JEFFERSON, LA (WVUE) - An audit conducted by the Jefferson Parish Inspector General's office for a second year in a row found many parish employees were improperly paid overtime due to improper interpretation of applicable laws and management practices that cannot properly determine whether some work was actually performed.
The audit determined the parish spend almost $8.5 Million in overtime pay and that 18 percent of that, or around $1.5 million, was paid to 249 exempt employees or just over eight percent of the total parish workforce.
The auditors found several areas where the parish could change pay practices to save overtime costs.
"The pervasiveness and manner by which the Parish engages in the practice of compensating for stand-by time makes it difficult to determine whether the practice is supported or substantiated by factual circumstances of a particular department. However and still, the number of incidents of "call-outs" compared to hours on "stand-by" suggest an excessive amount of "stand-by" hours by the Parish".
The audit found that much of the paid overtime resulted from inconsistent policies, incorrect interpretation Fair Labor Standards Act and continued management practices that need better oversight.
The audit noted that exempt employees are not required to be paid for overtime and are supposed to adjust their schedules to meet the parish's needs. The audit also noted that this practice was cited in last year's audit.
The report states that with additional oversight most of the overtime paid could be considered a "questionable expenditure" and be "fairly be reflected as waste."
The report recommends the following:
- Ensure that exempt employees work an adjusted schedule, when necessary, to meet the Parish’s needs. Employees classified as exempt are not required to be paid for overtime pursuant to the FLSA, as stated in the prior audit.
- Ensure employees are only paid for time actually worked by addressing the practice that pays employees on stand-by and call-out, as stated in the prior audit.
- Utilize stand-by pay only for exigent circumstances and not as a regular pay supplement.
- Ensure that when there are multiple employees performing the same functions, work hours (shifts) should be staggered so that more work can be performed and paid at straight-time instead of utilizing overtime, as stated in the prior audit.