Jason, just one small thing before you go on vacation …

FLSA, overtime, regulations

Vacation time is a benefit that HR pros should always encourage staffers to take advantage of — unless taking that vacation would mean the rest of the company wouldn’t get paid.

Which brings us to the tale of Jason Parrish, a budget and policy analyst for Luzerne County, PA.

According to a story in the Citizens’ Voice, Parrish took a vacation day before approving an electronic transfer that was required for workers to receive their paychecks on the day after Thanksgiving.

County Budget/Finance Division Head Brian Swetz explained that because Parrish was off and didn’t make arrangements for another employee with the appropriate security clearance to handle the critical payroll task, the transfer never went through, the Citizens’ Voice reported.

That led to an administrative nightmare where the fund transfer wasn’t cleared until Friday afternoon and some employees didn’t actually have their checks deposited into their accounts until Monday.

Result: Parrish’s vacation prevented 1,400 government workers from receiving around $2.8 million in wages on time.

Because of the delay, Parrish was given a permanent vacation — he was fired.

A miscarriage of justice?

Not everybody agreed with the decision to terminate Parrish. Critics accused County Manager Robert Lawton of using Parrish as a scapegoat. Specifically, former County Controller Walter L. Griffith. Jr., who had worked with Parrish, defended the former county analyst and said Parrish was on approved vacation at the time and that he is being punished because management failed to delegate the task to someone else.

Following the delay, the county asked employees’ banking institutions to forgive fees and penalties on accounts that were overdrawn due to the late pay. If employees’ financial institutions don’t waive the fees, county officials said workers will be compensated for any fees they incur because of the late payroll deposit.
Despite all of the county’s efforts, some people — such as spokesperson for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union Paula Schnelly — were less than thrilled with the response. Schnelly said the county administration didn’t personally reach out to discuss the payroll issue — and make sure that workers were still happy.

As for the county’s promise to pay any unforgiven fees, Schnelly said her union would file a grievance or take other action if the county doesn’t stick to its word and added:

A lot of people incurred fees because of this. A lot of employees also averted fees by contacting their creditors because they didn’t want to see their credit ratings destroyed over missed payments that were not their fault. The county can’t ever make up for damage to their credit ratings.