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The most robust study ever conducted on the topic found that the average California state government worker earned 23 percent more in total compensation than their similarly skilled and educated private-sector counterpart.
That value rose to 33 percent above their private-sector counterpart, when the value of California state government workers’ legendary job security was included. But a recent report by the California State Auditor leaves one with the impression that the study vastly underestimated the true value of job security for government workers.
In February of 2014, a DMV employee was documented by her supervisors for sleeping at work. According to four separate witnesses, the employee continued to sleep at her desk for a minimum of three hours a day, for nearly 4 years straight.
The most mind-boggling part of this story is that there is no dispute that this employee was sleeping on the job, every day, for nearly 4 years.
In addition to the four witnesses, her daily sleeping was also documented by her supervisors in written, periodic performance evaluations, which the employee signed off on without disputing any of the factual allegations contained within.
When the state auditor got involved midway through 2017, the employee’s supervisor defended her failure to perform her core duty by claiming that “because she woke up the employee three to four times each day, she believed the employee missed only 20 to 30 minutes of work time daily.”
The auditor rejected the obvious falsehood that an employee who needed to be woken up “three to four times each day” somehow missed only 20 to 30 minutes of work.
The auditor instead found that the employee slept for at least 3 hours a day from February 2014 through December 2017 — a finding consistent with the statements provided by four separate witnesses and the fact that the employee’s work output was only 35 percent of the amount expected.
That 35 percent figure just reflects the number of reports the employee turned in, compared to what was expected. If we’re measuring productivity or value, it’s possible the employee was actually a net negative to the department, given what her colleagues and supervisors had to say about the few reports she did turn in:
Further, the employee’s evaluations mention that she made mistakes when entering data. In fact, during the investigation, a witness explained that the employee’s work was often so inaccurate that the witness would not trust the employee to accurately enter the witness’s own address or vehicle ownership change. Thus, the employee’s behavior may have prevented DMV from providing the public with an appropriate level of service.
So what was the final outcome? Despite sleeping on the job everyday and producing error-filled work for 4 years, the employee received no disciplinary action of any kind, and continues to collect her full salary and benefits.
What’s much worse, in my opinion, is the gross negligence of the supervisor. The DMV is a large employer. There will be some bad apples. Moreover, if an employee who is sleeping at their desk everyday receives no penalty of any kind, it’s not terribly surprising they never change their own behavior.
So what happened to the DMV supervisor who, by her own admission, did not take any disciplinary action against an employee that she needed to wake up three to four times a day, every day, for 4 years?
While the auditor recommended that the DMV take disciplinary action against the supervisors, the DMV countered that because they had no prior issues, they would instead only require that the supervisors undergo training to ensure they understand that employees who sleep on the job every day for four years should be disciplined, should such a situation arise in the future.
And that is why so many are critical of government. It’s not because this story is reflective of government employees generally — it’s not. The audit only occurred because of the employee’s coworkers who blew the whistle.
The continually justified criticism of government, however, is that it is a grossly negligent and irresponsible steward of taxpayer dollars - something perfectly reflected in the DMV’s response to the auditor’s findings.