UC underpaid thousands of employees in payroll error

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The University of California is set to pay $1.3 million in back wages and damages to thousands of the system’s employees as part of a settlement over a payroll error.

UC reached a settlement on May 5 with the U.S. Department of Labor. The system had asked the department to investigate the error after it became aware of the problem during a transition in payroll systems.

The money will go to nearly 14,000 current and former employees who were underpaid between 2014 and 2016.

“Working people living check to check have been waiting nearly three years for UC to pay back these stolen overtime wages,” Kathryn Lybarger, president of AFSCME Local 3299, UC’s largest employee union, said in a statement on Friday. “We are grateful to the U.S. Department of Labor for ensuring that workers are made whole and that the University is held accountable.”

The settlement does not require the system to pay back wages below $20, however, which has sparked criticism from the union.

“This incident reflects a troubling trend with respect to the management of UC’s resources,” Lybarger said. “The university has deep pockets when it comes to bloated executive bureaucracy, but suddenly has tight pockets when it comes to paying frontline workers the wages they’ve earned.”

A state audit this spring found that UC failed to disclose $175 million in funds, sparking outcry from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

“We are not asking employees to repay overpayments,” said UC spokeswoman Dianne Klein. “The $20 threshold for underpayment is the total over three years. The average back wages owed to employees covered by the settlement — those owed $20 or more — is $55 for the entire 3 years. These were mostly staff employees who are non-exempt and therefore eligible to earn overtime. Most of these employees are at the medical centers, where there is a lot of overtime worked because of the 24/7 nature of their operations.”



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