State struggles with how to recoup overpayment to employee
September 3, 2013
State officials are struggling to decide how to collect about $1,000 from an employee who was working while she was supposed to be on furlough last year.
Assistant Attorney General Keith Munro asked the Interim Finance Committee on Thursday to help cover the salary shortfall that resulted when the employee, who works in the Attorney General's office, not only worked five days she wasn't supposed to but was paid for them.
The issue is that any attempt to cut her future paychecks to make up the difference could violate the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, which mandates that workers be paid for every hour they put in.
State law requires that all employees take their unpaid leave, Budget Director Jeff Mohlenkamp said.
"In this case, we have an employee who didn't," he said. "But if an employee worked the day, we can't just dock their pay. If somebody works, you can't not pay them."
Munro said the employee worked five furlough days because she felt it necessary. Her job is with the program dedicated to finding missing children.
"It's a nice problem to have from the perspective that we have people so dedicated to public service, you can't keep them away," Munro said.
But both he and Mohlenkamp said they not only have to work out an equitable solution, they have to improve tracking of employee hours so these sorts of things don't happen again.
Both said this isn't the first time something like this has happened.
Part of the problem is that tracking furlough days in the AG's office has been "on the honor system," Munro told IFC members Thursday.
Mohlenkamp said one solution is to re-label a vacation day that a worker took as furlough. But he and Munro seemed to differ on whether that vacation day should be restored to a worker or deleted from his or her total vacation time.
Munro said that at some point, the employee has to lose the money she shouldn't have been paid in the first place.
He added that the employee has agreed to repay the money.
Mohlenkamp said his office, the AG and the Personnel Division are working not only on fixing this situation, but improving the controls and tracking of furloughs and other time off for employees.