L.A. City Overtime Costs Near $500 Million; Controller Calls for Better Tracking and Review

LOS ANGELES — Controller Ron Galperin today released a report on recent City employee overtime pay trends, urging Los Angeles to use data-driven solutions to safeguard employees and taxpayer dollars. His report, “On the Clock: Review of City Employee Overtime,” highlights the City’s overtime spending for sworn and civilian employees, and identifies the top earners by department and job classification. Over the past five years, City employees have received more than $2 billion in overtime.

“Overtime is a critical tool to help the City serve Angelenos and protect communities from crime, emergencies and natural disasters,” said Controller Galperin. “We see its importance first-hand each time the City deploys firefighters around the clock to combat wildfires, like the catastrophic Getty and Woolsey fires. Overtime is also vital for law enforcement to address immediate needs as they arise. But the City can and should do a better job monitoring rising costs and adopt a data-driven strategy to track overtime hours across departments.”

During fiscal year 2019, 53 percent of all City employees (excluding Department of Water and Power, which uses a separate payroll system) recorded 8.59 million overtime hours — a cost of $470 million. The City’s response to last year’s Wolsey Fire triggered the highest overtime pay period that year. The City’s response to last year’s Wolsey Fire triggered the highest overtime pay period that year. Galperin’s report covers sworn and civilian City employees in all departments except the Department of Water and Power, which uses a separate payroll system.

In his report, Galperin found that sworn Los Angeles Fire and Los Angeles Police department employees earned 77 percent of all overtime dollars, largely because their staffing models necessitate overtime. Los Angeles also has long-had fewer firefighters and police officers per capita than other large U.S. cities.

Other top overtime departments included Los Angeles World Airports, Department of Public Works (Sanitation and Street Services), Department of Transportation, and Department of Building and Safety. While overtime is mostly paid for by L.A. taxpayers, the City can get reimbursed by outside entities for overtime earned by employees assigned to work certain special events, like the L.A. Marathon and Dodgers games, and for disaster response in the wake of an emergency declaration.

Galperin concluded that, although most overtime payments complied with existing policies and procedures, the City needs better oversight to prevent employee burnout and ensure the efficient use of public dollars.

City overtime by the numbers

  • 91 percent of sworn LAFD and LAPD personnel, and 40 percent of civilian and other employees earned overtime pay in the last fiscal year.
  • 36 percent of sworn LAFD and LAPD employees, and 13 percent of civilians and other sworn employees (excluding LAFD and LAPD) earned more than 25 percent of their regular salary in overtime.
  • 18 sworn LAFD employees each collected more than $200,000 in overtime, 4 of whom earned more than twice the amount of their regular salary in overtime pay alone.
  • 11 civilian employees each made more than $100,000 in overtime, 2 of whom collected more than twice the amount of their normal base salary in overtime.
  • 1 Firefighter reported 5,616 hours of overtime — 64 percent of all hours in the year.
  • 1 Traffic Officer reported 3,702 hours of overtime — 42 percent of all hours in the year.

Galperin’s overtime recommendations for City departments and policymakers

  • Use available open data tools to monitor employee overtime more effectively, and analyze when it may be more appropriate to increase hiring to reduce overtime and employee fatigue.
  • Require City departments to track high overtime by individual employees.
  • Adopt policies to help decrease overtime costs. Officials in New York and San Francisco, for example, have set limits on the amount of overtime employees can earn, and both cities spend less of their budgets on overtime than Los Angeles.

Read the full report here: lacontroller.org/overtime or https://lacontroller.org/audits-and-reports/overtime/.

Follow L.A. Controller Ron Galperin at @LAController on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.