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Overtime Pay? Not For Nikki Haley’s Cabinet Agencies

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COMPENSATION ALLEGATIONS HIT S.C. EXECUTIVE BRANCH …

Far be it from us to feel sorry for government employees.  They have jobs – with the sort of salaries and benefits that are quickly vanishing from the private sector.

Furthermore it’s been our experience that a great number of these employees – especially mid-level “supervisory” bureaucrats – don’t work especially hard at their “jobs,” either.

Also as we’ve frequently noted, many of these bureaucrats are in positions that shouldn’t be funded by government in the first place … compounding the damage to taxpayers.

Whether it’s performing a core function or not, though, at this point it has become abundantly clear that state government in South Carolina is hardly a model of efficiency – especially within the cabinet of S.C. governor Nikki Haley.

Arguably the worst agency under Haley’s rule?  The S.C. Department of Social Services (SCDSS).

We’ve written extensively about SCDSS and its myriad problems … and we’ve also written extensively about how a boatload of more taxpayer money has failed to fix them.

Bottom line?  SCDSS has been an unmitigated disaster since Haley office in 2011 – most notably as it relates to instances in which vulnerable children were repeatedly placed in abusive homes.

Beyond that, there’s the agency’s ongoing failure with regard to the state’s child support enforcement database, its total lack of follow-through regarding a food stamp waiver touted by Haley in her so-called “war on fat,” questionable consultant payments and allegations of cooked books at its “welfare to work” program and its food stamp system.

(For a recent report detailing one of these scams, CLICK HERE).

Oh, and let’s not forget this is the agency spending an undisclosed amount of tax dollars on a controversial refugee resettlement program – in defiance of the S.C. General Assembly’s explicit instructions.

Anyway, in an effort to address its top headline-grabbing failure (dead kids), SCDSS has used tens of millions of dollars in new money over the last two years to hire dozens of additional caseworkers and “caseworker assistants.”

They are also apparently working these new hires hard – with many of them putting in extra hours.

The only problem?  The caseworkers aren’t getting paid for their overtime.

“We were told to falsify our time that we enter into the SCEIS,” one agency employee told us.

SCEIS refers to the S.C. Enterprise Information System, an online network which handles payroll administration across state government.

If employees don’t “clock in” to the system, they don’t get paid.

According to multiple sources at the agency, SCDSS caseworkers have been repeatedly informed that they were hired to work an 8:30 am. to 5:00 p.m. schedule.  Accordingly, they are required to enter these specific hours into the SCEIS system even if they worked until 10:00 p.m. or later on a case.

One worker told us he routinely works from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. or later every day of the week – but is only allowed to enter the 8:30 to 5:00 p.m. time frame into the system.

And yes, that schedule includes a lunch hour – which employees are allowed to take sometime between 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.

Source at the S.C. Department of Probation Parole and Pardon Services (SCDPPPS) tell us similar requirements exist at that agency – and we’ve heard rumors of SCEIS being manipulated at several other agencies in Haley’s cabinet.

At SCDSS, though, there are clearly-stated consequences for those who dare to submit the hours they actually worked.

“We were told we would be fired if we continued to put in actual working time,” one source at the agency told us.

Wait … is that legal?

Not really.

The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires the accurate reporting of overtime – and overtime compensation – for all employees.  In fact the administration of Barack Obama recently made a unilateral move to raise overtime compensation rates as part of its effort to artificially inflate wages.

We opposed that move – just as we have consistently opposed any effort by government to dictate compensation terms to the private sector.

Of course we also don’t think it’s right for a state agency to tell its employees to lie – and then threaten to fire them if they refuse.

“This violates federal law,” one employee told us.  “Time sheets have to be accurate and if they are not, it’s considered fraud.”

Sources close to SCDSS’ upper management disputed these claims.  They told us certain classes of new case workers were hired with money obtained via temporary grants – meaning they are ineligible to receive overtime.  They also told us this status was clearly communicated to new hires upon their acceptance of the positions in question.

According to the S.C. Department of Administration – which oversees the SCEIS system – there is no hard and fast definition of which employees are eligible for overtime.

“The exempt/ nonexempt status of any position is determined by the specific duties and salary of the position,” the agency’s website states (.pdf).  “The responsibility for determination of exempt or non-exempt rests with the Office of Administrative Services … with input from the appropriate office/ division management.”

Again … you won’t see us shedding tears for government workers, but this situation strikes us as emblematic of a very serious problem in state government (not to mention an open invitation for a lawsuit).

Basically it reeks of top brass and mid-level managers ganging up on the people who are actually doing the work.

Also, if SCDSS has been receiving tens of millions of dollars in new recurring funding and telling the public it hired caseworkers with that money – then why does it need a bunch of new glorified temp hires to do the job? 

This website has long argued that government should perform a handful of core tasks – and perform them with excellence and efficiency.  Part of performing these tasks with “excellence” means paying people for the work they are doing – and paying them fairly.

Anything short of that and we’d be inclined to agree it was “fraud.”

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