Thursday, October 29, 2015

Overtime Anyone?

There is a joke about lawyers. I have heard it set-up in a variety of ways, but generally a lawyer dies and meets St. Peter at the Pearly Gates, complaining bitterly of having died so young; "but I'm only 30" says the attorney. To which St. Peter replies "well we've consulted your billing records, and according to them you're 117." Regardless of the details of the version you hear, it is uniformly demeaning to attorneys, and an unfortunate joke. More unfortunate, it is oft-repeated.

The Washington Free Beacon reported in June that certain Amtrak employees may have exaggerated their reported work time. An audit report revealed “cases of workers claiming over 40 hours of work in a single day.” I have worked some long days. I am posting this at 3:00 a.m. But even I cannot pack 40 hours into a 24 hour day. A partner of mine used to say "if you can't get your work done in 24 hour days, work nights." But even then, 40 hours?

An audit revealed that in 2014 there was "potential fraud, waste, and abuse in the reporting of overtime and regular time." The beacon reports that "employees reported 357 days in which they worked more than 24 regular and overtime hours." These are some very productive employees.

There were “10 employees reported working at least 40 hours in a day.“ one employee “who earns an average of $23 an hour, recorded 47.95 hours in one day, 31.01 of which were recorded as overtime.” At $23 per hour, 47.95 hours would equal $1102.85 if it were "straight time." If 31.01 were at time and half ($34.50), then this day would pay $1,459.47. Not a bad day’s pay, even if the work being performed was worthy of inclusion on Mike Rowe’s “Dirty Jobs.” 

One technician "claimed to have worked 130 hours in a single week." There are only 168 hours in a week. 130 hours divided by 7 days equals about 18.5 hours per day. In addition “there were 280 occurrences of employees who said they worked at least 31 consecutive days in a row.” One coach cleaner “claimed to work 108 consecutive days.”

It is possible that some of this is bookkeeping error. The story reports that “the company uses 6 timekeeping systems to process time-sheets and calculate wage payments, as well as 179 unique timekeeping absence and attendance codes.” The more complex the paperwork, the more likely there can be errors. 

Overall, “Amtrack paid roughly 19,300 employees $1.2 billion and 2014, including $199 million in overtime.” That equates to an average pay of $62,176.17, and an average overtime pay of $10,310.88. Suffice it to say that this is an employer that pays fairly well, but needs some bookkeeping help. 

Amtrak employees are not alone in facing questions for timekeeping. A recent WorkCompCentral story reported that the Director of the Industrial Commission of Arizona and two of its Commissioners recently resigned. Commissioners in Arizona are not full-time employees. They are entitled to a per diem for days that are spent fulfilling their duties. It is $50 per day for the 40 annual (approx) Commission meetings and the time spent preparing for them.

WorkCompCentral story says the two resigning Commissioners sought per diem for 292 and 253 days respectively. This may likewise represent accounting and paperwork errors. But the story seems to suggest that these two requested the per diem for each of the 40 (approx) meetings and for 5-6 days in preparation for each of the 40 meetings. 

A recent story on the reports that Florida's constitutional trial judges are being asked to report the time they spend at work and on various tasks.  This is part of a Judicial Workload Study, which is designed to produce better understanding of judges' work time and the tasks which consume it. The author of this article suggests that some judges work harder than others. Some are there putting in the overtime, and perhaps others are not. 

Will there be value in the records that are being compiled? Perhaps that too will come down to how complex the records are and how effective the bookkeeping that is applied to them? 

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