My Two Census

Formerly the non-partisan watchdog of the 2010 US Census, and currently an opinion blog that covers all things political, media, foreign policy, globalization, and culture…but sometimes returning to its census/demographics roots.

Posts Tagged ‘pay’

Another rumor comes into our Inbox…

Saturday, August 14th, 2010

Can anyone confirm/deny the following:

In the  Los Angeles region,  laid off workers are being denied unemployment benefits because wage data provided to EDD is incorrect or has not been provided.  LARCC sent  email to offices today asking to be advised asap if  this has occurred in their offices. . One case in our office has wage data reported incorrectly and another shows  ZERO wages for the last year although employee has worked in office since 2009. Problem is occurring in both DAPPS and NFC (management) payrolls.

Update: Former 2010 Census workers speak out in Fresno

Friday, August 13th, 2010

Looks like Fresno is in more and more trouble every day. Thanks to the local CBS affiliate for the following:

By Tony Botti

Former workers of our local US Census Bureau offices banded together on Wednesday at a Fresno park to tell the media their stories of alleged discrimination, not receiving pay and being wrongfully terminated.

The issue goes deeper then the people being fired for questioning the ethics of their superiors; it’s believed that management’s desire to cut corners, could skew the population count that comes out at the end of the year.

Former census worker Craig Baltz was not fired from his job but says he personally witnessed misconduct. “I saw many instances of mistreatment of employees and poor management decisions that lead to a questionable count of the population,” Baltz said.

The accusations go against everything the census is about, to capture our region’s exact population count, so we can compete for federal funds.

The former workers say upper management basically took the critical task of gathering an exact count and turned it into a contest with the goal of speed and not accuracy.

The former employees say this type of environment left them facing a dilemma. “…turn in accurate work not meeting the goal and face termination or falsify work and be praised and rewarded with more work and continued employment,” said Mary Costell. Mary was fired and says she felt she was fighting a losing battle.

The former workers say they are not disgruntled because they never intended to make a career at the Census Bureau and knew the jobs were temporary.

What has them most upset is that by being terminated, they are now eliminated from ever working for the federal government again.

Several departments in Washington D.C. are now investigating these complaints. If evidence is found to back the worker’s stories, they will file a lawsuit.

In response to the allegations, the U.S. Census Bureau issued the following statement: “We immediately took action upon learning about these allegations coming from the Fresno area. It appears that all procedures and protocols have been followed. As the Inspector General and Government Accountability Office are always alerted any time there are questions, concerns or allegations; we are cooperating with them and will keep doing so going forward.”

Daily Sound Off: A multitude of problems in Arizona

Friday, June 25th, 2010

Enjoy the following:

Subject: payroll/wages and hours/overtime; proxies, etc./data integrity v. pr-driven deadlines

Message Body:
Denials of overtime claims similar to those reported in Houston (Monday’s
post) – coupled with demands to actually work as long as necessary to meet
artificial deadlines and the resultant spillover of hours into the next pay period -
have occurred in  the Phoenix area.  Other responses to the deadlines, some
potentially affecting data reliability, have included directives to change field
procedures (e.g.: seek a proxy on first unsuccessful visit; complete interviews on
the basis of very limited data from proxies; etc.).  The pressures for sudden wrap
up of Census tasks – usually at the eleventh hour – have coincided with pending
local office visits from the regional office, and have increased in intensity as
close-out (and visit) dates neared, resulting in multiple, contradictory directives
from day-to-day and even within a single day.  As a result, both all or most
non-response followup interview and re-interview (“quality” assurance) closure
deadlines have been met ahead of their original schedules.  The question of data
reliability, however, remains open but usually unasked.  It sure as hell has felt like
pressure from the top downwards to finish by or ahead of deadlines and under
budget, presumably to deflect increasing public scrutiny of past delays, computer
problems, mapping errors, etc.).  Whatever the cause, it has not been pretty.

And more from the same person:

Well, four new reinterview (“RI”) enumerators have joined our QA (aka “RI”) crew for a total of 16 – or 15 (see below) -, reputedly because,
having been trained (and paid for going through 40 hours of training), they MUST be utilized.  The rub is that our original 12-person team
has not had enough cases referred to us over the past 2-and-a-half weeks in the field to satisfy each of our minimum 20-hour work week
“requirement.”  Reputedly (this is what the mid-level echelon tells us), the new crew members were trained in anticipation of enumerator attrition that has not occurred.  Nonetheless, apparently, the new enumerators must be employed now, despite the fact that the reason they were hired and trained (at taxpayer expense) has not materialized, and despite the further fact that there isn’t sufficient work even for those of us who were trained three weeks ago.  Also, reputedly (we’re ALL mushrooms in this cellar!), training of new RI enumerators is STILL ongoing, and we can expect more new crew members next week.

I should add that one of our enumerators has been promoted to “crew leader assistant” status; so, we now have a ratio of 1 leader or
assistant leader to every 5 enumerators.  Thus, our enumerator crew actually is 15, formerly 12: 12 -1 + 4 = 15.

What does a crew leader or crew leader assistant do?  Mostly sit in fast food and storefront restaurants 5 hours per day and fill out
paperwork or, lacking that (something NONE of us often lack) just shoot the shit, so that we all can log our minimum 20-hours per week (just
by attending meaningless meetings!) while the actual casework dribbles out at a slower rate than BP’s rate of contained oil per day.

Oh, yah, and some of us use meeting time to (still) “project” our hours and mileage at essentially mid-day each weekday workday, so
that our CL and CLA’s can get the daily pay logs into Payroll early enough to keep them happy.  They appear to be the only OVER-worked
Census workers in Central Arizona these days!  Meanwhile, the trainees keep on comin’.  The casework does not.  Meanwhile, I still wonder,
when does “projection” become falsification?  But, sadly, I’m caring less these days.  I know that I will not – ULTIMATELY – claim unworked hours; but I also KNOW that shit rolls downhill.

I hasten to add that I respect our CL totally.  But, like us all, that person’s caught in what increasingly appears like a shabbily jerry-rigged
system.

As far as an “actual count”???

So, why is there no work? Reputedly (mushroom factor again) because the outsourced PBOX or PBACHS or Whatever computer system
server can’t support the volume of LOC logins per day nationwide.  So, if that’s true, the problem is nationwide and worthy of a Proxmire Golden Fleece Award, for those of us old enough to remember.

But, hey, I’m just a happy mushroom in these economically troubled times.  Pity the Gulf of Mexico’s nesting birds!  Pity the U.S. taxpayers!
Technically, we are a crew, now, of 15 enumerators and 3 administrators (crew leader and 2 crew leader assistants).  We have no cases to work
and the food at Denny’s sucks but, in the afternoon, we meet someplace with bagels, bean dip or baklava!

Daily Sound Off: The real problems with payroll

Friday, May 28th, 2010

Here’s today’s Daily Sound Off:

I work for the payroll department in my LCO.  I wanted to explain some things about how Census payroll works and why people are getting paid late.  I would appreciate if my name were left out of this, but feel free to publish some or all of the information contained below.

As you may know, in order to get paid for a day’s work a Census employee must submit a daily payroll form that we lovingly refer to as a “308.”  The 308 contains several redundancies to help catch potential errors.  For instance, the employee must mark both the date worked and the day of the week worked, and if these do not match the 308 will not be processed until the office can determine what date the employee actually worked.  The employee also must enter the number of hours worked and the times worked, and if these do not match the employee will be paid for the lesser of the two numbers.  Finally any expenses incurred must be explained and any over $5 must be accompanied by a receipt; in order to save taxpayer dollars we regularly reject claims for ridiculous things that the employee does not need to complete their assignment.

The reasons that we’re having so much delayed payroll come down to the problems with processing these time sheets.  First of all, as I mentioned before, if there are any errors with a paysheet, that sheet may be placed into a problem file to be dealt with later.  Ideally we deal with all problem 308s in their appropriate pay period, but the first three weeks of NRFU were not ideal.  You’ve heard of all the paperwork new employees have to fill out?  All of that has to be processed by the admin department *before* an employee can be paid.  Admin departments basically had to begin processing one to two thousand hiring packets plus five to ten thousand pay sheets starting at the end of the first day of training and be finished by the following Monday.  For many LCOs, that just didn’t happen.  That’s why we all put in overtime that week – to try to get as many people paid as possible.

Now, from the perspective of someone whose job it is to process paysheets, the thing about problem 308s is that some are very easy to deal with and some are very difficult, but almost none of them would exist if the employees themselves took the time to fill these things out right.  Everyone who works for the census was tested on the ability to read and count and everyone who works for the census was hired basically to enter information on forms, and filling out pay sheets does not require any skills beyond these.  And yet we continuously have problems with people who apparently cannot count to 40 – who either claim overtime with under 40 hours a week worked, or claim no overtime with more than 40 hours a week worked.  We continue having problems with people who apparently cannot glance at a calendar long enough to verify both the date and the day of the week.  So while we try to get these errors fixed, a large portion of the employees who are getting paid late are being delayed because they made mistakes on their paperwork that we cannot easily deal with.

Of course the other problem we’re facing is that we can’t process payroll that we don’t have.  I’ve heard numerous stories of FOSes and CLs who don’t submit 308s on time.  I understand from the Crew Leaders’ position that they have a lot to do, but most of our CLs get their 308s in on time.  The maybe 5% who don’t account for 90% of the phone calls we get from enumerators who have missed several days’ pay from their checks.

This is a personnel problem.  We simply don’t have a good way to motivate large numbers of temporary employees to do their jobs promptly and correctly.  Every job has its share of lazy or incompetent employees.  The Census does work to terminate these, but if we have to give each CL who brings payroll in late (or never) at least two warnings, that’s at least three weeks of delayed payroll before we can replace the person, which is why we’re getting stories from across the country of whole crews who haven’t been paid for two or three weeks of working.  Rumor around the office has it that the terminations for unsatisfactory performance are going to start coming fast and furious starting next week, although we’ve already got a decent pile going now.

Now, the admin department gets well over a hundred calls a week inquiring about missing hours or days.  In the vast, overwhelming majority of cases – including every single call I have personally handled – these hours or days are already processed and on their way to the employee on the next pay period.  I understand that it is difficult for many people, especially those whose only job is the Census, to have to wait three weeks instead of two to be paid for a particular day’s work.  Some people may be counting on being paid on time.  I think that the situation would have been helped immensely if we had issued a blanket disclaimer at training or even during the hiring process that it is normal for it to take up to four weeks to be paid for any particular day worked.  Somehow, people formed an expectation that a gigantic government bureaucracy staffed entirely by people with virtually no experience would be fast and efficient at handling paperwork, which makes me wonder if none of these employees who are calling us up or going to the media because their pay is a week late have ever tried to mail a letter or get a driver’s license.  Anyhow, we try to stay cheerful but a certain fatalism develops when all we can do is tell people, essentially, that their check is in the mail.

I can say that fortunately our department is now caught up with payroll on a weekly basis, and it is only when CLs or FOSes bring 308s in late that we process them late.  However, payroll is already on a delayed basis by design – so if I work on a Monday, that 308 gets processed by the LCO and “closed” the following Monday, which means that a direct deposit will be issued the week after that, usually on a Wednesday – a delay of up to 17 days.  So people who missed hours on their last paycheck were actually missing hours for the week of May 9-15 – which was basically the second week of actual work, and third week of employment, and at that point we had many but not all of our glitches ironed out.  By that point we had issued directives to FOSes and CLs about how and when to fill out and bring in 308s and started getting positive responses, which should be reflected in even fewer errors in next week’s checks.

However, the heart of this issue is actually in how the Census approaches the hiring process.  While the recruiting process stretches over two years, the hiring process is basically crammed into a week.  Queens LCOs had to hire 1600 – 2200 employees over the week of April 19th, for a training session that started April 26th.  This has obvious problems.  First of all, we were asking people – many of whom had taken the test months ago, in the fall or even summer – to drop everything and come in for training with a week’s (or in some cases, a day’s) notice.  This is pointless and disrespectful and also resulted in the loss of many promising candidates.  Basically, we weeded out everyone who had a job, or responsibilities, or the ability to plan, or the self-respect to demand to be treated courteously by an employer; then we hired whoever was left.  Certainly we found some people who were competent and hard-working and just down on their luck or hit by the economy, but the overall caliber of employees is lower than what it would have been if we had given people adequate notice or contacted them in a timely fashion after they took their test.

The second problem is, as I have said, the logistical difficulty of processing 2000 new hires at once.  If we had hired people on some kind of rolling basis we could have gotten their paperwork filed and their payroll started up before they had to start working.  If we had started hiring and taking care of administrative matters in, say, March or even April 1st, as most test-takers were promised, then we could have gotten people trained, processed, and into payroll before NRFU even began.  This would have eased the burden on admin, but also on NRFU and the people who had to get training sites for thousands of people all during one week.  This would also have reduced the number of people who were verbally hired but never contacted again, or who attended training but were never assigned a CL, or who were assigned a CL but never any work.

Also, there simply has to be a less resource-intensive way to handle payroll than having each employee hand a piece of paper to their CL each day, to be handed to the FOS each day, to be brought into the office each day, to then be audited by one clerk and then entered into the payroll system by another clerk and then sent to a different agency entirely for final processing.  We did payroll exactly the same way in the 2000 Census, and guess what?  We’ve had ten years and the internet since then.  We have secure banking, we have ebay, amazon, paypal (all of which, I realize, we also had in 2000).  Why can’t we have a server that the employee can log on to to enter their information; that the CL can log on to to approve the hours worked and digitally sign; that can automate the auditing process and eliminate the need for a separate data entry process?  I believe I was promised a paperless society when this whole internet thing started, so what gives?

In short, we in payroll are struggling to get everyone’s pay processed correctly and on time, but the system for doing so is incredibly inefficient, incapable of surviving the level of human error presented by barely-trained temporary Census employees, and compressed into a set of arbitrary and irrational time-frames that make actual prioritization of tasks or long-term planning impossible.  So some of us are doing the best we can, some people aren’t doing well at all, and are being fired ASAP, but ultimately I think we have to blame the planners.  There’s really nothing any of us on the ground can do to remedy the systemic problems that come from an unnecessarily paper-heavy and error-prone operation in which everything is rushed and the right hand never seems to know what the left hand is doing.

Census workers aren’t being paid in Queens…

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

Here’s the Daily News story…

Dedicated to Census Bureau Associate Director for Communications Steve Jost: 2010 Census payroll problems acknowledged and additional assistance to be given to employees

Monday, May 24th, 2010

Though the Census Bureau’s Associate Director for Communications (and Spin Doctor in Residence) Steve Jost denied problems with the Census Bureau’s payroll system in comments he posted on this blog, Ryla, a firm contracted by the government to handle telephone complaints and questions about Census Bureau operations, has now acknowledged its own payroll problems for its employees. This is a true victory for MyTwoCensus.com and its loyal readers, as this issue likely would not have received the attention it deserves without your assistance. Let’s now hope that the Census Bureau follows suit in addressing payroll problems that have been widely reported by this site’s readers. Thanks to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for the following:

By Leon Stafford

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Kennesaw-based Ryla Inc. is working to improve its pay processes after some of the 1,300 census workers the company employs complained they were not getting checks on time or were shorted work hours.

Ryla spokeswoman Karen Clay said the pay problems have occurred in spurts and the company is paying employees as quickly as its officials are notified. She did not know the exact number of people affected, but said it is small.

“There were some hiccups in our own processing in payroll,” Clay said, declining to be more specific. “Any payroll discrepancies are actively being worked on.”

Ryla, operator of one of Georgia’s biggest call centers, announced in February it was hiring the workers to handle calls for the 2010 Census. Pay is roughly $12-$15 an hour.

Another issue for workers has been pay stubs issued for $0. Clay said workers with those checks are employed by temporary agencies. Ryla pays the temp agencies, which then pay the workers.

Screenshot: The # of Census Bureau employees by week…

Friday, May 14th, 2010

This data comes from the Census Bureau’s web site: