Hundreds improperly paid at colleges
Tech upgrade has led to chaos for payroll system
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.