Cover Letter

November 6, 2019
Honorable Eric Garcetti, Mayor
Honorable Michael Feuer, City Attorney
Honorable Members of the Los Angeles City Council

Re: On the Clock: Review of City Employee Overtime

As one of the largest municipal governments in the nation, the City of Los Angeles relies on more than 50,000 employees to serve Angelenos and protect neighborhoods from crime, natural disasters, and local emergencies. The City spends most of its budget compensating its workforce — in the form of salary or hourly pay, benefits and overtime — for the community resources they provide. My latest review takes a look at recent City employee overtime trends, including the impact on payroll costs, the level of usage in each department and high overtime tallies for individual employees. It also offers recommendations to help the City use data to better control spending and enhance employee safety. The review covers sworn and civilian City employees in all departments except the Department of Water and Power, which uses a separate payroll system.

Out of a $4.3 billion total payroll, City employees received $470 million in overtime in fiscal year 2019, with 28,500 workers earning at least some type of overtime compensation. While the norm is for regular, full-time employees to work a 40-hour week, overtime is built into the staffing models for sworn firefighters and police officers to ensure public safety during emergencies, such as the recent Getty Fire, when hundreds of firefighters and additional sworn and civilian City personnel were deployed around the clock to save lives and property. Overtime is also used on an as-needed basis for civilian employees to complete time-sensitive work and assist Angelenos during large-scale special events and holidays.

Overtime rules are governed by the Fair Labor Standards Act and the City’s 43 separate labor agreements, which can include more job-specific overtime rules than those enumerated by federal law. My office found that overtime increased overall by a little more than one percent over the last five years, slowly rising from 9.6 percent of the City’s payroll in fiscal year 2015 to 10.9 percent last year — a greater percentage than in cities like New York and San Francisco, but slightly less than Chicago. Over that period, Los Angeles paid employees more than $2 billion in overtime. Some of that amount was reimbursable by outside entities for special events, like the L.A. Marathon, and for disaster response work if an emergency declaration was signed.

During the last fiscal year, sworn employees of the Los Angeles Fire and Los Angeles Police departments earned 77 percent of all overtime. The City’s Woolsey Fire response accounted for the single highest overtime pay period that year. In all, 91 percent of sworn LAFD and LAPD employees received overtime in fiscal year 2019, earning an average of $27,737 per employee. Los Angeles has long had fewer firefighters and police officers per capita than other large U.S. cities.

Civilian and a small number of sworn employees, excluding LAFD and LAPD, accounted for 23 percent of the City’s overtime pay, but well under half the employees in those departments earned overtime, and those that did collected $7,528 on average. The top overtime departments and bureaus in this category were Los Angeles World Airports, Bureau of Sanitation, Department of Transportation, Bureau of Street Services, and Department of Building and Safety.

Of particular note are 18 sworn LAFD employees who each earned more than $200,000 in overtime pay last year and 11 civilian employees who each earned more than $100,000 in overtime. One Firefighter and one Traffic Officer nearly tripled their regular pay in overtime alone by cataloging 5,616 and 3,702 overtime hours, respectively. According to those figures, 64 percent of that Firefighter’s year and 42 percent of the Traffic Officer’s was spent working overtime. Although my office concluded that departments properly approved and substantiated the majority of sworn and civilian overtime, there is clearly a need for better oversight and regulation to improve staffing, protect City employees from burnout and fatigue, and ensure that taxpayer funds are spent effectively.

Data-driven recommendations

The accompanying review outlines several ways the City can address the increasing impact of overtime on its budget, and achieve a healthier, more productive staffing model for its employees:

  • Make better use of open data tools to monitor and benchmark overtime usage, and more thoroughly analyze when it may be more appropriate to increase hiring to reduce overtime and fatigue.
  • Require departments to track high overtime usage by individual employees to ensure overtime is accurate and authorized.
  • Embrace policies that enforce overtime control strategies and practices, and can be adapted within existing and future labor agreements.

I urge City leaders and departments to adopt these recommendations and ensure that Los Angeles continues to deliver high-quality services to residents, all of which are rooted in the hard work and dedication of public employees.

Respectfully submitted,

RON GALPERIN
Los Angeles Controller

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Summary

The City of Los Angeles, excluding Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP), had more than 53,600 employees during fiscal year 2018-2019. Total payroll was $4.3 billion of which 10.9% or $470 million was overtime earned and paid. Overtime is a valuable tool and must be properly managed and monitored. A total of 8.59 million hours of overtime was recorded in FY ‘18-19 were, of which 83% was earned and paid, 6% was earned as compensated time, and 11% was primarily for lump sum payouts at retirement or year end.

The Office of the City Controller initiated this trend analysis into citywide overtime payroll data to provide an overview of the overtime payroll expense of the City of Los Angeles (City), excluding LADWP. This work involved performing an overtime payroll data analysis to identify trends, department usage, and employee participation in overtime.

The following are highlights of the overtime payroll data analysis results for fiscal year (FY) 2018-2019, from July 1, 2018, through June 30, 2019:

  • 77% of all overtime dollars paid was earned by sworn members of the Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) and the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD). The remaining 23% was led by Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA), Los Angeles Sanitation and Environment (Sanitation), and the Los Angeles Department of (Transportation).
  • 91% of sworn LAFD and LAPD and 40% of all other sworn and civilian employees (General Employees) received overtime during FY ‘18-19.
  • Sworn members of the LAFD and LAPD earned an average of $27,737 of overtime per employee compared to the average of $7,528 of overtime per General Employee.
  • 36% of sworn LAFD and LAPD and 13% of General Employees earned more than 25% of their regular pay in overtime.
  • 11 General Employees made over $100,000 in overtime. 2 General Employees have doubled their base salary by earning overtime during FY ‘18-19.

Generally, hourly workers are entitled to be paid overtime when working more than 40 hours a week but the rules that govern City employees’ overtime are complex and are defined in separate Memoranda of Understanding (MOU). While this report focuses on the cost of overtime, it’s important to note that long shifts can lead to worker fatigue, lower productivity, and potential health and safety concerns. Common best practices to limit overtime include:

  • Hiring sufficient staff to meet expected work load;
  • Constant oversight and supervision of overtime scheduling;
  • Constant monitoring of total overtime hours, dollars, and high users;
  • Capping individual overtime hours per shift and per year;
  • Cross-training staff, when feasible and allowable, to provide relief coverage.

Recommendation #1      

Department General Managers should make better use of existing open data and analytical tools such as dashboards, etc., to monitor and benchmark overtime usage by office, section, and/or unit within the Department; evaluate strategies such as analyzing the cost/benefit of hiring additional employees and/or exploring other employment models to reduce the need for employees to work overtime and thereby reduce fatigue and safety concerns.

Recommendation #2

Department General Managers should monitor high overtime use by individual employees to ensure overtime payments are accurate and authorized, as well as to take into consideration the potential impact of employee fatigue and safety when working extended hours.

Recommendation #3

City Policymakers should explore overtime control strategies that have been implemented in other cities, such as cross-training employees and limiting employees from working more than a certain number of overtime hours per shift/annually, and evaluate how those approaches can be successfully adapted within the context of existing and future labor agreements.

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Background

Introduction to the City’s Payroll Practices

The City’s civil service system is established by Article X of the City Charter, and is overseen by a five-member Board of Civil Service Commissioners. The Commission established classifications for all positions of employment, which constitute the classified civil service of the City. The City also has a limited number of non-civil service employees that are considered “at will”; as of June 2019, there were 2,189 employees exempt from civil service.

Overtime Compensation for Covered Employees can be Paid or Accrued

Overtime is a necessary scheduling tool that may be effectively used to increase overall efficiency in certain situations but needs to be closely monitored. There needs to be a balance between a department’s overtime costs and whether hiring additional staff may be more effective to meet the department’s needs. The City is subject to federal overtime provisions contained in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which states that unless exempt[1], employees covered by FLSA must receive overtime pay for hours worked over 40 in a workweek at a rate of 1.5x their regular rate. The City has 43 separate MOUs with specific negotiated terms which can include more generous overtime provisions than what is required by FLSA.

Overtime may be paid to employees via their paycheck for the period earned, or may be accrued and used later as compensatory time off or paid out at a subsequent date. A summary of the three categories of overtime is presented in Exhibit 1.

There are different overtime rates depending on an employee’s specific MOU provisions which include a 1.5x, 1.0x, and 0.5x overtime pay rates. The 1.5x overtime rate accounted for 58% of overtime dollars earned and paid in FY ‘18-19.

Special Events’ Overtime Costs May Be Reimbursable to the City

The City incurs overtime expenses related to reimbursable “Special Events,” including Dodger games, events at the Hollywood Bowl, the L.A. Marathon and other designated events. These overtime expenses are primarily related to safety officers and traffic control officers. Some of these overtime costs may be reimbursable to the City depending on the agreements between the City and the event sponsor. There are certain designated Special Events related to 1st Amendment event marches and public demonstrations permitted by LAPD that are not reimbursable.

[1] Some payroll classifications are salaried positions and are therefore exempt from FLSA and not entitled to overtime. Los Angeles Administrative Code Division 4, Chapter 2, Article 8, Section 4.114. Salaried – FLSA Exempt Employee

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Overview of Citywide Overtime Earned and Paid

City departments, excluding LADWP, paid employees $2.05 billion in overtime over the past five fiscal years, beginning July 1, 2014 and ending June 30, 2019[2]. As presented in Exhibit 2, overtime payments have increased $110.6 million from FY ‘14-15 to FY ‘18-19.

Overtime paid as a percentage of total payroll over the past five fiscal years has shown a slow growth of 1% over the last five years from 9.6% in FY ‘14-15 to 10.9% in FY ‘18-19, as shown in Exhibit 3 below.

The City of Los Angeles overtime percentage as a percentage of total payroll of 10.9% was benchmarked against New York, San Francisco, and Chicago that had the most current available data presenting FY ‘17-18 percentages of 6.6%, 7.1%, and 11.4%, respectively. For over 25 years, both New York and San Francisco have established limits in place on the amount of overtime that can be earned. New York estimates annual savings of at least $28 million in FY ‘19-20 from cost savings from civilian overtime control initiatives that includes restricting waivers on civilian overtime caps and monitoring the use of overtime by skilled trade workers. The City of Los Angeles can explore the possibility of implementing similar overtime caps.

The amount of overtime paid by department for FY ‘18-19 is presented in Exhibit 4. The LAFD and LAPD significantly out earn all other departments for overtime during the fiscal year.

During FY ‘18-19, the City paid regular earnings to more than 53,600 employees, of which more than 28,500 employees received overtime payments. The percentage of City employees receiving overtime is presented in Exhibit 5.

Overtime by Pay Period

Exhibit 6 presents the overtime paid in each of the 26 pay periods for FY ‘18-19. The amount of overtime paid ranged from a low of $15.2 million to a high of $21.9 million. The highest overtime paid period is attributed with the City’s response to the Woolsey Fire in Ventura and Los Angeles Counties.

Analysis of Overtime Paid to Sworn LAFD and LAPD Employees

Sworn LAFD and LAPD employees have scheduling models, such as constant staffing, that generally lead to high instances of overtime due to deployment practices and minimum coverage standards required. Exhibit 7 below presents the number of sworn employees receiving overtime within a given range and the total overtime paid to sworn employees within the overtime range.

As detailed above, approximately 6% of sworn employees were paid overtime in excess of $90,000 which accounted for $76.6 million or 22% of the total overtime paid to all sworn employees. The top 20 sworn earners of overtime for FY ‘18-19 are identified by department and classification as presented in Exhibit 8 below.

Analysis of Overtime Paid to General Employees

The same analysis performed for sworn LAFD and LAPD employees was also performed for General Employees. Overtime payment ranges for General Employees for overtime received and total paid in FY ‘18-19 is presented below in Exhibit 9.

The overtime range for General Employees shows that 95% of employees were paid less than $30,000 in overtime during FY ‘18-19 accounting for 69% or $82.5 million in overtime for all General Employees. However, the remaining 5% of employees were paid in excess of $30,000 and received 32% or $36.9 million of the total overtime amount for General Employees. The top 20 General Employee earners of overtime for FY ‘18-19 are presented in Exhibit 10 below.

The top General Employee by overtime paid in FY ‘18-19 is a traffic officer with Transportation. The Controller’s Office issued a report[3] that highlighted traffic officers’ high amounts of overtime for Special Events and provided recommendations to management to reduce overtime usage. The department has taken steps to reduce the amount of overtime, however there are provisions in the MOU that still allow high levels of overtime to be earned.

Analysis of General Employee Trends

General Employees are not expected to work consistent amounts of overtime as compared to sworn LAFD and LAPD employees, which require unpredictable overtime staffing requirements. Overtime usage by General Employees is normally to be used on an as-needed basis and would not expect consistent recording of overtime hours during the fiscal year. As presented in Exhibit 11 below, 11 General Employees had greater than 80 hours of overtime for six or more pay periods during FY ‘18-19. The frequency and significant number of overtime hours being charged by these employees is contrary to expected overtime usage.

In addition, 707 General Employees earned overtime in each of the 26 pay periods during FY ‘18-19 for a combined total overtime earned of $23.8 million, an average of $33,600 per employee. A breakdown of the 707 employees by department is presented below in Exhibit 12. The consistency with which a overtime hours are recorded by employees may indicate staffing shortages within that department.

[2] Amounts included in this analysis only include overtime earned and paid (refer to Exhibit 1).
[3] Report dated June 30, 2015 entitled “DOT Traffic Control for Special Events: Overtime and Collections.”

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Analysis of the Top 5 Departments by Overtime Earned and Paid

As shown below in Exhibit 13, the five highest overtime departments for FY ‘18-19 were LAFD, LAPD, LAWA, Sanitation, and Transportation. These five departments accounted for 90% of overtime dollars spent citywide in FY 2019.

Los Angeles Fire Department

As shown in Exhibit 14, LAFD overtime dollars have increased over the past five years from $165.5 million in FY ‘14-15 to a high of $192.7 million in FY ‘18-19. Unlike other major overtime departments, LAFD’s overtime hours have remained flat since FY ‘14-15 while wages increased during the period.

As shown in Exhibit 14A, during FY ‘18-19, 92% of LAFD employees received overtime. Exhibit 14B presents the overtime hours by employee classification groups for FY ‘18-19, with 99% of overtime within the department earned in the Firefighters, Captains, and Chief Officers classifications.

Los Angeles Police Department

As shown in Exhibit 15, after three years of relatively stable overtime within LAPD from FY ‘14-15 to FY ‘16-17, both overtime dollars and hours increased sharply in FY ‘17-18 and FY ‘18-19. Overtime dollars increased $38.6 million from FY ‘16-17 to FY ‘17-18.

The increase during this period corresponds to a 2017 contract between the City and the County’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) and budgeted in FY ‘17-18 for more than $40 million of overtime for police to patrol all MTA bus and rail services in Los Angeles. The MTA is to reimburse the City for associated costs. Overtime dollars increased $19.1 million from FY ‘17-18 to FY ‘18-19. The number of overtime hours also increased in FY ‘18-19 by 0.2 million hours from FY ‘17-18.

As shown in Exhibit 15A, during FY ‘18-19, 84% of LAPD employees received overtime. Exhibit 15B presents the overtime hours by employee classification groups for FY ‘18-19, with 94% of overtime within the department occurred in Police Officers, Lieutenants, and Below classifications. 3% of overtime was for Clerical classifications of which half was earned by Police Service Representatives.

Los Angeles World Airports

As shown in Exhibit 16, LAWA overtime usage rose steadily from $38.6 million in FY ‘14-15 to a high of $41.8 million in FY ‘16-17, followed by a decline to $28.0 million in FY ‘18-19. Overtime hours followed the same trend with a high of 0.81 hours in FY ‘16-17 followed by a decline to 0.53 hours in FY ‘18-19.

As shown in Exhibit 16A, during FY ‘18-19, 75% of LAWA employees received overtime. Exhibit 16B presents the overtime hours by employee classification groups for FY ‘18-19, with 38% of overtime within the department occurred in Peace Officers, Safety & Security classifications. The Service Employee classification includes custodian services while the Equipment Operation & Labor classification includes bus and equipment operators and maintenance laborers.

Department of Public Works – Bureau of Sanitation and Environment

As shown in Exhibit 17, Sanitation’s overtime paid and hours have increased steadily in the past five fiscal years. Overtime paid has increased roughly $2 million year-over-year, from $12.5 million in FY ‘14-15 to $19.6 million in FY ‘18-19. Overtime hours have increased on average 30,000 hours per year over the past five fiscal years.

As shown in Exhibit 17A, during FY ‘18-19, 66% of Sanitation employees received overtime. Exhibit 17B presents the overtime hours by employee classification groups for FY ‘18-19, with 68% of overtime within the department occurred in Equipment Operation & Labor classifications which includes refuse collection truck operators. 13% of overtime was for Plant Equipment Operation & Repair which includes wastewater treatment operators and mechanics.

Los Angeles Department of Transportation

Over the past five fiscal years, overtime spending for Transportation ranged from $15.0 million and 0.31 million hours in FY ‘15-16 to a high of $16.9 million and 0.33 million hours in FY ‘18-19, as presented in Exhibit 18.

As shown in Exhibit 18A, during FY ‘18-19, 57% of Transportation employees received overtime. Exhibit 18B presents the overtime hours by employee classification groups for FY ‘18-19, with 58% of overtime within the department were for Traffic Officers. 11% of overtime was for Supervisory including traffic and parking meter supervisors. 9% of overtime was for Equipment Operation & Labor classifications.

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Recommendations

  1. Department General Managers should make better use of existing open data and analytical tools such as dashboards, etc., to monitor and benchmark overtime usage by office, section, and/or unit within the Department; evaluate strategies such as analyzing the cost/benefit of hiring additional employees and/or exploring other employment models to reduce the need for employees to work overtime and thereby reduce fatigue and safety concerns. (Responsible Entity: Department General Managers)
  2. Department General Managers should monitor high overtime use by individual employees to ensure overtime payments are accurate and authorized, as well as to take into consideration the potential impact of employee fatigue and safety when working extended hours. (Responsible Entity: Department General Managers)
  3. City Policymakers should explore overtime control strategies that have been implemented in other cities, such as cross-training employees and limiting employees from working more than a certain number of overtime hours per shift/annually, and evaluate how those approaches can be successfully adapted within the context of existing and future labor agreements. (Responsible Entity: City Policymakers)