Multnomah County's new pay system generates errors, complaints
Problems with Multnomah County's new payroll system have gotten so bad that four employee unions are threatening to sue if administrators don't start paying their members correctly.
Since Workday was implemented in January, employees — such as nurses, sheriff's deputies and others who work non-standard hours — have frequently been overpaid and underpaid, and new, complicated pay stubs don't let them check whether the pay is accurate or not.
The unions have been raising concerns for months, and more than 400 payroll complaints have been filed by corrections deputies alone. Three unions recently joined to issue a joint warning of a potential class-action lawsuit, reflecting that their patience is wearing thin.
"We've been at it for seven months now and there's really no remedy in sight," said Robert Crumpton, executive vice-president of the Multnomah County Corrections Deputies Association.
The Oregon Nurses Association and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees joined with the deputies on the recent warning, sent to Chair Deborah Kafoury on July 17. It says she has 30 days to pay employees the wages due them or a lawsuit will seek damages, penalties and attorney fees as well.
"We can't comment on proposed litigation, but we have already proposed several remedies and are working to resolve all of these issues," said Julie Sullivan-Springhetti, the county's communications director.
Workday, Inc., did not respond to requests for comments.
The problems with the $42 million system were first reported on in February by Willamette Week.
In April, ruling on a complaint by the corrections union, an administrative law judge of the Oregon Employment Relations Board found that Multnomah County had violated labor law by adopting Workday unilaterally and failing to negotiate with the corrections deputies. The state board hasn't yet approved the decision.
"Deputies have had to invest a great deal of time in both entering their time, reviewing complex pay stubs, and contacting human resources to attempt to correct the many errors in their pay," wrote the judge, Julie Reading. "The evidentiary record contains hundreds of instances of miscalculations of deputy pay in Workday."
Deputies in Clark County, Washington have experienced similar problems with Workday since it was implemented last summer, and filed their own payroll complaint, according to The Columbian newspaper.
In 2016, Multnomah County employees were told to expect Workday to go live July 2017. In November 2017 the county announced the new go-live date would be July 2018. That date then was pushed back to January of this year.
Crumpton said the unions are frustrated in part because county management has so far seemed to minimize the problems, with a message that boils down to, "Hey, this system is working very effectively and we're just having minor issues."
One employee was being paid more than $120 an hour, and another received zero pay, he said. Worse yet, the same types of problems continue to repeat with no sign that they're being rectified.
According to the class-action notice, "The uncertainty caused by not knowing whether you're going to be fully paid or owe money back to the County is damaging to morale and the financial security of our rmembers' families .. .We have patiently attempted to resolve these problems for the past five-plus months, but we continue to receive either no responses or unsatisfactory responses."
Eben Pullman of AFSCME said his union appreciates recent indications the county is taking the concerns seriously. Rather than spend their days hashing out erroneous paychecks, employees "really want to focus on getting their jobs done and serving their communities," he said.
Matt Ferguson, president of the Multnomah County Deputy Sheriffs Association, whose members work on the law enforcement side of the sheriff's office, said his organization has sent its own lawsuit warning, similar to the other unions' letter.
"It's awful," he said. "The county is making efforts to try to fix it, but it's been six months, so I think people are kind of fed up. Our time cards are indecipherable. It's been really frustrating."
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