(a) General. The department may reimburse, upon successful completion, the cost of tuition and non-refundable fees for GED (high school equivalency) programs and job-related courses (undergraduate and postgraduate) taken from an accredited college, university, or technical school. The reimbursement will be considered only on a course by course basis. There shall be no reimbursement for review courses, exam fees, books, lab supplies, classroom materials, schedule change fees, parking fees, lodging expenses and/or other non-mandatory fees. A degree completion study will not be funded under this program.
Employee Eligibility. To be eligible for reimbursement, an employee must:
(1) submit a formal request to their respective Assistant Commissioner;
(2) not have the cost of the tuition and non-refundable fees for which reimbursement is sought covered by any other financial assistance; however, if the employee is receiving only partial assistance from other sources, Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) will consider partial reimbursement;
(3) show a direct connection between the planned course work and current or prospective job assignments with TDA;
(4) meet any special conditions that may be required by the Assistant Commissioner or Deputy Commissioner;
(5) not be on probation (unless the subject educational course work is included in the terms of the probation);
(6) have at least all "Met Expectations" on the most recent performance appraisal on file;
(7) be actively employed at the time of the request for educational assistance; not be on leave without pay status when the class(es) begin; and, be employed with TDA for the entirety of the course(s);
(8) have been employed by TDA for at least 12 continuous months at the time the request is submitted; and
(9) must not have used this reimbursement policy more than once in a fiscal year, except with the written approval of the Deputy Commissioner.
If the department pays for training that an employee receives, and during the training period the employee does not perform the employee's regular duties for three or more months as a result of the training, the employee must:
(A) work for the department following the training for at least one month for each month of the training period; or
(B) pay the department for all the costs associated with the training that were paid during the training period, including any amounts of the employee's salary that were paid and that were not accounted for as paid vacation or compensatory leave.
(2) Before an employee receives training that will be paid for by the department and during which the employee will not be performing the employee's regular duties for three months or more, the department shall require the employee to agree in writing, before the training begins, to comply with the requirements prescribed under paragraph (1) of this subsection.
(d) Waiver of Obligation. The Deputy Commissioner may waive the requirements prescribed under subsection (c)(1) of this section and release an employee from the obligation to meet those requirements if the Deputy Commissioner finds that such action is in the best interest of the department or is warranted because of an extreme personal hardship suffered by the employee.
(e) Employee Liability. If an employee does not provide the services required in accordance with requirements in subsection (c)(1)(A) of this section, provides those services for less than the required term, or fails to make payments required in accordance with subsection (c)(1)(B) of this section, and the employee is not released from the obligation to provide the services or to make the payments under subsection (d) of this section, the employee is liable to the state department for any costs described by subsection (c)(1)(B) of this section and for the department's reasonable expenses incurred in obtaining payment, including reasonable attorney's fees.