Some state workers cashing in on furlough Fridays


State workers have a lot to protest these days, most want a union contract in place to avoid another wave of three unpaid furloughs days a month set to begin next Friday.

"I'm staying with a friend because I can't afford another house right now; it's been tough for me, very tough," state employee Linda Robinson said.

Some are even angrier about a new report by independent investigative reporting group California Watch that finds hundreds of state managers and other high level workers are actually making more money on some furlough weeks, thanks to a federal law.

The Fair Labor Standards Act mandates that salaried workers be paid hourly when reduced hours like furloughs are in place. So, now they have become eligible for overtime, being paid $1.6 million on overtime all together.

"That's ridiculous; when you're cutting the lower workers and you're giving the managers more money during a furlough time, it seems like you're counter balancing everything that's going on," state employee John Krumm said.

When California Watch crunched the numbers, three departments came out on top with hundreds of thousands of dollars in overtime over 14 months beginning in February 2009:

  • The Employment Development Office spent nearly half a million dollars
  • The Office of the State Information Officer was the next biggest spender with $328,000
  • The CalPERS, the state retirement system, racked up a $187,000 tab

Even though Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger ordered overtime to be minimized, the state says it cannot be helped in many departments.

"The amount of money spent on overtime is a tiny portion of the overall $2.8 billion in savings," Calif. Department of Personnel Administration spokesperson Lynelle Jolley said.

At the Employment Development Office, the manpower and supervision required to churn out a record $20 billion in unemployment checks last year was unavoidable.

"It was really an overall, high demand, all-hands-on-deck during this recession to make sure we're meeting the needs of our clients," spokesperson Loree Levy said.

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