The City of Texarkana, Texas is struggling to rebuild its internal payroll functions following a December 2020 cyber-attack. The attack, which corrupted and destroyed payroll data maintained by the city’s finance and human resource departments was initially discovered on December 6, 2020.
In response to the breach, the city continued to pay impacted employees based on the last known accurate payroll data prior to the ransomware attack. Essentially, all city employees have received the exact same paycheck since December 6, regardless of their actual hours worked. As a result, many city employees will be owed additional wages when the city finally gets the payroll function up and running accurately. Additionally, many city employees may owe the city money, in the event they worked less hours per week as compared to the last known accurate payroll.
While this is undoubtedly challenging for all city employees, the city’s firefighters have been hit especially hard by “static” paychecks. According to the International Association of Firefighters, Local 367, the union that represents city firefighters, “firefighter paychecks have been wrong for eight consecutive pay periods.” Local 367 estimates that most firefighters are owed thousands of dollars. To add insult to injury, much of the overtime being worked by firefighters is mandated due to understaffing within the department.
Union officials have publicly raised to prospect of initiating legal action under the FLSA if the problems cannot be rectified quickly. The FLSA and Department of Labor (DOL) regulations require wages and overtime be paid as soon as practicable following the work. As a general rule, this would be in the regular pay day following the end of the work period or workweek. Historically, courts have found bureaucratic delays and extreme budget constraints as unacceptable reasons to delay the payment of wages and overtime. The crippling impact from a wide-spread data-breach, like found here, is certainly extreme. However, failing to receive an accurate paycheck for more than four months is also extreme. Hopefully, the firefighters and the city can reach common ground soon and avoid a costly dispute.
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