Local nurse is the overtime pay champ of California

October 27, 2011

A nurse at the California Men’s Colony (CMC) in San Luis Obispo earned $269,810 last year by tripling her regular pay with overtime hours. [Bloomberg]

Jean Keller got more overtime in 2010 than any other state employee. In all, California’s public workers collected $1.7 billion of extra pay last year, more than half of it in overtime, state payroll data show. The rest was for unused vacation and union-negotiated benefits such as clothing allowances, physical-fitness incentives and special compensation in recognition of a “complex work load.”

Other large payouts include a prison doctor who cashed out more than a $590,000 of vacation time when he retired, a computer specialist in the legislature’s legal office who got $61,905 in overtime on top of his $71,560 salary, a psychiatrist for the Developmental Services Department who received $97,700 in extra-duty pay and the head of the state gambling commission, who banked $169,623 in unused holiday pay.

Keller, the nurse at the prison outside San Luis Obispo who tripled her pay with overtime, worked 2,450 extra hours in 2010, or 102 full days. Some of that was required overtime, though she volunteered as well, said Nancy Kincaid, spokeswoman for the federal court-appointed receiver that runs California’s prison health-care system.

Keller wasn’t alone. Nurses working in California’s crowded prison system earned $54 million in overtime in 2010, an average of $13,600 each, in addition to their regular pay. Nurses working in mental health hospitals got $41 million more in overtime. Through her supervisor, Keller declined to comment.

California state employees can cash out unused vacation when they resign or retire. The practice of banking such pay for retirement is so prevalent that the Personnel Administration Department keeps a Lump Sum Separation Pay Calculator on its web page.


California state employees can cash out unused vacation when they resign

Anyone else pick up on this? Resigning is so sweet in the public sector, especially if one is busted and about to face prosecution – just resign/retire and cash out! Woohoo!


The hospital I worked in allowed the employees to bank time perpetually. In addition to vacation accruals, there was something called comp time accrual. If I remember correctly overtime would accrue in a comp time account, and anything over a certain amount would get paid to the employee quarterly. This was so they could stash the liability into a balance sheet gl account instead of taking it as an expense up front… They did this because the hospital was losing so much money that one day a consultant group rolled in and took over by order of the school of medicine (it was a university hospital). In order to save their hides the rest of the associate directors came up with tons of B.S. “cuts” so that in the short run they could meet benchmarks necessary before their lobbying efforts to get more money from the state was successful. It’s my understanding that this process repeats every 8 years or so

Anyway, If you were a favored employee, you could get the new hospital director to sign off on a payment of all of your comp time. And of course you got paid out at your current rate, not the rate you accrued the comp time at. When I quit and went to the private sector, I got accrued vacation AND sick time AND comp time paid out.


There is more to the story…. There were some real cuts, about 600 employees. But before anyone sheds a tear let me tell you that these were mostly not good hardworking employees that just lost the luck of the draw. Almost no one was ever fired. So these periodic layoff binges was how they got rid of all the people that either weren’t worth a damn, were guilty for some covered up “incident”, or that just didn’t go with the program. I was never laid off because I was young and ambitious and believed the bosses new best. They moved me around and created new job positions for me whenever the consultants got too close to any department I was in. One of my duties was coordinating the creation of the “RIF” (reduction in force) lists, performing the financial analysis for the benchmarks, etc. So I’m beyond confident about my perception of who went on the lists.


I forgot to mention that almost all 600 got severance packages (min. 2 weeks pay and up depending on years orf service)


The word “resign” means you leave your job. There are only two voluntary ways to leave a job: resign or retire. It rarely means what you claim. So, if one has earned the vacation time, what’s your beef with someone getting paid for vacation time they’ve not been able to use as time off? They’d have been paid for that vacation time either way, because like pay, an employer cannot steal it from an employee.


They are allowed to accrue a significant amount of vacation time and then cash that time out at their exiting rate of pay. In the private industry, almost all companies place a maximum on vacation accrual after which you lose accrued time. Employers ARE allowed to put a cap on vacation accruals.


I did not define “resign” – I simply stated that it was sweet to either resign or retire from the public sector. Is that not the case?

Granted, I linked a previous article which went in to how it’s common for certain public employees to break the rules or laws and instead of facing prosecution, simply resign with all their accumulated public wealth.


Having worked in a state funded hospital for a while, I know what qualifies as “work” to them. Does anyone really believe she “worked” all that overtime?


EXACTLY! I would love to see the time tracking records on this.

The irony is deep, however. Whether she likes it or not, she has become one of Obama’s evil “1 %’rs” now!


This is down right dirty. I can’t blame her because the money was there. but I can blame the stupid system for letting this happen. Our prison system is totally corrupt from the top down. The union bribes Jerry Brown, he in turns cuts them slack. Screw them all and I wish them the worst of health. Anymore, anyone in this state who wears a badge or works with the badge is part of the problem. They are greedy, overpaid sobs. When we go broke, make sure to thank them.


My vote is that the state eliminate the health care in the prison system entirely and let the inmates wait in line behind the illegal aliens at the local emergency rooms like the rest of us.


This woman must be providing the worst care in the nation. A standard 8-hour day yields a work year of 2,080 hours. That’s 260 days. She worked an additional equivalent of 306 full days. That’s more than a 16-hour day, on AVERAGE. Imagine the quality of care. Pitiful. Pretty much amounts to stealing taxpayer dollar.


Well I didn’t have to read long for someone to cross the line and call her a thief. How can working long days compute into this professional being a thief? A THIEF? Amounts to being A THIEF?

What amounts to pretty much being a moron? Guess what I’m thinking! :)


I work in health care and have seen many of the most competent doctors and nurses leave the local hospitals and private practices to work for CMC and ASH. They all know that the level of care they will be required to perform will be far below what is required in the private sector and they often feel like they will be wasting their knowledge and skills, but the pay and benefits are so much better working for the government that they succumb to $$$. There is something terribly wrong with the whole system and it boils down to the government does not have to make a profit and has always just reached into the pockets of the taxpayers. Even non-profit hospitals have to account for a budget. The government does not have to account to anyone but corrupt politicians and greedy unions. Thus prisoner have the best of the best and law abiding taxpayers get screwed every which way you look at it.

Mr. Holly

These doctors also do not have to worry about the ambulance chasing attorneys or the high insurance costs that they would have to pay in private practice to protect them from the volchers.

Mr. Holly

The government’s answer to this is that overtime is cheaper than hiring someone else.

Give me a break! If you don’t hire anymore people it’s great for the politicians to talk about the cut backs and the suffering that government employees have.

Please administer the $269,810,000 pain to me. Not really, whoever authorized that person to work that much should be fired. I ceertainly hope that I never have to be treated by someone who has had to work those hours, the quality of care has to suffer no matter how qualified they are.


When I was in the military, any vacation over 30 days’ worth was LOST. So one could only have a 30-day early out (closest version to cashing in).

Why let holiday and time off pay accumulate like that? The reason it is there is so the workers take time off from their stressful, hard-working careers, no? Isn’t that why the unions negotiated them? What’s this? No one is actually taking much time off? Or are there so many days off, some are fortunately enough to have their cake and eat it too?

I’d say cap it. Pick a number, 30 was fine for the military (not sure if it is the same now), so 60 should be more than enough for these unionized public employees. It’s a start.


They have been pulling this same BS in Atascadero. They took a small pay cut and in return, awarded themselves with an extra two weeks of paid time off. Then they accumulate the time off and cash it out earning more than their pay cut amounted to!


A family member works in a state prison in another state. Starting next year they can’t accumulate vacation and sick hours, if they don’t take them by the end of the year then they lose them. This relative works over her/his hours every week and doesn’t get over time. Whereas the shrinks work on average 4-15 hours a week while still getting paid a 40 hour a week salary. So some states are cutting back but they all need to work on the waste. Hopefully Ca. will get his sh%t together and stop this.


Typical Gov economics, fire half your staff to save money and make the remainder work triple shifts with OT, is this really more cost effective?


It sure doesn’t add up. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. If you want incompetence, waste and mismanagement, just leave it to the gummint. All gov agencies should be overseen by private sector citizens. WE the people actually need to elect committee’s that will appoint private sector individuals to oversee gummint run agencies. Reports will then be compiled bi-annually and published in the media with a full accounting surrounding, costs, performance and effectiveness.


Not a bad idea, Cindy. The Overtime Gravy train has been a cash cow for years for Public Employees, especially in Law Enforcement and Fire. These employees usually salivate at the thought of picking up these “extra” shifts. As a business owner, I see it as proof of gross incompetence in management. Private sector management, especially small business, will avoid this burdensome expense like the plague, but nope, not the public sector when it’s taxpayer’s money!


California prison nurse brings in $269,810.00 USD overtime for the win!


Perhaps, especially during periods of high unemployment, they should nudge the compensation rules so that it is cheaper to hire another worker than pay OT. In some industries the company isn’t required to contribute to pension and benefit funds when the employee is on OT. Changing that loophole would likely eliminate OT overnight. Or at least as quickly as they could hire new workers.