Sleeping on the job and other abuses: California state audit uncovers cheating workers

California state employers cost the state tens of thousands of dollars in wasted funds by leaving work early, misusing leave time and in one case literally sleeping on the job.

That’s the finding of a new report from California State Auditor Elaine Howle, which examined more than 800 whistleblower complaints between July and December of 2018.

The auditor found that 30 employees, in eight departments, cost the state an estimated $150,000 in taxpayer money.

The single largest waste in state funds identified in the auditor’s regular report on “improprer activities by state agencies and employees” was in the Department of Tax and Fee Administration and the former Board of Equalization, where the auditor found that 25 managers and supervisors failed to accurately charge their leave time.

“As a result, these departments have overpaid those 25 employees a total of at least $72,000 since 2016,” the report found.

That’s a conservative estimate. The auditor’s office found that the total cost of over-payments due to inaccurately recorded leave time at CDTFA might be more than $500,000.

The auditor also found that three engineers at the State Water Resources Control Board misused an estimated 1,000 hours of work time; they did so by arriving for work late, leaving early and taking long lunches, the report found. A fourth engineer failed to record 35 hours of missed work on his time sheets, as well as overtime that he worked.

“The misuse by these four employees cost the state more than $48,000 in salaries paid for work the employees did not perform,” the report found.

In one instance, the state paid thousands of dollars for a California State University system campus police officer to sleep on the job. Last year, Howle’s office issued a report describing a DMV worker who slept on the job for much of her workdays over three years.

In the new report, the auditor wrote that the officer would lie down and take naps on her shift with the direct approval of her sergeant, costing the state as much as $16,400. The officer at an undisclosed campus also failed to work her full 10-hour shift, counting her 30-minute travel time to and from work as part of her hours worked.

The report further found violations at:

  • The Judicial Counsel of California, which neglected to ensure that superior courts attempted to fill vacancy needs through other means before accessing the Assigned Judges Program.
  • The California Department of Transportation, where an information technology worker was found to be misusing bereavement leave, costing the state more than $8,400.
  • The State Controller’s Office, where a supervisor allowed employees to informally adjust their work schedules, resulting in at least one employee failing to account for 23 hours of work time.
  • The Department of Industrial Relations, where two supervisors failed to monitor the time and attendance of two clerical employees, resulting in an inability to determine the actual work hours from June 2017 to March 2018.

  • The California Department of Social Services, where a supervisor “failed to take progressive discipline with a subordinate employee whom the supervisor knew was wasting state time and not performing his job duties satisfactorily.”

The state auditor concluded the report with recommendations that the California Department of Human Resources modify state policies governing supervisors and managers monitoring of employee attendance and time use, as well as improved training on that subject.

The auditor also recommended that the state “consider changing relevant bargaining unit agreements to require employees to submit substantiation for each claim of bereavement leave.”

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