Auditor: Some Health Workers Doubling Their Salaries With Overtime
About 100 nurses and mental health workers in state facilities have received at least twice their salaries in overtime pay in recent years, according to a state auditor report released Tuesday, the Los Angeles Times reports.
In the report, auditor Elaine Howle noted that some state health workers had logged as many as 90 hours per week.
The report found that state agencies paid $2.1 billion in overtime wages during the past five years. This figure excludes the state prison system, which previously has received attention for excessive overtime pay (McGreevy, Los Angeles Times, 10/21).
The audit also found that a large portion of the overtime wages went to relatively few people in the state departments of Mental Health and Developmental Services (Ortiz, Sacramento Bee, 10/21).
Howle said state workers might log significant amounts of overtime because of:
- Fluctuations in the number of mental health patients requiring one-on-one staffing;
- Union contracts that do not cap individual overtime; and
- Union contracts that do not spread overtime caps out among employees.
Howle sent a letter to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) and state lawmakers noting that excessive overtime work could put patients and health workers at risk (Los Angeles Times, 10/21).
Her audit said unlimited overtime could lead to:
- Higher workplace accident rates;
- More medication and charting errors; and
- Poorer employee health.
Howle called for the state to restrict overtime and amend existing regulations to prevent abuses and other problems.
She also said the state should avoid labor deals that allow leave time to count toward overtime calculations (Sacramento Bee, 10/21).
Stephen Mayberg, director of the state Department of Mental Health, said his agency currently is operating with higher staffing requirements under a court-approved consent decree.He said the department would address issues related to excess overtime (McGreevy, Los Angeles Times, 10/21). This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.