A legal scam

first_imgCommissioner Nick Patsaouras had harsh words for the state of affairs: “It’s a scam.” It’s a scam, all right, but one that L.A.’s leadership has endorsed repeatedly. City leaders have signed off time and again on DWP employee contracts that award lavish raises far beyond cost-of-living increases and above those given for comparable municipal jobs. Is it any surprise that they would agree to such ridiculous OT terms? Oh, yes, it’s good to be the DWP. The DWP’s overtime costs will only continue to rise, and they will no doubt be passed on to the utility’s ratepayers until city leaders have the courage to stand up to public-employee unions and say “enough.” DWP employees are paid more than fairly as it is. Allowing them to pad their paychecks is an insult to every taxpayer in the city.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! IT’S good to be the DWP. Not only do the men and women employed by Los Angeles’ Department of Water and Power enjoy the highest salaries in a city government that boasts the highest municipal wages in the nation, but they get to rack up thousands more in overtime – even on days when they took some time off. It’s such a good deal that last year about 90 DWP employees were able to tack on $65,000 in OT to their regular generous paychecks. That’s like getting a whole other annual salary without having to work a whole other job. Sounds outrageous, but it’s all perfectly legal. The provisions of the employees’ contracts – the same one that gave DWP workers pay raises of up to 28 percent over five years – have lax and questionable OT rules. Considering how much DWP employees get paid even before they claim time and half for overtime – six-figure salaries are common for even blue-collar workers – it’s no wonder the utility has to keep raising rates. An internal audit uncovered this abuse when analyzing the DWP’s soaring overtime costs during an 11-month time period in which employees claimed about 2 million hours of OT. No doubt, some of this expense couldn’t have been avoided, as the city’s failure to keep up with capital improvements requires more emergency maintenance. But much of the overtime billing seems questionable because of the rules that allow workers to claim OT even when working within their normal hours. Not surprisingly, the internal audit also found that the DWP’s overtime payroll process lacks oversight and is poorly run. While it’s appropriate that employers compensate employees for work over and above 40 hours a week, the DWP’s rules go far beyond reasonable compensation. In fact, it’s a system that only guarantees rising OT costs: The DWP needs more overtime because it can’t afford more workers; and it can’t afford more workers because it has such a high cost for overtime. last_img read more