PERSONNEL PRACTICES

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Employees

All employees of SCIRE are considered to have “Without Compensation” (WOC) appointments with the VA and must abide by federal rules prohibiting conflict of interest. At the time of hiring, proper paperwork must be completed to initiate the WOC appointment process. Currently, SCIRE employees are considered leased employees from TriNet Employee Leasing Corporation. TriNet coordinates health insurance plans, worker’s compensation coverage and unemployment insurance (risk management). SCIRE administration pays the fees for the payroll processing, a portion of the health insurance premium and risk management from the administration account. For a separate special check run, the PI will be charged the payroll processing fee assessed by TriNet.

Principal Investigators

While working on SCIRE funded work, PI’s will have an appointment as a Research Scientist.

Hiring an Employee

When a PI wishes to hire an employee a detailed job description must be prepared. Prior to a search or advertisement being made, SCIRE administration should be contacted for any names of current employees that may be facing termination due to loss of funding and would be suitable for the proposed position. Regardless of which employee is hired, either by referral or job placement ads, PI’s have the authority to determine the suitability of applicants for open positions, based on the applicant’s qualifications and experience.

Offer of Employment

Principal Investigators should coordinate any hiring of personnel with SCIRE Administration office. The Principal Investigator prepares a job description and cover memo and forwards them to SCIRE and an offer letter is sent by SCIRE to the prospective employee to ensure compliance with all guidelines. If the employment offer was made based on advertisement(s) and interviews with numerous individuals, copies of those interviews shall be kept in the investigator’s office in order to comply with Equal Employment Opportunity regulations.

Termination of Employment

As soon as an employee notifies the Principal Investigator that he/she will be leaving, SCIRE administration office must be notified.   California law requires that an employee must be paid on their last day of employment for all hours worked and any accrued vacation, if the employee has given the PI more than 72 hours notice that they are quitting. If the employee does not give advance notice, they must be paid within 72 hours of the last day worked for all hours worked and any accrued vacation.

In case the Principal Investigator desires to terminate the employment due to funding issues, please notify SCIRE administration.   Every effort will be made to find employment within SCIRE for that employee, based on experience and qualifications.

In case of performance issues, it is imperative that SCIRE be notified prior to disciplinary actions being taken. SCIRE realizes that the expenses of training can be considerable and every effort should be made to remediate the employee’s poor performance. In case this cannot be done, SCIRE administration must be notified so that the proper termination guidelines can be followed. In all cases of involuntary termination, the final check must be provided to the employee on the last day of employment.

Job Descriptions

Prior to an offer of employment, the job description and duties should be reviewed with the prospective employee. At any time during an employee’s employment, if the job duties change, a new job description must be prepared and the PI and the employee must review the new job description and both must agree to the new duties. A detailed, current job description is kept in the employee’s personnel file in SCIRE administration office. The most recently prepared job description must reflect the employee’s current duties. The yearly performance appraisal must be based on the current job description.

Pay Rates

SCIRE employees may only be paid one rate of pay, for doing similar work for more than one investigator.   Pay rates should be coordinated with SCIRE administration, prior to making an offer to a prospective employee. At the present time, a tentative standard pay rate schedule has been established for most classifications of employees.

Cost of Living Allowance

SCIRE employees are granted Cost of Living Allowance (COLA), but not locality payment, in conjunction with VA employees. The COLA is effective on January 1st and to be eligible, an employee must be on our employee data base prior to December 1st of the preceding year.

If an employee is not working at the time the COLA would become effective, due to worker’s compensation leave, leave of absence, disability or FMLA, the COLA increase will become effective on the first day the employee returns to work after January 1st.

Employee Benefits

SCIRE employees must work at least 30 hours per week (or 60 per biweekly pay period) to be eligible for employer provided health insurance coverage. The Principal Investigator must identify which account or research project will be charged for the salary and benefit charges, as they are earned. The Principal Investigator pays the majority of the employer’s share of health insurance coverage and SCIRE administrative account contributes a portion. Employees are responsible for the balance of the premium payment. Eligible employees may also chose optional dental and vision coverage; premiums for both plans are the full responsibility of the employee. If an eligible employee elects NOT to participate in the health insurance coverage, they may not be paid the premium money as an additional salary amount.

“Open Enrollment” is offered each year and any eligible employee has the option to sign up for health insurance coverage at that time. The PI may not discourage an employee from taking advantage of this benefit.

If an eligible employee who is covered by the employer insurance plan goes on “inactive status” for a maximum of three (3) months and is expected to return to eligible employment, the employee has the option to continue health insurance coverage. The employee will be responsible for the entire premium (employer portion and insured’s share) for those three (3) months. At the end of that period of time, the employee must return to eligible status or convert to COBRA option.

Family Medical Leave Act

SCIRE employees are covered by FMLA, for a maximum of twelve (12) weeks per year. It is the responsibility of the affected employee to complete the proper paperwork to initiate the process. While the employee is absent from work due to FMLA, the employer’s share of the health insurance premiums will be paid in the aforementioned ratios by PI and SCIRE. The employee will remain responsible for the employee portion of the health insurance premium.

Holiday Schedule

SCIRE employees are eligible for the same holidays as VA employees. At the beginning of the calendar year, a schedule of the holidays for the year is distributed to all employees. Employees who are normally scheduled to work on a holiday will be paid holiday pay from their usual funding source for that day, equal to the number of hours normally worked.

Vacation Accrual

SCIRE employees accrue 2 hours of vacation for every 40 hours worked, for the first 3 years of employment. Years 4 – 15, accrual is 3 hours of vacation for every 40 worked; years worked greater than 15 accrue 8 hours per 40 worked. The same investigator account charged for the salary is charged for vacation accrual at the time it is earned. When an employee voluntarily leaves, or has employment terminated, all accrued vacation is paid with the final check.

In case an employee’s employment with one investigator ends and the employee obtains employment with another investigator, all accrued vacation will be paid to the employee prior to transferring to the new investigator.

An employee may accrue a maximum of 240 hours.

Sick Time Accrual

SCIRE employees accrue 2 hours of sick leave for every 40 hours worked, for the first 3 years of employment. Years 4 – 15, accrual is 3 hours of sick leave for every 40 worked; years greater than 15, accrue 4 hours per 40 worked. Upon termination of employment, either voluntary or involuntary, accrued sick time is not paid to the employee.

Sick time is to be used for illness of the employee or the employee’s immediate family, if necessary, doctor and dental appointments of employee or his/her immediate family. It is not intended to be used in lieu of vacation for personal time off.

If an employee misses work due to illness for 3 or more consecutive days, they must bring a physician’s release to return to work. If they come to work without this, they will be sent home pending receipt of the release. This is to ensure returning to work will not jeopardize the employee’s health.

In order not to penalize current employees, it is recommended that an employee that changes assignment from one investigator to another be allowed to take forty (40) hours of accrued sick time to their new position. The final decision regarding this policy is determined by the investigator that the employee will be working for.

An employee may accrue a maximum of 240 hours.

Bereavement Absence

In the unfortunate case of a death of a relative, SCIRE acknowledges that an employee may need time off work to arrange for funerals, etc. We follow the VA policy and allow 3 (three) days of sick leave in each instance.

Flexible Spending Account

All eligible employees may designate pre-tax dollars be deposited into a Flexible Spending account to be used for health expenses not covered by insurance (i.e. deductible, co-payments) or child care expenses. Forms necessary for reimbursement to the employee are available on-line from TriNet or from SCIRE Administration.

It is imperative that the employee carefully consider what amount of funding they anticipate they will need for the year. TriNet imposes a $200 (two hundred dollars) minimum and a $4800 (four thousand, eight hundred dollars) maximum, per employee per year. Any money deposited into this account and not expended by the end of the funding year (Jul- Jun) will be retained by TriNet and is not returned to the employee.

Performance Appraisals

Performance appraisals should be done at least once per year for each employee. It should be based on the most recent, clearly defined job description. A copy of the appraisal should be kept in the employee’s permanent file in the SCIRE Administration Office.

Pay Increases

Pay increases should only be given based on an increase in employee duties or at the time of performance evaluations. The following scale is recommended:

0% increase     –           Overall unacceptable

3.5% increase  –           Meets expectations

7% increase     –           Highly successful

10% increase   –           Outstanding

It is expected that an employee who receives an “Overall unacceptable” rating will receive remedial counseling in an effort to improve performance.

Bonuses

Upon extraordinary efforts, a PI may desire to award a SCIRE employee a bonus award. The bonus may not exceed 5% of the annual gross wages in each fiscal year. A detailed justification is to be attached to the request. The bonus should be based on merit and be equitable for all affected employees. The Executive Director must approve the award. The bonus is paid in the normal paycheck cycle, unless the PI requests, and pays for, a special check run. The Medical Center Director has a mechanism to pay Special Contribution Awards or Performance Awards to VA employees.

Reporting Time Worked

Timesheets, indicating approval of the number of hours reported as worked, must be signed by a VA employee that directly supervises a SCIRE employee and are due every two (2) weeks. Full-time VA employees are paid at one and one-half times of their hourly VA rate for work performed on SCIRE projects.   If an employee works less than full-time for the VA, their hourly rate at SCIRE will be equal to their VA hourly rate. Once an employee works a total of forty (40) hours a week, over-time at one and one-half pay rate will apply to those hours in excess of forty. VA employees must complete a timesheet that shows the VA tour of duty in addition to the hours worked on SCIRE sponsored projects.

All employees must report which project(s) they worked on by specifying the number of hours worked on each project per reporting period. This should add up to 100% level of effort for SCIRE funded projects.

Overtime

California law requires that employees be paid time and one-half for any hours worked over eight (8) per day or over forty (40) per week.

“Comp Time”

California law does not recognize “comp time”.

Jury Duty

Employees will be allowed a reasonable amount of paid time off to serve their civic responsibility on jury duty. Employees who receive a summons to jury duty must notify their supervisor immediately.

If an employee serves on jury duty, on a normally scheduled work day, they will be paid their regular rate of pay for a maximum of two weeks from the date stated on the official jury summons. The employee is expected to report to work if they are excused from jury duty during regularly scheduled work hours. Jury duty time is nonproductive time and is not counted for purposes of overtime calculation.

401k Plan

All employees are eligible to participate in the 401k plan, effective immediately. Currently, there is no employer matching of any amount designated by participating employees. All costs, such as administration fees, testing fees, yearly reporting fees, are paid from SCIRE administrative funds. Employees may contribute to a maximum of 20% (twenty percent) of pre-tax earnings not to exceed a maximum amount per year as determined by the federal government.

Information regarding the 401k plan is provided to all new employees and they are automatically enrolled at 3% of pre-tax dollars. An employee has the option of leaving or joining the plan at any time. Employees may also increase their contributions, to the maximum allowable by law, in December to contribute up to 20% of the wages earned during the year.

Upon leaving the employ of SCIRE, an employee has three options regarding the funds:

  • Request the money in the account be paid to the employee and incur a 10% penalty, if the employee is not of retirement age
  • Request that the money be “rolled over” to another approved tax-deferred plan, such as an IRA administered by a bank or stock broker.
  • Retain the funds in SCIRE 401(k) plan, provided the amount paid into the plan exceeds $5,000 (five thousand dollars).

If the employee does not designate one of the choices listed above within 30 days of termination, SCIRE will automatically chose option #1.

Consultants

A person may be hired as a consultant provided the work meets federal guidelines. A consultant packet must be completed by the Principal Investigator and the Contractor. The relationship must be approved by the Executive Director prior to any payment being made for services. A 1099 form is sent to the Contractor at year end, if funds received are in excess of $600.

For a person that is expected to perform a task repeatedly, an employer-employee relationship exists and the person should be placed on employee status.

IPA’s

Intergovernmental Personnel Act agreements may be established with the VA. At the time of initial employment, SCIRE Administration must be informed if it is the intention that the employee will be placed on an IPA after the initial 90 days. Payroll and job description data must be provided to the VA by the Principal Investigator for completion of the forms. It is the responsibility of the Principal Investigator to provide the VA adequate time to prepare the agreement so it can become effective on the 91st (ninety first) day of employment. SCIRE will be responsible for the preparation of monthly invoices to the VA for expenses incurred.

Nepotism

SCIRE follows the VA rules regarding the hiring of relatives to work under the supervision of a Principal Investigator. The definition of relative includes, but is not limited to, father, mother, son, daughter, uncle, aunt, cousin, spouses and children of those listed. If a suitable candidate cannot be found, other than a relative, an application for exception to the rule may be made for the Board’s consideration. The request must include the unique qualifications of the relative and what efforts were made to find someone else for the position, such as placement of ads and announcements at scientific meetings.

In no instance, can payment to a relative be considered “excessive” nor higher than would normally be paid to another individual with the same qualifications. Every effort should be made to avoid the impression of favoritism towards the relative in contrast to other employees.