A recent report indicates 60 UW System employees received compensation beyond legal limits set by Wisconsin law, including one UW-Green Bay employee.
According to law, full-time and salaried employees providing services apart from normal work duties cannot receive more than $12,000 in extra pay annually.
A Feb. 12 Gannet Wisconsin Media report indicates some UW System schools violated the cap more than others. Of the 13 UW System schools, 60 employees received compensation beyond statutory limits.
Four UW System schools didn’t exceed the $12,000 overpay limit for any employee. In addition to UWGB, UW-Eau Claire and UW-La Crosse each had one employee exceed the cap. Of the 60 faculty and staff overpaid throughout the state, two are considered UW System employees and weren’t listed as faculty of any particular school, according to the report.
Professors and lecturers who took on more work than their salaries allotted were the primary recipients of pay exceeding the statutory limits.
David Giroux, UW System spokesperson, noted the overpayments shouldn’t have occurred and better training could have prevented this from happening.
“It’s not an excuse, but it doesn’t seem to be a widespread problem that can’t be fixed with some local instruction and coaching to the employees involved,” Giroux said in a Gannet Wisconsin interview Feb. 11. “No matter how small the number, however, people should have been aware of the cap and the need to avoid such situations.”
The UW System consists of 26 campuses — 13 universities and 13 technical colleges. Approximately 3,200 full-time and salaried employees received overload compensation during 2012 and averaged $4,000 each. However, technical college instructors averaged $12,000 in overages while university professors averaged $1,400, according to the Gannet Media analysis.
During 2012, UW-Green Bay compensated 165 employees beyond their standard salary. Of those, one employee received compensation for work beyond the $12,000 threshold, in the amount of $12,818.
Sheryl Van Gruensven, UWGB human resource director, noted the oversight in payment was due to the employee working for more than one campus.
“We are constantly tracking overload payments and duties performed by our faculty,” Van Gruensven said. “The reason why our employee went over $12,000 was because of work performed at another campus. That’s difficult to track.”
According to the statute, UW System employees receiving more than $12,000 in overpay are required to repay the overage. However, this would conflict with labor laws, which require employers to pay employees for completed work.
“We are legally obligated to pay people for the work they’ve done,” Giroux said in a Badger Herald report published March 13. “We cannot take pay back from people who have done work to earn that pay.”
UWGB’s human resource department, along with others from institutions throughout Wisconsin, won’t have to consider the cap in the near future. This June, the statute regarding overload pay will be voided, and UW System faculty won’t be limited to the current cap of $12,000 of overload pay.
Wisconsin’s 13 technical colleges don’t abide by the same statute. Each technical college campus can compensate instructors accordingly as workloads increase. Like universities throughout the state, technical colleges experience staff shortages caused by retirements, resignations or other issues.
In a 2011 letter addressed to Gov. Walker, Kevin Reilly, UW System president, addressed the issue of overload pay and how it impacts UW System students and faculty.
“The Legislature established a $12,000 limit on overload pay for university faculty members in the 1970s, and that cap remains in effect today,” Reilly said. “This constrains faculty creativity and entrepreneurship by removing the incentive to pursue outside funding for projects that have the potential to employ others, give students hands-on research experience and benefit the local economy.”
As current laws on professorial overpay expire, it will offer universities the same flexibility for faculty compensation already afforded technical colleges throughout Wisconsin.
“We are in the process of developing a new policy to provide guidance for when employees may work and receive an overload,” Van Gruensven said. “We want to ensure the quality of teaching and other responsibilities are maintained at a high level in conjunction with any other additional work taken on.”
According to the report, UW-Oshkosh had the most with 18, UW-Whitewater followed with 10, UW-Stout had nine, UW-Superior with seven, UW-Stevens Point with six and UW-Milwaukee had five, according to an online Gannet Wisconsin Media database.