Los Angeles Controller Ron Galperin Wednesday called for better oversight of the city’s overtime payroll practices after finding that the Los Angeles Fire Department overpaid some employees for work at COVID-19 testing sites and other pandemic response programs due to individual payroll.
The Los Angeles Fire Department’s sworn employees earned a total of $236 million in overtime pay in 2020, a record high for the department, according to Galperin. About $14 million was earned by 1,801 sworn employees staffing testing sites, and 129 of them earned more than $25,000 each in overtime for COVID-19 related work.
“The pandemic forced the City of Los Angeles to shift resources in order to limit the impact of COVID-19 on residents and businesses,” Galperin said.
“Our front-line LAFD workers were assigned to set up and work at testing centers across the city on a moment’s notice, helping to administer millions of tests. These efforts should be lauded, but some workplace difficulties did arise.”
Galperin said his office found issues in how the department tracked overtime earned at testing sites, resulting in overpayments to some employees.
“We have an opportunity now to put systems in place that will fix those issues and ensure they don’t happen again,” Galperin said.
The Los Angeles Fire Department said in a statement Wednesday afternoon that it received a draft report prior to Wednesday’s release and many of the issues “have been addressed or are in the process of being rectified.”
“For nearly a year and a half, the Los Angeles City Fire Department (LAFD) has been providing COVID testing to our city family and to our residents. Earlier this year, the department began administering vaccinations. To date, we have conducted nearly 4,637,000 tests and provided almost 1.4 million vaccinations,” the statement said.
“The LAFD created the COVID Division on the fly to accomplish the mission of ensuring Angelenos were healthy and safe during the pandemic. We are proud of our efforts of protecting the people of Los Angeles.”
Galperin urged the city to strengthen its timekeeping and payroll oversight process by:
— revising timekeeping practices for non-regular work hours and require sworn employees to check in and out for each shift;
— establishing an internal oversight process so that overtime hours earned are reviewed by staff before processing payments;
— analyzing pandemic response payroll data to identify errors and seek reimbursement from employees who inappropriately reported working overtime; and
— streamlining automated timekeeping and payroll practices.
People can explore Galperin’s full report and dashboard at bit.ly/3BaSVCB.