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Audit Reveals California DOC Employees Illegally Received Holiday Pay for Scheduled Days Off

The California State Auditor found that Sierra Conservation Center (SCC) State Prison management permitted exempt health and social services professional employees to accrue holiday credits when a holiday fell on a scheduled day off, notwithstanding that their union agreement expressly provided that they do not accrue holiday credits on days they do not work. The result was an illegal gift of public funds.

For example, when one employee was credited with 48 hours of holiday credits for days that she was not scheduled to work, a $1,653 gift of public funds was made to that employee. The Auditor found nine SCC exempt employees whose unearned holiday credits amounted to 516 hours between January 2002 and May 2005, worth $17,164.

Some of the employees benefited from another gimmick. Because they were on 10 hours/day, 4 days/week work schedules, when they gained a day of leave, it was only charged at the standard work-week rate of 8 hours/day. Nonetheless, they got paid for their day at the 10-hour equivalent rate. (Part time employees gained even more, earning a 10-hour day for a part day.) One employee netted $6,831 in the 3-year audit period via this mechanism. Interviews with SCC supervisors revealed that they had no procedure to recover these two-hour shortages. All told, considering holiday and work-week excess accruals, the Auditor found $49,094 worth of illegal gifts of public funds at SCC. When confronted for an interview by the Auditor, the Warden confirmed the practice but refused to certify it under penalty of perjury.

The Auditor determined that seven of the nine employees under question still continued to work alternate schedules and charge only four to eight hours of leave when absent from a 10-hour workday. And when in January 2004, a new payroll specialist transferring into SCC began charging the leave balances at the rate of actual work hours missed (i.e., hour for hour), five union employees filed grievances contending that only 8 hours should be charged whenever they missed 10 hours. California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation headquarters approved the practice, permitting the illegal public gifts to persist.

The Auditor recommended simply disallowing the alternate work schedule policy. CDCR replied that it had passed the buck to its Labor Relations Office, which had not reported back to the Auditor as of early 2006. See: California State Auditor Report No. 12006-1.

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