Gotta love government jobs: steady paycheck, cushy benefits, and it’s seemingly impossible to get fired, no matter how incompetent you are.
Such is the case with an employee of the California Department of Motor Vehicles, who apparently was napping at her desk for up to three hours every single day, for nearly four years.
The story of this sleepy state worker was revealed this week in a state audit of the DMV.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the California DMV has been the subject of complaints due to excessively long wait times. The average wait time at DMV offices in the San Francisco area was 43 minutes without an appointment and 19 minutes with one, but those times do not include the time the appointment itself takes, or the time waiting in line to get a ticket — a task which can take hours.
The napping employee, whose name was not disclosed, works as a data operator, which is responsible for updating address changes and new vehicle ownership forms, among other tasks.
The audit revealed that on average, other data operators at the DMV processed 560 documents every day, but this woman only managed to complete 200 a day — less than half. Her coworkers also told auditors that her work was often full of mistakes. (These same coworkers seem understandably annoyed at her slacking; four of them gave witness statements about her to the auditors.)
Mistakes at the DMV are no minor matter — these records include emergency contacts to use if a person is in an accident, and the drivers’ contact information so that they can be notified to renew their license and registration information as needed, and avoid expensive fines and possibly even criminal sanctions if they are caught driving without a valid license.
To sum up: she slept at her desk for three hours a day, every day, for almost four years. Her work output is less than half of what her colleagues complete daily. And the work she does manage to complete is full of mistakes.
No private employer would ever tolerate such aggressive and consistent incompetence, but since this is a government job, guess what happened to her?
Spoiler alert: not a darn thing.
She is still employed by the DMV, and apparently has suffered zero consequences.
Even though the woman’s supervisors had noted that she “routinely slept on the job” in her performance evaluations, they never actually disciplined her for it. The DMV’s excuse was that the supervisors had failed to “properly document” her sleeping at her desk, and that precluded taking any disciplinary action against her.
What level of “proper documentation” is needed beyond noting that she’s been taking naps when she’s supposed to be working? And did anyone ever think to try to go to her desk and wake her up so she could get back to work?
So far the only consequences seem to be that this woman’s supervisors have been ordered to “undergo additional training,” and she’s been warned that she “could be disciplined” (note: that does not say “will be disciplined”) for future workday nap times.
There is a possibility that her sleepiness is due to a medical condition. The Sacramento Bee reported that her doctor had informed her employer in 2016 that she had “a medical condition that made it difficult for her to work on a regular schedule,” and she was reassigned to her current role in January 2017. The naps continued.
It’s understandable to want to be sympathetic about whatever this mystery medical condition may be, but the taxpayers of California deserve a functioning DMV and allowing an employee to repeatedly fail to do her work — remember, she’s been operating at less than half capacity for nearly four years! — is profoundly unfair.
How many Californians spent extra hours languishing in DMV waiting rooms because this woman was off in the Land of Nod instead of processing their paperwork?
It’s yet another lesson in how local politics matter. It might make great headlines when President Trump tweets the outrage of the day, but that’s irrelevant for the average American’s daily life. When I moved back to Florida earlier this year, I was happy to see I could look up the wait times at all the DMV offices in my county online, and I headed to the one that was conveniently located and had a short wait time. The total time it took to get a ticket, hand over my forms and application, pay the fee, and get my photo taken (twice even — the first one was unflattering and they let you have one do-over), and get the driver’s license printed was barely 10 minutes.
Government doesn’t have to be dysfunctional and incompetent. Pay attention to who is running in your local and state elections — especially in the primaries. (And consider moving away from states like California.)
Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter: @rumpfshaker.