LATHAM — With help from our union, Marian Agars was able to catch and correct a payroll error that affected hourly workers at the New York State Department of Taxation & Finance.
In early May, Agars, who works as a tax information aide in the agency’s Office of Real Property Tax Services, was expecting her $3,000 signing bonus from the NYS-CSEA Executive Branch contract.
When the bonus was paid, her co-workers were announcing the money had been deposited into their bank accounts.
When Agars checked her pay stub, she learned she was paid a pre-tax amount closer to $2,800.
On May 3, Agars contacted the agency’s Human Resources Department to inquire about the lower amount she received.
The agency responded that since Agars was an hourly employee, the $3,000 had been prorated to 89% based on the hours she worked in the contract’s eligibility window of Aug. 2, 2022 – March 31, 2023.
The email included calculations that seemed legitimate, but something wasn’t sitting right with Agars.
“I had a copy of the contract language from the CSEA website and I never saw any mention of hourly workers getting less, so I decided I needed to contact our union,” said Agars.
Union takes action
Agars reached out to CSEA Department of Taxation and Finance (Albany) Local Secretary Shana Davis, who soon realized a mistake had been made.
Hourly and temporary employees at the state Department of Taxation & Finance are paid on the state’s Institutional Payroll schedule during the week opposite the Administrative Services Unit (ASU) payroll.
Institutional payroll is based on a 40-hour workweek, while ASU is based on 37.5 hours.
As such, ASU members like Agars, whose full-time week is 37.5 hours, were incorrectly pro-rated and paid less than the $3,000 that was owed to them.
Davis, who also serves as the CSEA Capital Region Executive Vice President, contacted our union’s Legal Department, which helped get a correction set in motion.
Making workers whole
Just two days after Agars received the initial email about the lower payment, she received a far more welcome email from her agency’s Human Resources Department. Agency officials apologized and pledged to correct the pay error.
“Hourly workers like us don’t always think we have any rights,” said Agars. “But, we do have rights and I am so glad I have a union to reach out to.”
While Agars credits Davis for solving the issue, Davis said it was a team effort and that’s how unions are supposed to work.
“Union members come together to make the workplace effective and to make improvements,” said Davis.
“Union members have the ability to push the envelope and get the answers they deserve.”
“We were both giving each other credit for correcting the issue, but in the end, Shana and I agreed it was a shared effort,” said Agars, who last month received the money owed to her. “I pushed and she pulled.”
— Therese Assalian