Tuesday, September 18, 2007


Okay, you go to work, punch a time card (or however your operation does it) and expect to get paid for your hours. It may not be much, but it's what you count on. Well, maybe you're getting screwed. Maybe you notice something is wrong and you complain about it but the operation says, "you're crazy."

Well, city bus drivers in Sante Fe, New Mexico weren't crazy...and fortunately they've, at least, got a union that can bring some clout to the table. Of course, the union complained a year ago and still nothing happened, so you might wonder just how stand up the union was about all this.

Have you ever noticed how things like this seem to never work in your favor? Your boss never loses money, your utility company errors never go your way, the mistake on your credit card never helped you out.

How strange.

And, of course, the company is always ready to fire anyone who tampers with their time card Another case (which led to a law suit) which also occured down in New Mexico highlights the above rather well.

On Dec. 31, 2002, Debbie Chavez punched the time card at the Wal-Mart where she worked, but the clock failed to record her sign in, and she was not paid for her work that day, the lawsuit said.
Chavez told her employer that she had indeed worked on Dec. 31, a claim verified by a co-worker. Chavez’s manager told her to prepare a ‘‘time adjustment request’’ to recover the time not recorded by the time clock. Chavez was later paid for the time, the lawsuit stated.

About two weeks later according to the Sante Fe New Mexican , Chavez was confronted by a “loss prevention representative,’’ who said she was guilty of ‘‘time theft’’ and would have to pay Wal-Mart back.

The representative also said Wal-Mart had security videotapes proving she hadn’t worked the day in question.

Fearing for her job, Chavez agreed to return the money and also to sign an agreement that she had not worked on the disputed day in return for a promise she wouldn’t be fired, the lawsuit said.

But Chavez was terminated two weeks later as a ‘‘seasonal layoff,’’ the lawsuit said. “In fact, Wal-Mart has long had a policy of terminating employees for specious disciplinary reasons in an effort to avoid what it perceives as negative implications of layoffs”’

Later, as part of an unemployment claim, Daniel M. Jacobs, an administrative law judge, reviewed Wal-Mart’s videotape purportedly showing Chavez had not worked on the day in question and determined that the tape, in fact, showed the opposite: Chavez had worked on that day, the lawsuit said.

As a result of that dishonesty, ‘‘not only did Wal-Mart destroy plaintiff’s livelihood in a knowingly false basis, but it forced Ms. Chavez to enter the Albuquerque labor market with a termination for theft on her resume,” the lawsuit alleged.

Chavez, who had worked at Wal-Mart for three years and was earning $11.24 per hour, meant nothing to Wal-Mart.

And workers getting shorted is not in the least uncommon.

For example, just last month Arizona State University officials admitted a glitch affected workers pay. More than 700 of the university's workers received less money than they should have, including some people who didn't receive any pay at all. Notice that once again the glitch benefited the employer.

Now when the error does happen to go the other way, I can guarantee you that the bosses go all out to make sure they get their money back. You may not have known your pay was in error and you may have spent the money, but that's your tough luck.

And that's just the way of things...
Oh, one last thing, the bosses don't have to worry about these problems themselves. They don't punch in.

The following is from the Sante Fe New Mexican.

City admits time cards altered
Bus drivers’ hours were changed, but the challenge now is to find out why

City bus driver have been shorted money on their paychecks by a systematic changing of time cards that went on for months and possibly years, a city administrator admits.

It remains to be seen how much will be paid in retroactive wages to Santa Fe Trails employees to make up for the changes and whether new time-management systems now in place will be a successful solution.

In early June, the city’s labor union filed a formal grievance alleging that time-clock data was routinely altered by line supervisors under the direction of higher managers, according to Lawrence Vigil, a steward for American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3999.

When the union presented Transit Division Director Jon Bulthuis with evidence of the practice, he said, he immediately ordered everyone in the division to stop making the changes.

A report he received a week later from the contractor who produces the time-clock software showed a troublesome trend: From March 10 to June 1, or six pay periods, punch-in and punch-out times were altered approximately 10,000 times for 57 transit operators.

Bulthuis, who took over as director in May 2006, said no one previously brought the practice to his attention. He is several managerial levels away from the supervisors who were changing the time records, he said. “I didn’t understand that these edits were happening,” he said.

Asked how pervasive or long-lasting the problem was, Bulthuis said he’s waiting for the results of a city Finance Department review.

“At this point, we are definitely looking back in time to try to discover that and find the places in the past where trends may have changed, the extent or origin of which we don’t have a good handle on,” he said.

Union leaders say they filed a similar grievance about the Transit Division last year and don’t think it’s possible Bulthuis just learned of the situation.

“This has been going on for a number of years. ... If you are messing with people’s times, you are breaking the law,” said Adrian Dalton, a bus driver who also is a union steward. Dalton said the changes have not affected him because he does not work overtime, but he’s heard complaints from several other drivers.

Larry Kinart is one of them. Kinart said Thursday that the new policies, in place for about a month, have not stopped time-card changing or incorrect paychecks. For example, drivers’ shifts are supposed to include time for pre- and post-trip inspections to ensure vehicle safety. Kinart said he is not paid for the inspection time, up to an hour a week. He also said new forms that let bus drivers review time records before payroll processing are ignored.

“Two paydays ago, I took it to them. I made the corrections, and when I got paid, I got the same as what was on the sheet without the corrections; it’s just an ongoing thing,” he said last week.

The city’s human-resources director, Kristine Kuebli, said not every instance of time-card changing on the report indicates an employee was shorted. For example, in some cases, employees appear to have worked more than eight hours one day, then left early by the same amount of time the next day.

Also included in the changes are instances in which employees worked a fraction of a quarter-hour and were rounded up or down to the closest quarter-hour.

The city Finance Department is reviewing six months’ worth of time-clock and payroll data and might review more records if warranted, Bulthuis said.

“If we find that we have not paid employees for hours worked, we will get after that,” he said. “I feel badly that the practice that had been in place was going on because it leads to the potential that we are not paying people for the hours they have worked, which is clearly not the environment that I want to lead. We definitely have taken steps to make sure that does not happen in the future and to make the employees whole.”

Meanwhile, individual employees wait for the bureaucracy to churn out a result.

Several were turned away by the state’s labor department, now called the Department of Workforce Development. Spokesman Carlos Castaneda said the department does not have jurisdiction in the matter, and a Santa Fe department representative referred people to the U.S. Department of Labor, he said.

A spokeswoman at the federal agency said she was not permitted to verify whether complaints about Santa Fe Trails have been received. She said the agency typically reveals only whether a particular employer is being investigated. She did not confirm by press time the status of any case regarding Santa Fe Trails.

Union stewards Dalton and Vigil say the city is not acting to hold anyone accountable for the situation. They declined to release documents detailing the grievances, citing as reasons both employee confidentiality and possible future litigation.

No comments: