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.

Census Bureau over-hired, pulled back on job offers

The Colorado Springs Gazette just reported on of the Census Bureau’s most serious blunders to date, revealing that job offers for potential employees were rescinded, but only when those who thought they were new-hires showed up for their first day on the job. One wonders, how widespread is this bureaucratic nightmare? Here’s the report:

Thinking she’d secured a better gig, Colorado Springs resident Janet Seville quit her $10-an-hour, part-time job at a building company last month.

But when she showed up for her new job last week, she learned it was all a big misunderstanding.

With unemployment in Colorado Springs at a 21-year high, it was a tough break for the 65-year-old divorcee.

Seville thought she had secured a full-time, temporary position at the U.S. Census Bureau making $13.25 an hour.

But Seville said she and nine other applicants were turned away. She said officials told the applicants the Census Bureau had hired too many people.

“They gave it to us and took it away,” she said. “I just thought it was horrible. I mean, how can they do that? They just blew it off like it was nothing. I mean, they apologized and said we would get paid for one hour for showing up, and for mileage and travel time, but that’s just not good enough.”

Seville went to the media. She went to Rep. Doug Lamborn’s office.

With the country in the middle of a recession, Seville said, she has few financial resources and isn’t sure what she’ll do if she can’t find another job soon.

Her previous employer filled her position quickly but agreed to let her come back as a substitute, which she did over the weekend.

Seville said she doesn’t expect anything to change now, but she wants people to know about the effect a bureaucratic mix-up can have.

A Census Bureau official said the situation is more of a misunderstanding. The bureau hired about 140,000 people nationwide for temporary jobs to get ready for the 2010 Census, the once-a-decade count of everyone who lives in the country.

With that many people, and given the demands of the work, there’s bound to be turnover, said spokeswoman Deborah Cameron. Seville was among a group of people on a list as possible replacements when some from earlier waves of hiring departed, Cameron said.

“That training class (Seville attended) was actually designated as a replacement training class, so all people there knew that it was possible, they were in a pool as someone who could replace in terms of carry-over, and they could be used now or they could be used a little bit later,” Cameron said.

Seville said she and all the other applicants had good reason to believe they were following up on firm job offers, not just another step in the application process.

She said there was no paperwork recording the job offer, just a phone call March 14 with orders to show up April 1. That was later delayed to an April 16 start date.

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7 Responses to “Census Bureau over-hired, pulled back on job offers”

  1. Jay Seville Arlington va Real Estate Says:

    I’m so outraged that they could do this to my mom. She is on a very tight budget and for her to lose her safe job with the builder to start looking for a new job at 64 years old is upsetting. From my perspective they owe her a month of pay to find a new job to take responsibility for their mistakes. This is not fair to her and is completely immoral.

    And some people want the government to take over health care too, eh? This is exactly why government should have as small a role as possible. In the real world there is accountability for performance; government beauracrats (sp?) are in a bubble where performance is a non-issue in relation to job retention and often pay.


  2. Janet Seville Says:

    I am 1 of the 10 people who was hired by Census 2010 originally told the start date was 4/1 which was changed later to 4/16. When we showed up, the 2 Census employees at the site did know know anything about us. One called a man in from the main Census office to talk to us and explain what was going on. He said that they had hired too many people and we did not actually have jobs. We are to be paid for 1 hour plus travel and mileage instead of beginning a job making more that $2,000 a month. The lady next me me told me that she had a recording of her job offer. I was interviewed by our local newspaper and the article was published Tuesday. The same day a TV newsman interviewed me and he also interviewed the other lady who had the job offer on record on voice mail. That was aired Tues. night. The Census spokesperson said that it was just a misunderstanding and none of us had been offered jobs. I definitely would not have quit my job without a firm job offer. We were just going to be put on a list of people who might be called as replacements. That is totally not true. How can these people do this? Now I am a single almost 66 year old female with no job. I did’t want any help from the government, but I did not want to be hurt by them. I didn’t even want a bailout. I only wanted the job I was offered. Janet Seville

  3. Anonymous CL Says:

    Yeah, their hiring/unhiring is not well-organized and not always pleasant/fair. I got caught in some of the Census Bureau’s hiring-plans fluctuations myself, so I certainly agree this was an unfortunate situation. But I’ve had similar things, and worse, happen to me in jobs with private businesses.

    People like to make a big deal about anything government does in a less-than-perfect way, to use for examples of why government shouldn’t be involved in such-and-such things. But businesses really aren’t any better, despite people wishing/pretending otherwise; and without government reigning them in at all, businesses would do even worse things than they already do, out of the multiplied effects of greed, office politics, incompetence/carelessness, mismanagement, short-sightedness, heartlessness, etc. (As someone who has recently been shopping around for private health insurance, I can tell you that every last darn one of the private health insurance companies has received piles of bad reviews for being disorganized, capricious, deceptive, stingy, rude, etc.)

    For what it’s worth (too late now), the preferable thing to do if you already had another job when you were hired to do Census work, is to reduce or reschedule your hours at the other job, and/or take some days off. Hold your place at your other job, at *least* until you’ve completed the Census training and made it through the first day or two of field work after training, as some people decide then that the Census field work isn’t a good fit for them and don’t want to continue. Even for people who are willing and able to continue the Census field work, for most people it’s only a couple of months at a time, with weeks or months of downtime between stages of the project; and it will all be over with a year and a half from now anyway.

  4. Deric Wechter Says:

    I had a similar experience in Connecticut. I was hired at the beginning of March and then, last Thursday, less than two weeks before I was supposed to start I received a phone call that the offer had been rescinded.

    I guess I am lucky they actually bothered to call and tell me, but it’s still pretty majorly disappointing and life altering.

  5. Deric Wechter Says:

    To be fair, Kudos to the CT Census employees for having the class to make the best of a bad situation bigger than themselves and calling people up and apologizing on behalf of the bureau.

    Still, this really sucks that the Census bureau would do this to people that desperately need the money as the Federal Government literally throws money away left and right. Would it have been that awful for them, with the supposedly pro-employee Left in power, to have made good and hired these extra people they were incompetent enough to wave a carrot in front of in the first place?

  6. Rich Says:

    I was hired to do the Group Quarters Enumeration. I started training the at the end of March. The bureau basically hired 15 people to do 2 persons worth of work. I got 22 hours training, went to a few soup kitchens in an effort to count the homeless and I haven’t heard anything since. There are about 60 “Group Quarters” in the area I’m working. So, 60 divided by 15 is 4 each over the course of 4 weeks. I anticipated getting a 40 hour week and then transition to the knocking on doors job in May. But, thousands of jobs were created in March!

  7. Deric Wechter Says:

    UPDATE: FYI- as of now as far as I know, I am re-scheduled to begin Census work on April 27th, 2010. They did put me on a priority list for having let me down when they overhired, so they are attempting to make good on the situation. I will keep you posted if anything changes as I need to talk to a lady from the Census Bureau today- I suspect possibly about my post(s) here but we will see:).