900 Office Hours and Overtime

  1. Depending upon the location and needs of the department, Hearing Officers may work a variety of flexible schedules. Any schedule must be made with the approval of the Hearing Officer's immediate supervisor. Office hours may be changed but only with the supervisor's approval, and with the understanding that any such change will be implemented without disrupting the scheduling of hearings.
  2. All employees are expected to work their normal 40 hours per week or take approved leave. On occasion, overtime approved by supervision may be necessary. Employees will be notified any time overtime is required. No employees will be permitted to work over their scheduled 40 hours per week without prior supervisory approval subject to exceptions authorized in writing by the Chief of Appeals. Compliance with the provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is mandatory. Any violation of the agency's overtime policy may result in disciplinary action, including possible discharge.
  3. With the exception of supervisory personnel, all employees in the department are considered to be non-exempt employees for FLSA purposes. Any overtime worked will be compensated for by time and half pay or by time and half compensatory leave. Appeals Department Management will determine the method of overtime compensation to be applied. Any requests that overtime be compensated one way rather than the other must be submitted to an employee's immediate supervisor.
  4. For any week in which overtime has been worked, the time must be properly keyed and reported in Elvis and the TWC time tracking system.
  5. In times of high caseload, it may be necessary to require mandatory overtime. During weeks in which such overtime is required, Hearing Officers will be entitled to work and claim up to five hours of overtime as required by their assigned work, with no additional approval from supervision required. If a Hearing Officer requires more than five overtime hours to handle the workload assigned during an overtime week, additional overtime may be worked, and overtime credit earned, but only with prior supervisory approval. If a Hearing Officer stays current on all hearings and decisions, and does not require the full 45 hours to accomplish this in a given overtime week, the Hearing Officer cannot claim overtime beyond what was necessary and actually worked.
  6. If a hearing runs into the Hearing Officer's lunch period or runs past the time the Hearing Officer would customarily leave work for the day, the Hearing Officer may proceed to finish the hearing if the hearing can be concluded by occupying no more than half of the Hearing Officer's lunch period or by extending the hearing no later than one half hour past the Hearing Officer's normal departure time. These will be the only circumstances in which overtime may be earned without prior supervisory approval. Accounting for Hearing Officer overtime will take account of each Hearing Officer's particular, customary work hours. Under no circumstances absent prior supervisory approval should a Hearing Officer permit a hearing to run more than halfway into the Hearing Officer's lunch period or one half hour past the Hearing Officer's normal departure time.
  7. Whenever a hearing extends into a Hearing Officer's lunch period or beyond the Hearing Officer's customary quitting time, the Hearing Officer must report the matter to his or her immediate supervisor as soon as possible after the hearing. If possible, the Hearing Officer should account for such extra work time by leaving work early on some other day (most probably Friday) within the same workweek in order to assure that the Hearing Officer will not work more than 40 hours that week. The Hearing Officer's supervisor will have the authority to direct the Hearing Officer to take such an early departure in order to avoid overtime accrual. When this is done, the compensatory time off will be "straight" time; that is, time off exactly corresponding to the "extra" time already worked that same week. If the time cannot be taken off the same week, the Hearing Officer's immediate supervisor must be certain that the overtime is formally and accurately recorded.
  8. The only type of overtime which may be accrued in the Appeals Department without clear prior supervisory approval in the individual case will be extra time devoted to concluding a hearing, as discussed in preceding paragraphs. Employees working at home during their scheduled work hours will be considered to be "on premises". Any employee who engages in any work outside customary working hours without proper prior supervisory approval (subject to the exceptions noted here) will be subject to immediate disciplinary action, including possible dismissal, although they will be entitled to credit for any overtime worked in violation of policy. Furthermore, all Appeals Department employees must avoid any such work and unless authorized to work at home, refrain from taking any work materials home as our agency will adopt a policy of strict enforcement of the Wage and Hour Administration's understanding with our agency as to compensable overtime.
  9. Any Appeals Department personnel who are unable to report to work at their regularly scheduled time, should provide as much advance notice as possible, but no later than the scheduled report time absent some extremely compelling circumstance. Unless specifically authorized by your supervisor, notice must be given to your immediate supervisor, not a co-worker or non-supervisory personnel. If your supervisor is not available, you should provide notice to another supervisor who is available. A Hearing Officer calling to report absence should be prepared to notify the supervisor of the location of the folders for that day and any critical information regarding the hearings. The leaving of voice mail messages or sending of e-mails is not deemed proper notice of absence.

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901 Leave

  1. All employees accrue both vacation leave and sick leave each month. The amount of vacation leave accrual is based on longevity; sick leave is accrued at 8 hours per month for full time employees.
  2. Sick leave may be used as needed from the beginning of an employee's date of hire. Vacation leave may be requested only after an employee has had continuous state employment for 6 months.
  3. Compensatory leave that has been accrued may be taken at any time with prior supervisory approval.
  4. Requests for leave should be given to the employee's supervisor for approval as soon as possible. Because of the nature of the scheduling of hearings, Hearing Officers should provide approximately 3 weeks advance notice for any leave requests. If a hearing schedule has already been set, the leave request may be denied. Once scheduled, a Hearing Officer should give a compelling reason if requesting leave.
  5. The following will be the Appeals Department's general policy regarding vacation leave approval:
    1. There will be no limit to the number of employees who will be approved for vacation leave on the Wednesday prior to Thanksgiving and during the period from Christmas Eve through New Year's Day; however, it will be necessary to retain a skeleton crew (as defined by departmental supervision) on duty on any day which is not a state holiday. This last restriction will not apply to the smallest Appeals locations.
    2. Requests for vacation leave should not be submitted more than six months in advance.
    3. During any given week outside the holiday periods described in the 5(a) paragraph above, the Chief of Appeals will designate the maximum number of Hearing Officers statewide who will be approved for vacation leave; vacation leave approval decisions for other positions, including notice writers, will be made on a week to week basis as needed in light of the department's workload.
    4. All vacation leave requests must be filed initially with the requesting employee's immediate supervisor. This should be done as soon as possible as we will continue to generally follow the practice of "first come, first served" approval.
    5. Any employee who has had vacation leave approval for a specific period of time but who wishes, at the eleventh hour, to change their plans and report for duty will be permitted to do this only if adequate work can be assigned for the period in question. Otherwise, they may be compelled to remain in vacation leave status for that period. This situation may apply to Hearing Officers more than any other group.
    6. The Chief of Appeals has the authority to grant exceptions to any of the above.
    7. Appeals Department management has the authority to impose greater limitations as to any given period if needed or to amend any or all aspects of the above policy; any such changes will, however, take account of vacation leave already approved.
    8. Any hearing officer taking leave needs to make every effort to get all decisions finished before going on leave.

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902 Various Policies and Procedures

  1. While the Appeals Department does not have a formal written dress code, business/professional attire or dressy casual attire is appropriate. If a hearing should be conducted in-person, a business suit or similar attire is appropriate. Employees should refrain from excessively casual or unkempt attire. Jeans, tennis shoes, T-shirts, and shorts should not be considered for daily wear. On occasions, Appeals management may allow a "dress-down" day in which jeans, tennis shoes, and T-shirts may be worn. Any exception to the dress code must be approved by the Chief of Appeals.
  2. All Appeals Department personnel will have access to electronic mail through Outlook. Employees should check their E-Mail once or twice each day to pick up any messages they may have received. Hearing Officers should also use E-Mail to notify the scheduler in Austin of any postponements, continuances, or resets of cases. Employees are expected to comply with any supervisory directives sent to them by e-mail.
  3. Our agency's Administration has reiterated the importance of restricting our placing of long distance telephone calls to those required for business purposes only. This is particularly important in the Appeals Department as we are responsible for the largest volume of such business calls. Any placing of long distance calls for personal reasons are to be avoided; any such calls made inadvertently must be reported to the employee's immediate supervisor. Improper telephone usage, particularly where a pattern of such impropriety is indicated, may not only require restitution; it may also warrant disciplinary action including possible discharge.

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903 Agency Policies/Administrative Leave

  1. The Agency currently pays Texas State Bar Association annual dues for any actively licensed attorney working for the Agency. Any additional bar dues must be paid by the employee.
  2. State employees are exempt from paying occupational tax. If such tax was paid prior to beginning work with the agency, the tax may be prorated.
  3. State law provides that employees shall be allowed sufficient time off to vote in statewide elections, without deduction from pay or accrued leave. Such time will not exceed ONE hour and must be scheduled by each employee's immediate supervisor so as not to interfere with office operations. Employees not voting or voting outside regular office hours will not receive time off or compensatory time.
  4. Hearing Officers may be allowed to attend continuing education (CLE) during work hours if properly authorized in advance. As a general rule, the department does not pay the costs, such as registration, of the activity. Any requests must be submitted to the employee's immediate supervisor on an appeals departmental request form along with the agenda of the activity. It must be approved by the Chief of Appeals in advance.

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904 - Performance Appraisal Standards

  1. Section 904 of the Hearing Officer Handbook has been removed.

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905 Equipment/Supplies

  1. All Hearing Officers will receive their initial equipment from the Appeals Department's business manager in the state office or their Cost Center manager. For any additional equipment or replacement equipment, Hearing Officers should contact the business manager or Cost Center manager. Employees should maintain their equipment in good working condition. Other equipment should not be taken for use unless specifically authorized by the business manager or Cost Center manager.
  2. If a recorder or fax machine needs to be repaired, the business manager or Cost Center manager should be consulted to determine whether it should be repaired or placed.
  3. If a PC, monitor, or printer needs repair, notify the Help Desk of the Data Processing Department of the agency. The Appeals Department’s technical support person should be consulted first for assistance before calling in the repair. It is not necessary to contact the business manager. However, the supervisor should be advised of the problem so arrangements can be made to keep the Hearing Officer working until the repair is completed.
  4. Although recordings are now web based, each Hearing Officer needs to keep a supply of tapes for backup in case the internet is not available. Cassette tapes will be furnished by the State Office. Any tapes being reused should be erased prior to use. Due to the marginal quality of some tapes received by the state, Hearing Officers should always check the tape to ensure it is recording properly.
  5. While it is not required to shred all paperwork having to do with cases, Hearing Officers should shred any paperwork they are not keeping that has to do with their own personnel activities.
  6. When setting up a conference call for two or more parties, the Hearing Officer should use the web based recording system (Clear2There). Instructions on how to set up the conference may be obtained from a Hearing Officer's immediate supervisor or senior Hearing Officers.
  7. Because of occasional problems with the internet conferencing system, it is sometimes difficult to conduct some hearings. When it is evident that the inability to conduct a hearing is because of the internet conferencing system, the Hearing Officer should try to conduct the hearing by setting up a conference call using the SBC conferencing system.
  8. Any time there are problems with the conferencing system, the Hearing Officer should notify his or her immediate supervisor so that they may look into the matter. Depending upon the nature of the problem, the Hearing Officer will be given instructions on how to deal with the problem.

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906 Forms

  1. The weekly status report should reflect all assigned cases in which the hearing has been conducted, at least in part, but a dictated decision has not yet been delivered to clerical support for typing (or, in the case of a Stand-Alone Hearing Officer, a typed and signed decision has not been delivered to support staff for mailing). Examples include cases which have been continued for further testimony. A further example is a case which may have been heard in part but the Hearing Officer is awaiting receipt of documents from one of the parties with the intention of reopening the hearing. Yet another example would be a case in which the hearing was postponed and the Hearing Officer has retained the file awaiting reset. An undecided case should not simply be reported on the first weekly status report following the hearing; it should be reported on each succeeding weekly status report until the dictation or decision is delivered to support staff as described above. Stand-Alone Hearing Officers who work at home and mail their own decisions should record a case on their weekly status reports until a decision has been mailed.
  2. It is not necessary to list cases canceled due to Hearing Officer illness. The primary purposes of the weekly status report are to keep the Hearing Officer continually reminded of the cases that are pending and to give supervisors immediate information on developing backlogs.
  3. Whenever a Hearing Officer talks with parties or their representatives outside the scheduled hearing, he or she should complete a party contact form for the file. This most frequently occurs with subpoena requests and requests for postponements. Such information will be helpful if rulings on the issue of good cause to reopen must be made. Such information may also help a Hearing Officer if a party later files a complaint based on an alleged contact with the Hearing Officer. Hearing Officers can get party contact forms from their supervisor or a senior Hearing Officer.
  4. Leave should be requested in CHAPS prior to any requested leave. In the case of unanticipated sick leave, the leave should be keyed as soon as possible upon the employee's return. If leave carries over into a new month, a leave request should be keyed for each month. If leave is taken during the last five days of a month, the Hearing Officer's immediate supervisor should notify the business manager immediately, and the Hearing Officer key leave as quickly as possible. It may be necessary for the supervisor to key the leave if the employee is absent.
  5. Any time there are subpoenaed witnesses, the Hearing Officer will receive a Witness Certification with the file copy of the subpoena. For telephone hearings, the Hearing Officer should indicate whether witness(es) did or did not appear and immediately return the form to the business manager. The proper paperwork will then be forwarded to the witness(es) for completion. For in-person hearings, the Hearing Officer will receive, in addition to the Witness Certification, a Witness Allowance form and the Texas Application for Payee Identification Number form. These forms should be given to the witness(es) to complete and returned to the business manager. The Witness Certification should be returned to the business manager.
  6. Travel is infrequent within the department, but is required occasionally. The business manager should be contacted for assistance and guidance in making travel arrangements. All requests for airline tickets and rent cars must be made through the business manager.
  7. All state agencies are required to participate in the State Travel Management Program. Hotel reservations must be made with hotels which have contracted with the state. The Texas State Travel Directory, which is available on the Intranet, lists these hotels.
  8. After travel is completed, a State of Texas Travel Voucher must be filled out, signed and submitted to the business manager. The business manager will forward the voucher to the appropriate department for payment. Hearing Officers should contact the business manager for assistance in preparing their travel vouchers. Copies of any receipts, with the exception of food receipts, should be kept and submitted with travel vouchers. Airline receipts must be returned to the business manager within five days after travel is completed.
  9. With any hearing involving an interpreter, the Hearing Officer will receive an Interpreter Certification form. That form should be signed by the Hearing Officer if services were rendered, and returned to the business manager. (This may also be done electronically via E-mail.) If service was available but not rendered due to Hearing Officer illness or party not needing interpreter, a notation should be made on the certification and it should be returned to the business manager. If services were not rendered, a notation should be made on the certification and returned to the business manager. The form will be sent to the Hearing Officer prior to the hearing. If the form has not arrived or if there is any type of unusual situation involving the interpreter (i.e., the interpreter is not available, etc.), the Hearing Officer should notify the business manager as soon as possible.

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