PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – A $25 million lawsuit has been filed against the state of Oregon as state employees continue to experience payroll issues for the third month in a row.
Payroll officials say they are making progress and most employees are now being paid on time, but for those who aren’t, these ongoing issues are costing some workers their savings and their homes.
State employees told KOIN 6 the payroll issue that one employee called a “nightmare” continues.
Since the transition, workers say they are still facing ongoing issues ranging from late, missing payments to inaccurate accruals for paid time off and deductions.
Updated Monday, a lawsuit against the state is now seeking $25 million for impacted employees, stating that “since implementing a new payroll system on Dec. 1, 2022, the state of Oregon has incorrectly paid its employees and violated numerous wage laws.”
“They didn’t test to see if it worked for us. And now we’re the test dummies and paying the price,” said one of those employees.
She has worked with the state’s Department of Environmental Quality for four years and asked to remain anonymous due to fear of retaliation.
In addition to being underpaid, she said her tax deductions, sick pay and leave have all been impacted since the system switch.
“We’ve been told that maybe we should hire a tax accountant and that doesn’t make sense,” she said. “If I’m not getting enough, if people aren’t earning the money that they’re supposed to be getting, how can they afford to hire a tax accountant for an error they didn’t make?”
Smith is in a similar situation.
“I lost my home because, you know, with the issues for my health and then not getting paid correctly for a few months, like, I’m technically homeless,” Smith said.
Smith works for the Self-Sufficiency Office, with the Oregon Department of Human Services. She said if it weren’t for her supportive friends opening their doors, she and her children would be living out of their cars – like other employees she knows.
“I can think of three people right now that are living in cars with their children, because they lost their homes, because they haven’t been paid the right amounts on time and landlords don’t care if you don’t have your rent,” Smith said.
While Gov. Tina Kotek’s office has not yet commented on the pending lawsuit or payroll issues, the state’s Department of Administrative Services acknowledged the ongoing issues and improvements made:
“We are very sorry for the strain this has caused on some members of our workforce. DAS has been working with a team of IT experts to evaluate the post-implementation process and response to the state’s new payroll system… We believe we are on the right track, but we are not quite there yet. However, we do know that the majority of employees are being paid accurately each month.”
But workers like Smith, who help connect those in need with SNAP benefits and services, say if a permanent solution isn’t reached, the state’s most vulnerable employees may find themselves in need of help themselves.
“It’s upsetting to me, working in the office that helps get benefits to people,” Smith said. “I don’t believe anyone who works for the state should be eligible for those benefits.”
Stay with KOIN 6 as this story develops.