Hun­dreds im­prop­erly paid at col­leges

Tech up­grade has led to chaos for pay­roll sys­tem

The Arizona Republic - - Front Page - Anne Ry­man

An up­grade to the pay­roll sys­tem for the Mari­copa County Com­mu­nity Col­leges Dis­trict has caused hun­dreds of em­ploy­ees to be over­paid or un­der­paid, some by thou­sands of dol­lars.

The pay­check er­rors be­gan in Fe­bru­ary, when the state’s largest com­mu­nity-col­lege dis­trict launched a ma­jor up­grade to its hu­man-re­sources tech­nol­ogy sys­tem.

The roll­out trig­gered tech­ni­cal is­sues with how pay­roll is com­puted, and some em­ploy­ees also strug­gled with the sys­tem’s new, un­fa­mil­iar for­mat.

Dis­trict of­fi­cials said they have so far iden­ti­fied 79 over­pay­ments, rang­ing from $10 to $10,057. They have found an­other 760 un­der­pay­ments with the most-ex­treme ex­am­ple be­ing a pay­check that was short $1,700.

Some em­ploy­ees have re­ported more than one dis­crep­ancy in their pay­checks since early Fe­bru­ary.

The pay­check prob­lems come as

fac­ulty are al­ready at odds with the dis­trict’s gov­ern­ing board over the board’s con­tro­ver­sial de­ci­sion in Fe­bru­ary to end a long-stand­ing ne­go­ti­a­tion process called “meet and con­fer” that de­ter­mines pay and ben­e­fits.

Now comes an un­re­lated pay­check prob­lem.

“The tim­ing on this has been hor­ri­ble,” said Jon Storslee, fac­ulty se­nate pres­i­dent at Par­adise Val­ley Com­mu­nity Col­lege who has fielded calls and emails from em­ploy­ees about pay­check dis­crep­an­cies.

Ad­junct fac­ulty have been hard­est hit be­cause they are con­tract em­ploy­ees, both Storslee and dis­trict of­fi­cials said. Their in­for­ma­tion is held in an­other sys­tem that was in­te­grated into the main sys­tem, known as the Hu­man Cap­i­tal Man­age­ment sys­tem, as part of the up­grade.

Dis­trict of­fi­cials ac­knowl­edge the roll­out hasn’t gone smoothly and said they sym­pa­thize with em­ploy­ees’ frus­tra­tions.

About 3 per­cent of the 10,000 em­ploy­ees have ex­pe­ri­enced pay­check dis­par­i­ties, said LaCoya Shel­ton-John­son, vice chan­cel­lor for hu­man re­sources. As dis­trict and col­lege of­fi­cials work to re­solve the dis­crep­an­cies, that per­cent­age has de­creased to around 1 per­cent in the dis­trict’s most re­cent pay­roll, on March 31.

Em­ploy­ees who re­ported short­ages have been is­sued pa­per checks, she said. In some cases, dis­trict of­fi­cials have sent checks by FedEx to em­ploy­ees’ homes or even driven checks to their homes.

“We’ve been crank­ing,” she said. One em­ployee drove from the col­lege dis­trict’s head­quar­ters in Tempe to Sur­prise in the north­west Val­ley to make sure an em­ployee got his check.

Shel­don-John­son said the dis­trict is see­ing a de­crease in dis­crep­an­cies with each pay­roll pe­riod.

“But nev­er­the­less, we want it at zero,” she said.

The pay­check er­rors have prompted fac­ulty to sur­vey em­ploy­ees in the 10col­lege sys­tem about their ex­pe­ri­ences with the pay­roll sys­tem.

Not all the sur­vey re­sults are avail­able yet. But at Scotts­dale Com­mu­nity Col­lege, 60 per­cent of the 200 em­ploy­ees who re­sponded called the roll­out a “fail­ure.”

Thir­teen per­cent said they were un­der­paid. Two per­cent re­ported be­ing over­paid. An­other 30 per­cent said they are un­sure whether they were over­paid or un­der­paid be­cause “I can’t un­der­stand my pay­checks any­more.”

Among the frus­tra­tions in the sur­vey:

“I have enough work to do when I fo­cus on teach­ing. I shouldn’t have to worry about when or if I am go­ing to be paid for it!” one em­ployee wrote.

“I have been both over­paid and un­der­paid!” an­other wrote.

An­other said, “I am still wait­ing on my full pay­ment for the past THREE pay pe­ri­ods. This is un­ac­cept­able.”

One em­ployee re­ported be­ing shorted 20 hours in a pay­check and told it was be­cause the dis­trict over­paid the em­ployee pre­vi­ously. “They did NOT over­pay me in the prior pay pe­riod,” the em­ployee wrote. The same em­ployee re­ported the pay­roll sys­tem dou­bled the amount of sick and per­sonal time avail­able, a dis­crep­ancy that had not been cor­rected after the em­ployee re­ported it.

Shel­ton-John­son, who over­sees hu­man re­sources, said dis­trict of­fi­cials do not see the roll­out as a suc­cess “in any way, shape or form.”

She said the dis­trict did quite a bit of prepa­ra­tion for the roll­out to mod­ern­ize the pay­roll sys­tem, in­clud­ing more than two dozen test­ing ses­sions and more than 100 em­ployee train­ing ses­sions.

Since the prob­lems were re­ported, she’s de­ployed teams to col­leges and has so far vis­ited seven of the 10 col­leges to an­swer ques­tions and re­solve prob­lems, she said.

Susan Moore, di­vi­sion chair of English, world lan­guages and jour­nal­ism at Scotts­dale Com­mu­nity Col­lege, over­sees three de­part­ment chairs and two pro­gram di­rec­tors and says peo­ple hired to teach and sup­port stu­dents are be­ing buried by hu­man-re­source tasks.

Moore has worked for the col­lege dis­trict for 25 years, and said she has never ex­pe­ri­enced any­thing as bad as what’s hap­pen­ing with the pay­roll sys­tem.

The im­pact on morale is sig­nif­i­cant, she said.

“When you’re not pay­ing peo­ple, that says you don’t mat­ter. And even if that’s not the in­ten­tion, you are putting hard­ships on peo­ple,” she said.

One em­ployee went as far as to file a com­plaint with the In­dus­trial Com­mis­sion of Ari­zona, which en­forces state laws re­lated to life, health and safety, in­clud­ing pay­ment of wages. Shel­tonJohn­son said that com­plaint has been re­solved and is con­sid­ered closed.

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