High standards, ethical conduct, integrity, high moral character, compliance... what is this all about? Quite simply, it's all about you knowing the right thing and doing the right thing every day! We strive for a workplace culture where ethical behavior is expected of and modeled by every employee, and concerns are voiced regarding unethical behavior or incidents of non compliance with applicable laws, policies, rules or regulations. Each employee has a personal obligation to report any activity that appears to violate laws, policies, rules and regulations. Obviously, every situation cannot be addressed in this guide, however, the topics below are areas where problems frequently arise.
Employee Compliance Guide
The purpose of the Employee Compliance Guide ("Guide") is to emphasize the need for and the responsibility of all employees of University of Houston-Clear Lake to be aware of and perform their duties and responsibilities in compliance with all applicable:
- Federal and state laws,
- Local rules and regulations,
- Policies of the Board of Regents of the University of Houston System; and the
- Policies and procedures of UH-Clear Lake.
"Employees of UHCL" includes all officers, administrators, faculty, classified and non-classified staff, professional personnel, and student employees.
UHCL recognizes the important role of the media in the fulfillment of our mission. Faculty and staff are encouraged to interact with the news media regarding their areas of expertise. The Office of Communications is officially designated as the university liaison with all news media and is responsible for planning, coordinating, and executing a program of media relations for the university.
Media Representative Contact
When contacted or approached by a representative of the news media regarding an official matter internal to the university, or a matter of institutional policy, UHCL employees should immediately notify the Office of Communications at 281-283-2015. If a news photographer or reporter is observed on campus, immediately notify the Office of Communications.
Media News Releases
Faculty, staff, and students should submit items with potential for attracting attention from the news media to the Office of Communications at least three weeks in advance of events and activities. More lead time may be necessary, depending on the nature of the item and the media outlets that are targeted (i.e., monthly publications).
Question: "I am employed in the _______ office at UHCL. A local newspaper reporter called to ask me about _______. How should I answer the reporter's questions?"
Answer: "To ensure the accuracy of information provided to the news media, the Office of Communications at 281-283-2015 should be consulted concerning answers to the reporter's questions, particularly when reporters are seeking information on university policy, an official university statement on an issue, or updates during times of crisis."
With due consideration given to the legal rights of UHCL and its employees, UHCL expects to cooperate in government investigations.
If a subpoena, other legal document, or inquiry from an external governmental agency related to UHCL business is received by an employee, whether at home or in the workplace, the employee is obligated to notify their supervisor immediately.
If contacted at home by an external governmental agent, without search warrant or subpoena, concerning business of UHCL or a component institution, the employee should request that the agent make such contact at work the next business day, and immediately contact his or her supervisor, followed by the Vice President of Administration and Finance.
Question: Last evening, while having dinner with my family, the doorbell rang. The person at the door identified herself as an FBI agent and wanted to talk to me about my work at UHCL. Should I have spoken to her?"
Answer: You are not required to speak with the agent at your home. UHCL does not prevent you from talking to the agent; however, to protect yourself and UHCL, you may ask the FBI agent to contact you at your office. You should notify your supervisor and the Office of the Vice President of Administration and Finance at 281-283-2100.
Question: A government agency just came to our facility to conduct an inspection. I'm not sure what they are interested in. What should I do?
Answer: Even if you understand the purpose of the inspection and you believe everything is in order, explain to the individual that you need to contact the university's Office of Risk Management. Excuse yourself and contact the Office of Risk Management at 281-283-2106.
Unless specifically exempted from or made confidential by law, all documents generated in the regular course of business by UHCL are available to the public under the terms and conditions of the Texas Public Information Act. Generally, documentation that is exempted from disclosure includes:
- Certain Personnel Data
- Student Information
- Patient Information
- Financial Data
- Marketing Strategies
- Supplier Information
- Subcontractor Information
- Proprietary Computer Software
Faculty should be aware that classroom records and student grades are considered confidential and should not be disclosed without permission.
Written requests for documents should be submitted under the Texas Public Information Act.
Question: My neighbor is working on an industry study and has requested student records. Is he allowed to have this?
Answer: No. Student records are to be used for university business only, unless otherwise specified under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. We are responsible for protecting the confidentiality of student information from interested third parties as well as from staff who have no "business" reason for such information. Students are entitled to expect confidentiality and the protection of their privacy. The release of information must always be only to authorized parties and always in accordance with applicable laws.
Accuracy of Records
Employees of UHCL are required to maintain the integrity and accuracy of business documents and records for which they are responsible. No one may alter or falsify information on any record or document. This includes staff accurately completing timesheets indicating hours of work and hours of absence from work, with appropriate reasons.
Question: My supervisor has asked me to change the date on a receipt so that we can be reimbursed. Am I allowed to do that?
Answer: No. Once a document has been completed it may not be altered. An addendum may be made but the receipt should not be changed and the addendum must be dated with the date it is written.
Retention and Disposal of Records
UHCL recognizes the need for orderly management and retrieval of all official records and a documented records retention and destruction schedule that is consistent with state and federal laws and regulations. Questions about specific record retention requirements than cannot be resolved within your department should be directed to the Executive Director of Human Resources/AA at 281-283-2164.
Question: I have over 700 messages in my Outlook Inbox. I'd like to clean it out, but I'm afraid I might violate policy. Is email subject to records retention?
Answer: It depends on the content and authorship of the document. If you author documents or receive business email from outside customers or business partners, you may have an obligation to retain certain messages. You can delete the vast majority of internal memos, announcements, and informational items that you receive. These are considered "transitory" in terms of records retention and you can delete them as soon as they have served their informational purpose to you. If you are unsure, discuss your particular documents with your department manager.
Question: My department is very low on file space and I need to throw away old files to make room for new ones. Can I throw away everything over three years old?
Answer: The University of Houston System has a Records Retention Schedule that needs to be followed within your department. Documents, records, and files must be retained as long as the retention schedule requires.
The minimization of fraud, waste, and abuse is the responsibility of all employees of UHCL. Internal investigations involving the audit department will be conducted if theft, misappropriation, and other fiscal irregularities are suspected.
Question: What are some examples of fraud?
Answer: The following are some examples of fraud:
- Accepting free items or services in exchange for purchasing goods or services.
- Lying on an employment application in order to gain employment.
- Falsifying any type of records: payroll or time records, medical records, and scientific research records.
- Providing false receipts and documentation for any type of reimbursement from UHCL, such as, travel.
Question: What are some examples of abuse?
Answer: The following are some examples of abuse:
- Using sick leave when you or your family are not sick.
- Taking a long lunch or break without approval.
- Taking small amounts of products or supplies belonging to UHCL.
Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO)
Under the terms of applicable laws and regulations, UHCL may not discriminate against employees or applicants for employment on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, gender, age, veteran status, or disability. This principle applies to all aspects of employment, including recruitment, retention, promotion, compensation, benefits, and training. Questions regarding EEO issues should be directed to your supervisor or the Executive Director of Human Resources and Affirmative Action.
[Note: Reference UH System Administrative Memorandum 01.D.05 - Equal Employment Opportunity ]
Question: I feel like I was passed up for a promotion because of my age. Who do I call?
Answer: All allegations of discrimination should be reported to the Executive Director of Human Resources and Affirmative Action.
Sexual Harassment & Sexual Misconduct
The environment for employees and students should be free from inappropriate conduct of a sexual nature in the workplace or classroom. Sexual harassment and sexual misconduct are illegal, unprofessional, and prohibited. UHCL is committed to complying with federal and state laws regarding sexual harassment. Employees who engage in such conduct will be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination. Questions regarding sexual harassment or sexual misconduct should be directed to your supervisor or to the Executive Director of Human Resources and Affirmative Action.
Question: My co-worker is sending me jokes via e-mail that contain offensive content. I've asked her to stop, but she continues to send them. What can I do?
Answer: Since the emails continued after you asked her to stop, immediately contact your supervisor or the Executive Director of Human Resources/AA. An investigation will be conducted and appropriate action will be taken.
Question: My supervisor makes remarks containing sexual language clearly directed at me. What can I do?
Answer: You should ask your supervisor to stop the remarks; however, if you don't feel comfortable talking to your supervisor, immediately contact the Executive Director of Human Resources/AA.
The federal Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA") entitles non-exempt employees of UHCL who are required or permitted to work in excess of forty hours in a workweek, to additional compensation for such excess hours either in the form of:
- Compensatory time off, or
- Payment for overtime at the rate of time and one-half.
Permission to work overtime must be obtained in advance.
[Note: Reference UH System Administrative Memorandum 02.B.02 - Overtime and Compensatory Time, UHCL Overtime and Compensatory Time for Non-Exempt Staff Employees, Policy No. ULC.1999.003 and UH System Administrative Memorandum 02.B.07 - Fair Labor Standards Act and UHCL Fair Labors Standards Act Policy No. ULC.1999.004]
Question: I am not clear on when I must use my overtime.
Answer: State compensatory overtime must be used within 12 months from the end of the workweek in which it was earned. If not, it is forfeited. Likewise, State compensatory time does not transfer from one department to another or between State agencies. Non-exempt employees are expected to use FLSA overtime as soon as it is practical to do so. If an employee does not use FLSA compensatory time within 12 months, he or she must be paid at the rate the person is earning when the payment is processed. Employees are eligible to earn State compensatory time on a straight time basis for hours worked on holidays if the work was scheduled or approved by the supervisor. They may also earn State compensatory time if the hours worked and the hours of paid leave or holidays exceed 40 in a workweek.
Question: What is the difference between "state" compensatory time and overtime comp?
Answer: Employees who are subject to overtime must be compensated either in time or payment under two different circumstances. Any time actually worked in excess of 40 hours in a workweek, must be earned at time and one-half. Individuals who record more than 40 hours for the workweek, but did not actually work all of the hours because of holiday, sick leave, vacation, jury duty, etc. may still earn the hours over 40 at a straight rate. For example, if an employee works 9 hours a day on 4 days and the fifth day of the workweek is a holiday, the individual will record 36 hours worked and 8 hours of holiday for a total of 44 hours. Four of these hours would constitute overtime as a straight rate. This is considered "state" comp time. State comp time that is not used in 12 months from the time it is earned is forfeited. Overtime compensation that is earned at a rate of one and one-half times that is not used within 12 months of the time it is earned, is paid.
Family and Medical Leave
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993 is a federal law that makes available to all eligible employees up to 12 weeks of paid or unpaid leave in a 12-month period for specific situations. Employees are eligible for leave under the FMLA if they have worked for the State of Texas for at least 12 months (the months need not be continuous), and have worked for at least 1,250 hours during the 12 months prior to the first day of leave.
The employee must use all applicable accrued leave balances, including sick leave and vacation leave, before taking unpaid FMLA leave, unless the employee is receiving temporary disability benefits or worker's compensation benefits. FMLA leave is approved through the Office of Human Resources and Affirmative Action. FMLA leave is approved through the Office of Human Resources and Affirmative Action. If you have any questions, please contact this office.
[Note: Reference UH System Administrative Memorandum 02.D.06 - Family and Medical Leave, UHCL Family and Medical Leave of Absence Policy No. ULC.1998.003, UH System Administrative Memorandum 02.D.08 - Parental Leave -, and UHCL Parental Leave Policy No. ULC.1999.001]
Question: My wife and I are adopting an infant next month. Am I eligible for Family Medical Leave? How long may I take off?
Answer: You may be eligible for FMLA. FMLA allows for a total of 12 weeks paid or unpaid leave. Check with the Office of Human Resources for specific eligibility requirements and for information on requesting leave.
The primary employment responsibility of the faculty and staff is to University of Houston-Clear Lake. Outside employment should not interfere with a faculty or staff member's responsibility to UHCL. No member of the faculty or staff may accept outside employment, on a temporary or regular basis, that actually or potentially results in any conflict of interest with, or intrudes upon or detracts from the individual's responsibilities to the programs, policies, and objectives of UHCL. Consulting and other professional commitments, paid or unpaid, that present conflicts of interest or may impinge upon an employee's institutional commitments are to be avoided, even if the outside employment only presents potential problems. No full-time employee shall be employed by an outside entity and receive a retainer fee, or salary, until a description of the nature and extent of the employment has been filed with and approved by the appropriate administrative officials in the employee's operating unit.
Faculty are encouraged to accept outside consulting and professional activities which contribute to their effectiveness as a teacher and scholar, and meet the university's obligation of public service. Faculty, professional and administrative staff who wish to arrange consulting activities and/or outside employment must obtain prior written approval from the appropriate supervisor.
[Note: Reference UH System Administrative Memorandum 02.A.08 - Consulting and Outside Employment - and UH-Clear Lake Dual Employment, Outside Employment and Consulting Contracts]
Question: May I work for a local department store at times when I am not working my normal hours at UHCL?
Answer: Probably. Working at a local department store most likely does not present a conflict of interest for UHCL employees. If UHCL is your permanent full or part-time employer, you should still check with your supervisor to be certain that employment at the department store will not interfere with your scheduled work times.
Question: One of our vendors has asked me to handle their bookkeeping for them on the weekends. Is there anything wrong with this?
Answer: Maybe. You need to talk to your supervisor or department head to make sure that there is no conflict of interest.
State laws, court decisions, opinions of the Attorney General, and the policy of the Board of Regents prohibit employees of UHCL from having a direct or indirect interest, financial or otherwise, in a corporation or business, engage in a professional activity, or incur an obligation of any nature that is in substantial conflict with or might reasonably tend to influence the discharge of the employee's official duties.
[Note: Reference UH System Administrative Memorandum 02.A.09 - Conflict of Interest - and UHCL Conflict of Interest Policy No. ULC.1998.002]
Question: My family owns a catering business that often does business with my department and others at the University of Houston System. Is this a conflict of financial interest?
Answer: Not necessarily. If you do not make the catering decisions for your department and others, then there should be no conflict. You do need to disclose this information to your supervisor.
Question: I own stock in UPS and my department ships packages via UPS. Does a conflict of interest exist?
Answer: No. Investment in publicly traded companies such as UPS are not considered to be a conflict of interest.
Question: I've been buying stock in a company that does business with the University of Houston System. After my next purchase, I'll own 10% of the company. Does this pose a problem?
Answer: Potentially. If you have the authority to award contracts, select vendors, or influence purchases of goods or services, then you must report your ownership to the Chancellor.
The Vice President for Office of Sponsored Programs annually issues a "Statement for Administrative Responsibilities for Research Activities" indicating policy guidance concerning such issues as a safe working environment, use of controlled substances, human and animal subject research, misconduct in science and other scholarly activities, objectivity in research, oversight of students and/or employees, ethics policy, sponsored projects, the university's Intellectual Property Policy, visiting scholar agreements and consulting. See http://www.uhsa.uh.edu/sam/1GenAdmin/1E1.pdf. Persons involved in research activities should make themselves thoroughly familiar with this annual memorandum and its contents and referenced materials. The UHCL Office of Sponsored Programs can provide additional information and assistance at 281-283-3015.
[Note: Reference UH System Administrative Memorandum 02.A.X and UHCL Policy Statement 06.A.03 and 06.A.04 - Standards of Conduct in Government-Sponsored Research and Procurement Integrity Policy]
Question: Where do I speak with someone about generating a proposal to a sponsoring agency?
Answer: UHCL's Office of Sponsored Programs assists faculty and staff in all pre-award and post award functions relating to sponsoring agencies."
Question: Whom do I contact if I have questions about obtaining a human subjects application?
Answer: Please contact UHCL Office of Sponsored Programs regarding the completion of a human subjects application at 281-283-3015, Bayou Building, Room 2531.
Workplace Health & Safety
The Environmental Health & Safety (EH&S) division of the Risk Management Department is responsible for managing the Environmental, Health and Safety programs for UHCL. The overall objective is to maximize the safety and health of employees, students and visitors throughout the university while protecting the environment. Programs and services provided include the following:
- Monitor and provide guidance to achieve compliance with all federal, state and UHS regulations and standards pertaining to EH&S
- Develop policies and/or procedures to reflect applicable regulations and standards
- Investigate and address safety and health concerns
- Disseminate information concerning safety, health and environmental issues
- Submit reports and other required documentation to pertinent State agencies
- Inspect facilities for deficiencies, such as buildings, laboratories, grounds, etc.
- Inspect/test safety equipment such as fire extinguishers and fume hoods
- Report results of inspections, evaluations, tests, etc., along with recommended corrective action measures to appropriate personnel
- Dispose of hazardous waste, including chemical waste, mercury containing lamps, PCB and Asbestos materials, etc.
- Review construction plans for compliance with Site Safety Plan provisions, and ensure ADA and NFPA standards are addressed in renovations
- Assist departments in planning ADA compliance
- Respond to local small emergencies such as fires or chemical spills (beyond that which can easily be cleaned up by the user)
- Investigate and address Indoor Air Quality concerns including asbestos, mold, etc.
- Monitor and refine safe operating procedures, confined space entry, hot work, etc.
- Monitor environmental parameters such as vapors or noise as necessary
- Provide safety and environmental training for employees
- Evaluate injury reports for accident trends and perform investigations as needed
- Maintain Material Safety Data Sheets as an information resource on hazardous materials
- Assist with emergency preparedness planning for major disasters and coordinate university plans with the local community
- Develop and maintain Emergency Evacuation Plans
- Participate in campus and community safety committees and task forces
- Maintain a library of safety audiovisual programs and relevant safety and environmental regulations as well as nationally recognized safety codes and standards
All university employees and students are responsible and accountable for safety performance and environmental protection on UHCL property.
UHCL Administration is responsible for the following:
- Providing facilities and equipment required for a safe work environment
- Reviewing and approving health and safety policies and procedures
- Correcting safety deficiencies by establishing priorities and committing resources, as appropriate
- Establishing methods to disseminate safety information and policies
- Establishing criteria to implement safety policies and procedures
- Establishing a system for safety accountability
Supervisors, Department Heads, and Directors are responsible for the following:
- Promoting safety and loss prevention with their employees
- Controlling or eliminating occupational hazards
- Periodically conducting safety and loss control evaluations
- Ensuring that employees are adequately trained in safety policies and procedures
- Ensuring that employees are provided with appropriate personal protective clothing and equipment for safe job performance
Faculty, staff, and students are responsible for the following:
- Performing their jobs/assignments in the safest prescribed manner
- Reporting and/or Eliminating workplace hazards
- Reporting accidents, incidents, and unsafe practices or conditions to supervisors
- Complying with Environmental Safety and Health policies and procedures
[Note: Reference UH System Administrative Memorandum 01.C.07 - Safety Administration]
Question: I accidentally cut my finger on the paper cutter and will most likely need stitches. Do I need to report this to anyone?
Answer: Yes. You should always report any job related injury, no matter how small, to your supervisor who will contact the Human Resources Department concerning the Workers' Compensation Insurance (WCI) program. Your supervisor should complete the required WCI forms.
Protection of the Environment
All employees are required to manage chemical, radioactive, and other materials or wastes in a way that maximizes protection of human health and the environment. This means that employees must properly handle (use, clean up and dispose of) such materials and wastes in a manner that will prevent pollution by eliminating improper discharges into the air, sewer systems, ground, or into the waterways. The Environmental Health & Safety (EH&S) division of the Risk Management Department is responsible for managing programs that minimize the environmental impact of activities conducted at UHCL, including hazardous waste management, chemical spill response, and air emissions control.
Examples of proper chemical and waste management are as follows:
- Minimization: using only what is necessary to conduct the experiment, the minimum amount needed;
- Proper Labeling of Containers: contents spelled out, not abbreviated or acronyms, or an associated logbook detailing contents of unique sample ids;
- Proper Labeling of Waste Containers: similar to above, but ensure all constituents are listed with concentrations, preferably on a waste label but at least the words "Waste" written on the container along with the date filled and contact name for questions;
- Proper Container: In good condition and compatible with the material stored, securely closed, and labeled as indicated above;
- Proper Housekeeping: Cleaning up after experiment, including benchtop surfaces, and glassware used, and any small spills;
- Collecting used chemicals in a container for waste pickup, to the container standards indicated above
Question: Can I pour waste chemicals down the sink drain if I feel that they are non-hazardous?
Answer: No. Chemical waste should not be poured down the drain. EH&S has frequent waste disposals and can provide pick-up service for chemical and biological waste that is generated at UHCL. Typically this is done at no cost to the user. Contact EH&S at 281-283-2106 for questions or to request a pick up. Please refer to the "UHCL Laboratory Waste Handling Guide" for more information on handling waste.
Laboratory Waste Handling
Waste must be recovered and placed in appropriate in containers in the Chemical Storage Area in the Bayou building, room 3506. All chemicals should be containerized for hazardous waste disposal unless you have verification for each type from Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S) that the chemical can go into the sewer. Do not pour any chemical down the sinks unless you have verified that it is permitted to be disposed of in this manner (EH&S approval).
Broken glassware should be put in the glass disposal boxes provided by the Laboratory Supervisor at 281-283-3751. Larger glassware that do not fit (such as gallon size bottles) must be triple rinsed and placed in a plastic bag within appropriate sized sturdy cardboard box. Purchased glass disposal boxes come with an inner plastic bag. All glass containing boxes should be closed (bag tied and box lid on) and taped securely to avoid glass fragments falling out when handling. The words "Glass Trash" or "Broken Glass" should be written on the boxes as appropriate. Janitorial services will not pick them up (and will not know they are ready) if the boxes aren't secured closed.
Any biohazardous material should be placed in a biohazard container. Sharps should be placed in a sharps container. Waste that does not contain sharps should be placed in a red bag in a container (not just a bag on the floor) and autoclaved, with records kept of the autoclave use by the individual researcher as well as a shared log for each autoclave. Some biohazardous material, even if autoclaved, still requires special pickup. When sharps containers are full, or biohazardous material needs picked up, call OEHS at 281-283-2106.
Drug Free & Weapon Free Workplace
The unlawful possession of a weapon or the unlawful manufacture, distribution, possession, or use of a controlled substance in or on any premises or property owned or controlled by the University of Houston-Clear Lake (UHCL property) is prohibited. Any employee who is found guilty (including a plea of no contest) or has a sentence, fine or other criminal penalty imposed by a court for an offense involving a controlled substance that occurred in or on UHCL property. Supervisors who suspect that an employee may be in violation of the Drug and Alcohol Abuse policy or may be under the influence while at work, must immediately consult with the Executive Director of Human Resources and/or the University Police Department before any action is taken. An employee who unlawfully manufactures, sells, distributes, possesses, or uses a controlled substance on UHCL property, regardless of whether such activity results in the imposition of a penalty under a criminal statute, will be subject to appropriate disciplinary action, including termination, or will be required to participate satisfactorily in an approved drug assistance or rehabilitation program or both.
Question: I have seen one of my co-workers selling drugs in the parking lot to other employees. What should I do?
Answer: Report this activity immediately to the UHCL Police Department at 281-283-2222.
Question: Is it okay to have an alcoholic beverage at lunch?
Answer: No. Alcohol and drug use during regular working hours is not acceptable.
Safety & Health Manual
Contracts and Agreements
All contracts, regardless of the source of funding, must be administered in accordance with Board of Regents Policy 55.01 (scroll to 55.01) and University of Houston System Administrative Memorandum 03.A.05 and UHCL Contracting Policies and UHCL Contracting Procedures.
The originating unit is responsible for monitoring and assuring performance in accordance with provisions of the contract and for reporting non-compliance to the Business Coordinators and, as appropriate, to the appropriate Vice President. The Purchasing office will provide needed assistance as requested. The individual(s) responsible for ensuring that the terms and conditions of the contract are met shall sign an appropriate statement acknowledging this important responsibility (Receiving Report).
Purchase Requisition or Contract. Use a purchase requisition to obtain commonly available goods, such as office supplies. If the subject matter of the transaction involves human performance, such as rendition of services, then you should use a contract.
Question: Our contract project is time sensitive and the contractor is available to start immediately. The contract has not been signed by all parties and has not been processed by Purchasing. Due to the urgency may we get started on the project?
Answer: No, all contracts must be fully executed and approved prior to the start of any services.
Question: In addition to the contract, the vendor asked me to sign a statement informing me of their terms and conditions. May I sign this?
Answer: No, any terms and conditions outside the university standard contract language require additional review.
Question: May I accept a faxed signature from the vendor?
Answer: No, in some cases where the vendor is out of the country, or temporarily unavailable, the signature process may start based upon a faxed signature, however, the original signature of all parties must be obtained prior to the start of any services.
Use of State-Owned Property
As a general rule, the personal use of any UHCL property or asset is prohibited. Incidental personal use of the UHCL System e-mail, a state telephone to make a local telephone call, or the Internet, provided that the use complies with applicable UHCL policies and does not result in additional cost to the UHCL, is permissible. Direct any questions you might have about the use of UHCL property to your supervisor.
[Note: UHCL Policy Statement 01.A.11 and 01.C.01 - Ethical and Legal Use of University Property and Use of Space and Facilities]
Question: I am a volunteer for the United Way of Houston. Can I use the computer in my office and the office copy machine to produce material for United Way?
Answer: No. While UHCL encourages employee involvement in the community, resources in your UHCL office should not be used to support external organizations.
Question: My son calls me each day when he gets home from school. Since it's a personal call on a UHCL owned phone, am I breaking any rules?
Answer: No. As a general rule, the personal use of any UHCL property or asset is prohibited; however, incidental personal use of email, telephone, or the Internet that complies with applicable UHCL policies, and does not result in additional cost is okay.
Question: May I use my computer to look at web sites for personal reasons?
Answer: Maybe. Although infrequent use that does not impact your job performance or violate any other university policies is allowed, the UHCL has a limited capacity for Internet use. Your personal use, if excessive, could restrict legitimate business uses of the Internet, resulting in your not having sufficient time to do your job, and ultimately resulting in additional cost for the university. Personal use should be kept to a minimum.
Question: I am a faculty member. May I use a university computer to write a textbook/software from which I and not the university will profit?
Answer: Yes. Writing of professional articles, textbooks, or computer programs is
considered part of a faculty member's obligation toward effective teaching and scholarship
and public service. Writing a definitive text or research article furthers the interest
and reputation of the university as well as the individual.
Software enables us to accomplish many different tasks with computers. Unfortunately, in order to get their work done quickly and conveniently, some people justify making and using unauthorized copies of software. They may not understand the implications of their actions or the restrictions of the U.S. copyright law.
Unauthorized copying of software is illegal. Copyright law protects software authors and publishers, just as patent law protects inventors. Unauthorized copying of software can harm the entire academic community. If unauthorized copying proliferated on a campus, the institution may incur a legal liability.
Respect for the intellectual work and property of others has traditionally been essential to the mission of colleges and universities. As members of the academic community, we value the free exchange of ideas. Just as we do not tolerate plagiarism, we do not condone the unauthorized copying of software, including programs, applications, data bases and code.
Users are expected to honor all software license agreements and abide by copyright laws. The university does not knowingly permit its equipment to be used in the violation of such conditions. Failure to honor these agreements and laws could have legal ramifications. Please direct any questions you may have regarding computer software to your supervisor or the UCT Help Desk at 281-283-2828.
[Note: Reference UHCL Information Security Policies and Procedures and UHCL Automated Information Systems Acceptable Use Policy]
Question: My department does not have enough money to have a copy of a specialized program on every computer. I copied the program from someone else's computer and put it on mine. Is that okay?
Answer: No, it is not okay. This is a violation of federal copyright laws. Check with
the UHCL UTC Help Desk at 281-283-2828 to determine whether a cost effective site
license is available for this program.
Information Security and Confidentiality
UHCL relies heavily on computers to meet its operational, financial and information requirements. These computers, related data files and the information derived from them are important assets of the University. A system of internal controls exists to safeguard these assets. Information will be processed in a secure environment and all employees share the responsibility for the security, integrity, and confidentiality of information. University policy covers both accidental and intentional disclosure of, or damage to, university information.
Users shall abide by the security procedures for UHCL automated information systems and have the responsibility to report security problems to the University Computer Help Desk at 281-283-2828 or in Bayou Building, room 2302.
[Note: Reference UHCL Information Security Policies and Procedures and UHCL Automated Information Systems Acceptable Use Policy]
Question: While typing some employment records, I noticed that a new employee is now married to my ex-husband. Can I talk with her about it.
Answer: Unless she or someone else tells you that she is now married to your ex-husband,
you may not disclose that you saw the information on her employment application.
Computer System Access and Passwords
Users have their own logon accounts to UHCL's shared automated information systems to provide personal accountability for activities. Computer accounts, passwords and other types of authorization codes should not be shared with others.
Users of the UHCL automated information systems are granted those access privileges to data and software to accomplish their authorized responsibilities. Unauthorized individuals, whether inside or outside UHCL, are prevented from accessing any data.
[Note: Reference UHCL Information Security Policies and Procedures and UHCL Automated Information Systems Acceptable Use Policy]
Question: When I was out yesterday with a cold, I called the office and asked another UHCL employee to check my email and calendar; however, to do this, I had to reveal my password. Was this wrong?
Answer: Yes. It is a violation of UH System policy to disclose your computer password. Computer passwords should be considered highly confidential and should never be disclosed to anyone. Data that is protected by passwords would be vulnerable to damage, theft, or disclosure. In emergency situations, UCT Help Desk at 281-283-2828 would be able to help with email. If you have a computer and an Internet connection, you can access your Outlook calendars and email from home. Go to https://webmail.uhcl.edu/ to log on and access your account.
Question: My neighbor asked me to look up some information on her daughter-in-law using the mainframe. May I do this for her?
Answer: No. All information is strictly confidential.
The Purchasing Department has been delegated authority and responsibility for procuring goods and services for the university, in accordance with policies and procedures outlined in the UHCL Procurement Manual. Departments have been given the authority to make purchases up to $500, including shipping charges, and process payment on a payment voucher through Accounts Payable.
As part of the good faith effort to increase spending with Historically Underutilized Businesses (HUBs), the Purchasing Department has access and will make available to the university, a Central Master's Bidders List that contains a listing those businesses that can be accessed by including the class and item of the commodity to be purchased. Contact the Purchasing Department at 281-283-2150 for more information.
The Purchasing Department has no authority to purchase from or make sales to an employee of the university without prior approval of the Vice President for Administration and Finance.
Question: If I reimburse my department, can I take advantage of a vendor’s discounted UHCL price to buy an item for my personal use?
Answer: No. Discounted prices exclude tax for UHCL. For employees to forego sales tax would jeopardize our tax-exempt status.
Question: If I have state dollars, can I go to Home Depot and purchase a chair for my office.
Answer: No. Chairs must be purchased using state guidelines.
Question: I want to hold an event for my area. May I go off campus and hire a caterer?
Answer: No. UHCL has an exclusive catering contract with ARAMARK. Contact ARAMARK at 281-283-2650 for assistance.
Use of Copyrighted Material
Most materials are protected by copyright, even if they do not show the familiar copyright notice (©). Since that notice is no longer required, it is best to assume works are protected unless you are able to determine for certain that they are in the public domain.
For systemic copying, check with the UH System Office of General Counsel through the UHCL Executive Director of Research Administration. For infrequent or one-time events, if the copying is not fair use, permission must be obtained from the copyright owner to make the photocopies.
Question: I would like to photocopy a chapter of a certain book for one-time use in my training class. Would this be okay?
Answer: Photocopying of a chapter for one-time use would probably qualify as fair
use. On the other hand, repeated use will likely require permission from the copyright
owner. Always check with the UH-System Office of General Counsel through the UHCL
Executive Director of Research Administration first before undertaking systematic,
Intellectual property includes copyright materials, inventions, discoveries, trade secrets, artwork, technology, creations, scientific or technological developments, computer software, or other forms of expression. This applies to persons employed by UHCL, to anyone using university facilities under the supervision of university personnel, to undergraduates, and to candidates for master's degrees.
The Board of Regents of the UH System owns the intellectual property if intellectual property is:
Created by an employee within the scope of employment;
Created by an employee on UH System time with the use of UH System facilities or state financial support;
Commissioned by UH System pursuant to a signed contract;
Fits within one of the nine categories of works considered works for hire under copyright law; or
Results from research supported by federal funds or third party sponsorship.
An employee must disclose the intellectual property for review to the UH System Office of Intellectual Property Management through the UHCL Executive Director of Research Administration. Disclosure should occur well before submitting any information about intellectual property for publication, or making any public disclosure, oral or written, or even a private disclosure.
Question: On my lunch hour, I thought of a great invention that would save UHCL time and money. Do I own my idea?
Answer: Probably not. While ideas are your own, there are many conditions that need to be cleared that may indicate institutional ownership of such intellectual property developed while with the university. If your idea is related to your job, is developed on UHCL time, was supported by UHCL, or you used UHCL resources, the UH System Board of Regents has the ownership rights to the idea. Call the UHCL Executive Director for Research Administration for more information.
An employee may participate in political activities only if such activities:
Are not conducted during work hours,
Are in compliance with the Constitution and laws of the State of Texas,
Do not interfere with the discharge and performance of the employee's duties and responsibilities,
Do not involve the use of equipment, supplies, or services of UHCL,
Do not involve the attempt to coerce students, faculty, or staff to participate in or support the political activity; and
Do not involve UHCL in partisan politics.
Question: I work for the committee to re-elect a state political candidate. Can I distribute campaign brochures to other UHCL employees on campus?
Answer: No. You may not distribute campaign material on UHCL property or campaign for a candidate while on duty at UHCL. However, you are free to distribute these materials after hours and off-campus.
Question: I noticed that a flyer is posted on a UHCL door advertising a party for a political candidate. Is it ok for this ad to be posted on UHCL property?
Answer: No. No one should ever post any type of advertisement for any political candidate on any UHCL property.
Question: My supervisor is a city council member. May he/she use the UHCL copier in our office to copy items for the City Council? May he/she ask me to perform council business during my work hours?
Answer: No. Politely remind your boss that items for city council must be copied elsewhere.
UHCL equipment or employees may not be utilized to prepare items or communications
for a local government organization.
Political contributions from any source of UHCL funds are prohibited.
Gifts to UHCL
Faculty and Staff are not authorized to accept gifts or endowments on behalf of the university. The UHCL University Advancement Office at 281-283-2021 handles this process.
Question: If someone gives me a check as a contribution to the university, can I deposit it into any account?
Answer: No. Bring the check to the University Advancement Office for handling.
Question: If someone gives a check or in-kind donation, can I give him or her a receipt?
Answer: No. Only UH System can give receipts for gifts. Contact UHCL University Advancement
Office to handle.
Gifts Made to Influence Decisions
An employee must not solicit, accept or agree to accept any gift, favor, privilege, benefit, service, exemption or thing of value that might influence the employee to perform his or her job differently. Anyone having business with UHCL as a client, contractor, or vendor is likely to be seen as attempting to curry favor by providing any gift or benefit to the employee.
Exceptions to this are provided in paragraph 4.1 of the "Ethical Conduct of Employees" memorandum, which can be found at http://www.uhsa.uh.edu/sam/2HumanResources/2A29.pdf. The gifts and benefits not subject to this restriction are:
Non-cash items worth less than $50.00 in value,
Items such as food, lodging and transportation used solely to defray expenses accrued in the performance of official duties that are not reimbursed by the university, and
Gifts from a personal friend or relative with who you have a relationship independent of your official UHCL status if the gift is given in association as a result of the relationship rather than your official UHCL status.
Token gifts such as T-shirts or normal lunch are acceptable. Cash, checks and gift certificates are never acceptable in any amount. If in doubt, do not accept a benefit or gift offered to you because you are a UHCL employee.
[Note: Reference UH System Administrative Memorandum 02.A.29 - Ethical Conduct of Employees - and UHCL Policy Statement: Administrative 01.A.12 - Standards of Conduct Policy]
Question: I received a gift basket from one of our vendors for Christmas. May I keep it?
Answer: Possibly. If the value of the gift basket is less than $50, you may keep it.
Please be sure, however, that the acceptance of the gift did not create an obligation
for you to the representative of the company. You should report vendors who offer
inappropriate gifts to your supervisor and to the UHCL Compliance Officer.
Gifts from Persons Doing Business with UHCL and/or UH System
An employee must not solicit, accept, or agree to accept any benefit from a person the employee knows may have a business relationship with UHCL, except as permitted under Section 36.10 of the Texas Penal Code. If in doubt, do not accept a benefit offered to you because you are a UHCL employee. Texas Penal Code, Section 36.08 can be found at http://law.onecle.com/texas/penal/36.08.html.
Question: As a department head, I have been working with a UHCL vendor for several years. This vendor recently offered to do some landscaping work for me at a substantial discount. Can I let him re-landscape my yard?
Answer: No. A substantial discount would mean that the vendor was giving you special
service with the expectation that you could provide continued or additional UHCL business
for this vendor.
An employee must not solicit, accept, or agree to accept an honorarium (payment, compensation, fee, etc.) in consideration for services that the employee was asked to provide because of the employee's official position or duties at UHCL.
[Note: Reference UH System Administrative Memorandum 02.A.29 - Ethical Conduct of Employees - and UHCL Policy Statement: Administrative 01.A.12 - Standards of Conduct Policy]
Requests for authorization to travel from UHCL shall be transmitted through proper administrative channels for approval prior to traveling. An annual Travel Authorization is recommended for approval of local travel for budgetary purposes. No more than 10 employees are allowed to travel on one flight or per commercial carrier.
Hotel Occupancy Taxes
A university employee traveling on official state business within Texas is exempt from paying the state hotel occupancy taxes collected by a commercial lodging establishment. A university employee is not exempt from paying the county or local hotel occupancy tax. Forms available from the Travel Office.
Out-of-State Travel Reimbursement - Lodging and Meals
State employees use the Meals and Lodging Schedule for out-of-state travel within the continental United States. Employees who travel to Alaska, Hawaii, Canada, Mexico, or any U.S. possession may be reimbursed for their actual meals and lodging expenses, provided prior written approval is obtained from the Travel Office.
Contract Air Fares
In accordance with the General Services Commission travel rules, contract airfares are required use by all executive-branch state agencies, including institutions of higher education. These fares may be used only for state business travel. Contract airfares are not for personal travel.
Private Motor Vehicles
Employees traveling by personally owned or leased motor vehicles may be reimbursed for mileage in accordance with university policies. Mileage is based on the shortest highway distance and is determined by "MapQuest". No additional expenses incidental to the operation of the motor vehicles are allowed. In the event of an accident the vehicle owner's insurance coverage is primary for damages and the employee's injuries would be covered by worker's compensation (obtain a Travel Authorization for a trip over 25 miles, or an annual Travel Authorization for local travel and document what portions of your trip are for business. Student, visitor, or guest travel is discouraged in a private motor vehicle. Exceptions are made when the vehicle owner's insurance coverage shows adequate PIP, a release (available from Purchasing) is obtained from the riders, and riders show proof of adequate health insurance. Only approved drivers may transport students, visitors, or guests. The State Office of Risk Management recommends that each employee complete a Defensive Driving course every three years. Paid employees are required to be drivers when transporting students, visitors, or guests.
University (State Vehicles)
Only persons authorized by UHCL may drive State owned or UHCL leased vehicles. Employees desiring to be an approved driver must complete a Motor Vehicle Record Evaluation Request in Human Resources and wait for an approval letter from UHCL Police Department prior to driving a State Vehicle. No employee shall use any State owned vehicle except for official university business. The State Office of Risk Management recommends that each employee complete a Defensive Driving course every three years. UHCL Risk Management recommends that individuals pull over and stop to use a cell phone. UHCL purchases state required collision coverage only and no comprehensive vehicle coverage. Therefore departments are responsible for up to a $1,000 deductible, and repair costs to the State vehicle. If a State Vehicle is going to be taken out of the 48 contiguous United States contact UHCL's Risk Management at 281-283-2106 to make special insurance arrangements. An employee's injuries would be covered by worker's compensation. When a student, visitor, or guest travels in State Vehicles for Field Trips a release (available from Purchasing) is obtained from the riders, and drivers are encouraged to check that riders have proof of adequate health insurance. To transport students, visitors, or guests a driver must be a paid employee and an approved driver.
Rental Car Contracts
The General Services Commission and UHCL negotiate contracts with several rental car agencies. Travelers are required to use any of the approved vendors. Most rates include unlimited free mileage, free Loss Damage Waiver, and free primary liability coverage.
An employee's injuries would be covered by worker's compensation. Confirmation of all charges is the responsibility of the traveler and should be obtained when reservations are made. For all approved vendors, the rates and provisions of the contract apply only at locations within the 48 contiguous United States and in Puerto Rico (Alaska and Hawaii are not included). Also, provisions for taking a contracted rental vehicle out of the U.S. and across state lines vary from company to company and, in some cases, from location to location. If you plan to take the vehicle out of state or out of the country, e.g., to Canada or Mexico, you should ask about these policies at the time you make reservations. Contract provisions vary with each vendor, and each vendor should be contacted regarding secondary drivers, one-way rentals, personal rentals, extended rentals, Mexico/Canada rentals, off-road provisions, van/group rentals, accidents, contract violations, emergency road service, premium cities, airport access fees, special city taxes (Sports Authority taxes), availability of wheelchair vans, and other restrictions. Rental vehicles must have a value under $50,000 or the employee's department is responsible for any excess value. Department's may be responsible for up to a $1,500 deductible. UHCL Risk Management highly recommends that individuals pull over and stop use a cell phone.
Rental exception (e.g., locations without contracted rental agencies): When an exception to the State General Services Commission contracts with vehicle rental agencies is made in accordance with the University of Houston System Administrative Memorandum on Business Use of Vehicles, 03.E.06, the rental contract shall require similar coverage including purchasing a physical damage waiver, and a primary liability coverage.
Student, visitor, or guest riders in rental vehicles: In addition, when students, visitors, or guests are transported in a rental vehicle the rental contract shall include the purchase of personal injury (PIP), and personal effects insurance (PEP). To transport students, visitors, or guests a driver must be a paid employee and an approved driver. When a student, visitor, or guest travel in Rental Vehicles for Field Trips a release (available from Purchasing) is obtained from the riders, and drivers are encouraged to check that riders have proof of adequate health insurance. If more than 10 students, visitors, or guests are riders contracting with a commercial bus service is recommended, or rental of more than one vehicle is recommended. The State Office of Risk Management recommends that employee's to complete a Defensive Driving course every three years. UHCL Risk Management highly recommends that individuals pull over and stop use a cell phone.
Aircraft and Watercraft: For Charter and/or rental of aircraft and/or watercraft please contact UHCL's Risk Management at 281-283-2106.
Benefits of Compliance
Approval of reimbursement amounts prior to traveling ensures an adequate budget.
The employee(s) benefit from Worker's Compensation coverage while on business travel. The employee(s) benefit from $1,000,000 liability and uninsured / underinsured motorist coverage while driving State and hired vehicles. Employee(s) benefit from $250,000 accidental death and dismemberment coverage up to for 10 employees when traveling beyond the Houston area, including War Risk areas. An additional $1,000 of coverage is paid when you wear your seat belt.
Additional information can be found at:
If you need any additional information, to make arrangements for special insurance coverage, or have additional questions, please contact Risk Management at 281-283-2106.
For Travel policies, please contact UHCL Travel Office at 281-283-2270
Compliance issues can be anomalously reported to the UH System Fraud & Non-Compliance Hotline. Learn more about the fraud and non-complaince reporting process.
A special thank you goes to the University of Houston Downtown compliance officer who developed the template for this Employee Compliance Guide. The Compliance Committee members are praised for their efforts in the development and editing of this Employee Compliance Guide.
The following committee roles have been established to oversee the university’s activities in the areas of responsibility and compliance:
- Compliance Officer
- Health Care
- Law Enforcement
- Student Services
- Environmental Health & Safety
- Financial Aide
- Risk Management
- University Computing and Telecommunications
- Ex Officio