LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — While a number of Angelenos have been called back to work in the midst of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, a David Goldstein investigation found that more than 1,000 Los Angeles Department of Water and Power have been allowed to stay home while still earning full pay.
DWP said the move was done to stop further spread of COVID-19, but unlike other city employees who have since been called back to work, 1,339 field crew employees — some of the highest paid in the nation — have been allowed to stay at home while still collecting their full ratepayer-funded salaries.
“It’s a complete giveaway of taxpayer dollars,” Jay Handel, of the West LA Neighborhood Council, said. “If that many people can stay home to stay safe, why do we need all of them?”
According to documents obtained by CBS Los Angeles, DWP has been paying workers to remain home on and off since April in what the department said was an effort to keep employees safe by not having too many working together on the streets or in the yards.
The number of employees at home changes every week, and crews are on call for the duration of their time at home.
As of Wednesday, DWP said 119 employees had tested positive for COVID-19, and department officials said keeping workers at home keeps the number of cases down.
“When we have one positive case, it can be three to a dozen people that actually have to be quarantined,” Rich Harasick, LADWP senior assistant general manager, said. “So, overall, when you don’t implement these measures, you have more people off getting paid as you will.”
But DWP seems to be treating its workers differently than other city agencies with a spokesperson for the L.A. Department of Public Works saying in a statement that all of it’s field crews were on normal duty, “in true form to their designation as critical frontline workers.”
“Not only is it wrong, but it’s a gift of taxpayer dollars,” Handel said. “These people need to go to work.”
After CBSLA started asking questions, DWP said that all of its crews would be back in the field as of next week, though they noted that could change if COVID numbers continue to rise.