State of Oregon Struggles With Transition to New Payroll System

Some employees got overpaid; some didn’t get paid at all.

Legacy computer systems can create big headaches, as the state of Oregon learned when the Employment Department’s failed during the early days of the pandemic.

The latest glitch is far smaller and affects only state employees, rather than the general public, but is nonetheless significant.

On Dec. 1, according to Andrea Chiapella, a spokeswoman for the Oregon Department of Administrative Services, the state switched over from a payroll system called OSPA, in use since 1986. Chiapella says the old system was archaic, so the state switched to a newer system called Workday that includes both human resources and payroll functions.

On Jan. 3, the state’s 45,000 employees got their first paychecks from the Workday system. About 1,800 of them got an unexpected holiday gift: overpayment.

Chiapella says those employees had unusual circumstances, such as being hired during the previous month but getting paid for the whole month. Those erroneous payments will be corrected.

Another 364 employees did not get paid at all, because of incorrect account numbers.

“As the bank sends those back, we are fixing the account number and reissuing [payment],” Chiapella says.

The new system also didn’t work smoothly for some employees whose work schedules are different from the standard, five-day, 40-hour work week, such as Oregon State Police and Oregon Department of Corrections officers.

“We are in contact with all agency payroll offices, and 24/7 operations in particular, have experienced some system interface issues that related to the complexities of managing those 24/7 operations, including elements like overtime and shift differentials specific to those operations,” Chiapella says. “Like the entire enterprise, they are prioritizing underpayments and resolving those issues within 24 to 48 hours and in some cases cutting physical checks and hand delivering to ensure employee pay issues are resolved swiftly.”

The state’s IT team anticipated glitches because of the complexity of the transition and is responding rapidly to them, Chiapella says.

We are working to resolve all issues within a week,” she adds, “with the priority being those who were underpaid, which we hope to resolve within 24 to 48 hours.”