Metro General Manager and CEO Paul J. Wiedefeld announced new controls on absenteeism this week to improve productivity and reduce use of overtime, as part of his management team’s actions to reduce operating expenses.
Excessive absenteeism is being targeted for cost reduction, as Metro employees took a combined 181,422 days of sick and unpaid leave days in FY16, as compared to 171,019 days in FY15, an increase of nearly six percent.
Every day of absence we avoid improves productivity, facilitates better operations, and helps prevent overtime (Wiedefeld said). We expect this effort to generate about $2 million in bottom-line improvements projected in the FY18 proposed budget.
A recent internal review by Wiedefeld’s new management team found more than 100 employees were on extended leave beyond the time limits required by collective bargaining agreements, policy, or law. Employees who remained in “active” status may have continued to earn service time toward their pensions and health care coverage. The first 25 people are being formally notified that they are no longer “active” employees. Metro said another 100 people are under review to determine the proper disposition of their employment status. Wiedefeld has ordered more rigorous monitoring and full compliance with policies that require medical evaluation for extended absences. Employees who fail to comply may be subject to termination.
To ensure tighter management, Wiedefeld announced policy changes that take effect March 1:
- Supervisors can approve no more than two days of unexcused absences without pay
- Within a one-year period, progressive discipline up to and including termination applies to excessive absences
- Supervisors and Managers are now “at will” employees who may be terminated immediately for abuse of policy
- Metro’s internal Office of Medical Services will take the place of supervisors in providing reviews and approval by medical professionals of sick leave and doctors’ notes.
Training and monitoring will be enforced through the Compliance Department that reports directly to the General Manager to ensure consistent application of the new program across the agency.
Metro also recently appointed a new Treasurer and new Workers’ Compensation Manager, launched a new claims verification program, expedited return to work medical exams, and is conducting supervisor training to improve claims handling. Wiedefeld also directed his Compliance department to start an audit of the program’s third-party administrator.
Wiedefeld is ensuring that every department tightens overtime use through monthly management reviews and schedule improvements. Wiedefeld has also launched a management review of time and payroll verifications of the 100 “highest earners” of overtime throughout the agency on a monthly basis.
These actions are necessary to ensure that Metro is properly managing public resources and that we get the maximum value out of every dollar (Wiedefeld said).