My Two Census

Formerly the non-partisan watchdog of the 2010 US Census, and currently an opinion blog that covers all things political, media, foreign policy, globalization, and culture…but sometimes returning to its census/demographics roots.

Posts Tagged ‘bureaucracy’

Census Bureau over-hired, pulled back on job offers

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

The Colorado Springs Gazette just reported on of the Census Bureau’s most serious blunders to date, revealing that job offers for potential employees were rescinded, but only when those who thought they were new-hires showed up for their first day on the job. One wonders, how widespread is this bureaucratic nightmare? Here’s the report:

Thinking she’d secured a better gig, Colorado Springs resident Janet Seville quit her $10-an-hour, part-time job at a building company last month.

But when she showed up for her new job last week, she learned it was all a big misunderstanding.

With unemployment in Colorado Springs at a 21-year high, it was a tough break for the 65-year-old divorcee.

Seville thought she had secured a full-time, temporary position at the U.S. Census Bureau making $13.25 an hour.

But Seville said she and nine other applicants were turned away. She said officials told the applicants the Census Bureau had hired too many people.

“They gave it to us and took it away,” she said. “I just thought it was horrible. I mean, how can they do that? They just blew it off like it was nothing. I mean, they apologized and said we would get paid for one hour for showing up, and for mileage and travel time, but that’s just not good enough.”

Seville went to the media. She went to Rep. Doug Lamborn’s office.

With the country in the middle of a recession, Seville said, she has few financial resources and isn’t sure what she’ll do if she can’t find another job soon.

Her previous employer filled her position quickly but agreed to let her come back as a substitute, which she did over the weekend.

Seville said she doesn’t expect anything to change now, but she wants people to know about the effect a bureaucratic mix-up can have.

A Census Bureau official said the situation is more of a misunderstanding. The bureau hired about 140,000 people nationwide for temporary jobs to get ready for the 2010 Census, the once-a-decade count of everyone who lives in the country.

With that many people, and given the demands of the work, there’s bound to be turnover, said spokeswoman Deborah Cameron. Seville was among a group of people on a list as possible replacements when some from earlier waves of hiring departed, Cameron said.

“That training class (Seville attended) was actually designated as a replacement training class, so all people there knew that it was possible, they were in a pool as someone who could replace in terms of carry-over, and they could be used now or they could be used a little bit later,” Cameron said.

Seville said she and all the other applicants had good reason to believe they were following up on firm job offers, not just another step in the application process.

She said there was no paperwork recording the job offer, just a phone call March 14 with orders to show up April 1. That was later delayed to an April 16 start date.