmsu.edu/empcouncil/fringe-benefits.html