Payroll Errors Leave Student Drivers Without Proper Pay, Prompts Internal Audit

At least 20 student shuttle drivers have either been paid below their agreed wages or have not been paid at all, according to multiple sources. A number of discrepancies and mistakes in the payroll for student drivers over the fall quarter has led to an internal review from UC San Diego transportation services.

In December, the UCSD Guardian received a letter that denounces these mistakes as well as the inaction of staff members to resolve the issues.

The current wage rate for some shuttle drivers is $16 per hour. Some students who were hired after the wage increase have been paid only $15 per hour. Jasmin Moran, who was listed in the letter, was paid below her $16 per hour pay grade for the entirety of the fall quarter.

According to the letter, driver Jay Noonan was hired in October and, as of the drafting of this article, has still not yet received a single paycheck for their work. Noonan estimates they are owed at least $1,000 for their work.

“I had to borrow money to be able to afford my rent because I still have not seen a single dime,” Noonan told the UCSD Guardian.

Noonan stressed that the immediate managers were making efforts toward resolving the issue.

“My managers have been doing everything they can, but payroll has been less than cooperative,” Noonan told the Guardian.

Shuttle Dispatcher Francesca Hummler was paid $11.85 per hour for over a year when the correct rate was $15 per hour. The letter claims the department owed her over $3000, “which they deposited over two pay periods without explanation, causing her to believe she had accidentally been overpaid.”

Hannah Gillespie was paid $64 for 50.5 hours of work, amounting to $700 owed to her. A week later, she was paid the rest of what she was owed, but claims nobody knew what caused the error.

“[The] disregard for putting in the correct job code into the payroll database has affected too many of our staff,” the letter reads. “We are students who need to pay rent, put gas in our cars, and buy groceries.”

In response to these issues, Director of Transportation Josh Kavanagh sent out an email to the 20 employees addressing their concerns. In it, he wrote that the problem stems from a number of contributing factors, mainly citing hiring and promoting people around the time of wage raises.

When a student has appointments in multiple departments, one department’s timekeeper is primary and makes the submission to payroll,” Kavanagh said in an email to the Guardian. “Errors can occur when a student stops working in the primary department without the secondary department being informed so that they can move into the primary role.”

“Each employee has a specific [timekeeper] assigned to them to ensure that they get paid,” Francesca Hummler said. “I’m not sure how the positions differ, but I know that our managers directly approve our time cards, and then there is another person that is assigned to us to ensure that we get paid.”

Kavanagh wrote that the department will be conducting what he called “regular auditing.”

“We conduct self-audits when we have reason to believe something may be incorrect,” Kavanagh said. “Going forward, we will be conducting periodic audits of student pay rates as a routine function, even if there is not an indication that something may be incorrect.”

In addition, the email promised other process improvements, such as a “formal tracking system for all personnel actions between when the file is submitted for raises and the implementation date, along with opening up new recruitments at the future wage earlier so that pay rates don’t need to be changed for new hires.”

Kavanagh also wrote that the timekeepers, or the people who make sure time cards are complete and accurate, will notify employees on each payday to review their checks and report any discrepancies to them immediately. He wrote that he will personally oversee the new changes in their processes as well as the amending of the issues.

“I thought it was nice that they were acknowledging it,” Noonan said of Kavanagh’s email. “I wish there was a more specific goal about when we’ll be getting paid.”

The public letter concludes, “We deserve to be rewarded for our work with pay increases for staying with the department for much of our undergraduate careers and with being paid the correct amount. If the department fails to realize our value as workers and does not rectify these grievances, we will be forced to take more drastic action.”

photo by San Diego Union-Tribune

This article was updated to specify that Hannah Gillespie was paid the $700 owed to her.