Managers in a business must work by the rules. That includes those in state government jobs.

A two-year fiscal audit discovered $3.2 million in overtime pay to West Virginia Division of Highways and Department of Health and Human Services employees, which should not have been paid.

The reason: The employees were exempt from such compensation by the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act.

As distressing as the sheer numbers racked up in overtime pay are, the excuses given for it are even more disturbing.

A former district engineer told legislative auditors that overtime was viewed as a way to supplement employee income to “‘make up’ for their low pay,” according to an Associated Press report.

And who, exactly, determines what is and isn’t “low pay?”

The employees’ direct manager? A district supervisor? Taxpayers, since we’re ultimately footing the bill?

Of the $2,023,922 paid in overtime by the DOH, the audit found about 90 percent of the money went to highway engineers and administrators. Employees exempt from overtime typically hold professional or supervisory position.

Had the DOH not paid overtime to the 441 employees exempt from it, the auditors report the agency would have had an extra $2.58 million to spend on other uses.

How many pothole-laden roads could be paved for more than $2.5 million?

How many cracked and crumbling bridges could be replaced for more than $2.5 million?

How many deplorable drainage systems could be fixed, how many stolen road signs replaced, how many weeds trimmed, how much road salt purchased, for more than $2.5 million?

Responding to the audit findings, the DOH acknowledged it paid overtime for more than 40 hours of work because, “The agency feels it is unacceptable to require exempt employees to consistently work excess hours without any form of additional compensation,” the AP reported.

It’s a reasonable response — but this is the second time an audit has found problems with the agency’s overtime pay.

If the DOH does not like the overtime rules, the agency should follow the proper channels to change them.

Until then, it appears both the Division of Highways and Department of Health and Human Services need to get their wage and labor accounting practices in order.

And learn to pay by the rules.

Trending Video

Recommended for you