The King County Auditor’s Office released a report on Dec. 13, that found more than a third of employees eligible for back benefits – payments in lieu of benefits for temp workers – from King County had not been paid. The workers are owed an estimated $200k.
“It is encouraging that the Department of Human Resources concurred with all of our recommendations and is moving quickly to ensure that eligible employees receive correct payments,” said King County Auditor Kymber Waltmunson.
A small percentage of short-term temporary employees, who are typically ineligible for leave, insurance and other benefits, become eligible for payments in lieu of benefits – back benefits – each year due to various circumstances.
The Department of Human Resources conducts an annual review to make sure agencies make these payments, and auditors examined whether this process was effective, looking at payments made between 2019 and 2022. Failure to pay benefits to temporary employees led to a $24 million settlement by King County in the late 1990s and triggered the creation of the annual review.
In its report, the Auditor’s Office found both missed payments and incorrect payments to workers, including:
– The County failed to pay more than a third of employees eligible for back benefits in 2020, in violation of county code. The County owes as many as 34 people eligible for back benefits in 2020 an estimated $200,000.
– The County paid incorrect back-benefits amounts to 16% (15 of 95) of recipients between 2020 to Sep 2022. King County overpaid 12 employees by a total of about $8,000 and underpaid three employees by a total of about $13,000.
– Missed payments and errors were due to unreliable data, limited oversight, and gaps in training. The County also chose not to proactively inform employees of back benefits eligibility rules, reducing accountability.
– Since 2019, total back benefits payments across the county more than doubled, nearing $450,000 dollars in 2022.
Auditors made several recommendations, including: issuing missed and fixing incorrect payments from previous years, improving data reliability and training to increase efficiency and effectiveness, and proactively informing temporary workers of back-benefits rules to increase accountability.
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