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Vacation becomes permanent for payroll admin after disastrous oversight

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Retribution was swift and merciless for Luzerne County, Pa.’s payroll administrator after 1,400 county employees failed to receive paychecks on the final Friday morning of November last year. County Manager Robert Lawton fired the man while he was out on approved vacation.

Turns out, the administrator’s vacation was at the center of the foul-up. He was supposed to have signed off on a nearly $3 million electronic transfer with PNC Bank before taking time off. Somehow, no one was tasked with the sign-off in his absence.

Lawton’s critics pounced, claiming he was ultimately responsible for the payroll glitch.

Upon realizing the payroll snafu, county officials moved quickly to issue the paychecks. Employees with PNC accounts received their pay on Friday evening, but others didn’t get access to their funds until the next day or the following Monday.

The delay caused overdrafts for many employees. The Luzerne County chapter of the American Fed­­er­­a­­tion of State, County and Munici­­pal Em­­ployees is seeking reimbursement of overdraft fees employees had to pay and has threatened a grievance if employees are not made whole.

Advice: Routine operations should never falter because an employee goes on vacation. Cross-train co-workers and be prepared to shuffle assignments for regular vacations, sick leave, or family and medical leave.

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