Local News

Payroll issue has state employees coming up short

Posted July 2, 2008 4:55 p.m. EDT
Updated July 2, 2008 8:09 p.m. EDT

— Hundreds of the state's 86,000 employees could be missing money from their paychecks because of input problems associated with a new payroll system that began rolling out to state agencies last year.

Judy Hearn, a nurse at Dorothea Dix Hospital, is one of those employees.

"In my estimation, it's close to $1,700," Hearn said of the amount of overtime and shift differential pay she says she is missing.

Her employer, the Department of Health and Human Services, was among a number of agencies that implemented the $70 million system, called Beacon, in April after an initial phase of testing.

The issue, in part, is that it did not recognize overtime or differential pay some employees were to receive.

"Some of the issues also come with training on how to use the system," said Tom Lawrence, DHHS's director of public affairs.

But Lawrence said the agency is working to getting payments for employees on a case-by-case basis.

"We did about 25 yesterday," he said. "We expect more today, three to four times that many."

Other state agencies, such as the Department of Transportation and the Department of Correction, are also having similar pay problems.

Dennis Patterson, a spokesman for the controller's office, said there isn't a technical problem with the system. The issue is with individual departments entering incorrect information.

Dana Cope, executive director of the State Employees Association, says it could soon become a legal issue because federal law requires employees to be paid within a certain period of time.

"They should have anticipated these problems and we want them to be fixed," Cope said.

The Office of the State Controller, which oversees the system, says it expects to have the problem corrected by the end of July.

Employees can call hotlines to have their case reviewed, in Raleigh, 919-707-0707 and elsewhere in the state at 866-622-3784.

"If the state doesn't resolve this issue quickly by paying our state employees what they deserve and what they work for, then we will be looking to file a formal complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor," Cope said.