The Tribune, via consultant Mercer, sent an audit to LAT employees asking them to send verification that the people listed as dependents for benefits really are dependents. If they didn’t by the middle of this month, those dependents would be dropped.
The results have been a giant time-suck, not to mention insulting (and somewhat panic-inducing), as this letter from Sacto reporter Jordan Rau to Luis Lewin, Tribune’s senior vice president for human resources shows:
I am one of the employees at the Los Angeles Times who has been told to provide Mercer with proof that the dependents who receive benefits through the company are not fictitious. Last week I faxed off the information to Mercer with a request that they confirm receipt via email, but so far I have heard nothing from them, even after sending by express mail the paperwork to them as well.
Since the audit threatens us with the automatic loss of our health care coverage with a fraud-until-proven-innocent approach, I am requesting that you instruct Mercer to (1) confirm in writing to each audited employee that their paperwork has been received, and (2) notify each audited employee in writing whether our relatives have been judged valid or phantoms, so that if Mercer makes an error I have time to correct it before they boot my wife and 20-month-old son off of our health care coverage.
Given the time, trouble and insult this exercise has put all of us through, I would also like to know how many ghost dependents this audit and the previous one end up discovering here at the Times, and whether the savings Tribune-wide are greater than the consulting fees Tribune is paying Mercer. Since Tribune’s corporate values include Employee Involvement and Teamwork, such an action would be perfectly consistent with this audit’s respectful skepticism of our integrity (which, when capitalized, is also a Tribune value).