LWC employees may have been improperly compensated $786,000, state auditor finds
BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - An audit conducted by the Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s Office has identified several instances where employees with the Louisiana Workforce Commission (LWC) may have been improperly paid for extra hours and in violation of State Civil Service Rules.
Through their work, auditors found LWC granted $1.7 million to employees under a special provision called Special Leave—Act of God (SLAG). Under the provision, employees were able to collect special paid leave if they were unable to work due to an act of God. From March to April 2020, auditors discovered employees were compensated for 33,560 hours, collectively earning about $786,000 in those SLAG payments that may have been improper. In the time period that auditors reviewed, they found an employee may have worked 50 hours in a work week were actually compensated for 95 hours.
WAFB’s Scottie Hunter asked the assistant director with the auditor’s office, Ricky Rodriguez, why what they found is such a problem.
“Well, what we found is during a three week period that ended approximately the week of April 20 that you had LWC employees who actually worked during that time, they were also compensated with the special leave,” Rodriguez said. “For example, an employee worked 40 hours a week. That employee also got 40 hours of the special leave so essentially 80 hours of compensation for 40 hours of work so that put them in our opinion, outside of civil service rules.”
When the governor closed state offices to the public at the height of the pandemic, auditors said LWC employees who were prevented from working should have gotten the SLAG but those who came into work should have only received their regular compensation plus overtime. Because some of those employees may have gotten both, auditors point out that is a violation of State Civil Service rules.
“The special leave was created for those individuals who could not do their job; however, our interpretation was it was not created or expected to be used for individuals that actually could work,” Rodriguez said.
LWC Secretary Ava Cates issued a statement on Monday, June 7:
“The first three-weeks of the pandemic our employees were pushed to the limit acting as first responders to make sure people got the benefits they desperately needed. Those employees who showed up to work, during a State of Emergency, were paid in accordance with LWC policy.
LWC staff valiantly served our state’s citizens. It would have been dereliction of duty not to serve citizens of the state during the unprecedented first three weeks of the pandemic and I stand by the decision I made.
LWC paid out nearly $270 million in benefits to citizens in the period in question. That’s more than the $153 million we gave out in all of 2019. Only state merit staff could perform UI functions during the time period in question, and the staff charges are an allowable federal expenditure.”
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