NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — 5,000 City of Norfolk employees are about to get another paycheck on Friday, but will they get paid the right amount? Chances are they won’t, because of a seriously flawed new payroll system.
So upset about it, the union that represents Norfolk government employees is threatening a lawsuit.
10 On Your Side sat down with Jane Bethel, the president of the local chapter of National Association of Government Employees. She said her union represents about 3,000 Norfolk city workers, although the city says it does not recognize the union.
City spokesperson Lori Crouch said in an email, “The city does not have an employee union. Ms. Bethel is not nor has ever been involved in the plan and implementation of time and labor, absence management or bi-weekly payroll.”
Bethel knows that, but she says she is fielding lots of complaints from workers who say the new city payroll plan is a disaster. She is so concerned about this, she is actually looking for an attorney to file a class action lawsuit.
“The Association of Government Employees is searching for an attorney, and we may want to do a class action lawsuit against the city for the damages,” Bethel said.
WAVY News pointed out to her the city says it is making sure all employees are made whole after the city figures out how to adjust to the payroll system.
“There are damages now. People are not able to pay their mortgage, their credit is being ruined,” Bethel said. “That is very difficult to repair.”
Interim City Manager Doug Smith admits he has a mess on his hands. He has said, “We could have done a better job rolling out the new payroll plan. Hindsight is 20-20.”
Crouch followed up, “As the Interim City Manager mentioned, this is a culture change. The network systems that we are implementing are complex. In the end, will ensure employees are paid for the time they worked… We’ve seen continued improvement. As he mentioned, we still have a few more payroll cycles to get through before everything is resolved. We won’t know the number of employees affected until we complete this week’s payroll.”
Bethel says, “What I’m hearing from employees it is still a mess, and the payroll checks still aren’t right.”
As 10 On Your Side heard from Smith, chances are the paychecks won’t be right on Friday.
In fairness to Norfolk, WAVY has reported the city is giving cash advances to bridge people from paycheck to paycheck, but Bethel continues to hear the stories.
“One fella had two storage units. His mother passed away. He lost the storage units, and they sold his stuff at auction,” she said.
Bethel says a source she has in the Department of Information Technology in charge of fixing the payroll problem says it was well know the new payroll system wasn’t ready.
“The Directors of Information Technology and Finance together were very concerned about this being implemented when it was planned to be implemented because it wasn’t ready,” Bethel said.
David Lefleur, President of the Norfolk Police Union, says many of his members have payroll issues.
“When you are a police officer, you live paycheck to paycheck,” Lefleur said. “When you aren’t getting what you expect, that affects you work wise and personal wise.”
Bethel tells 10 On Your Side some of her members say they are also sometimes unfairly marked tardy due to the new payroll system.
“So many of the employees are written up for being tardy, so they might be standing in line to log in to the computer, they don’t get in, so they are being written up for being tardy. It is a catch 22,” Bethel said.
Crouch responded to that.
“That is not true. There is a seven minute clock in/out grace period. It was set up with an understanding that a number of employees may clock in and out at the same time.”
The firefighters union told WAVY News everyone has been paid something, but overtime and special pay remain issues.
Lefleur adds, “There is not one person who didn’t receive a check. Some people were overpaid and some were underpaid. The city has expedited the people underpaid to cut them checks.”