MECKLENBURG COUNTY, N.C. — Mecklenburg County employees feel betrayed, misled and lied to after county management decided to withhold previously promised pandemic bonuses from some workers.
The federally-funded one-time payments recently went out to thousands of county employees as a "thank you" for their hard work and loyalty, but some workers learned at the last minute they didn't qualify.
"For them to take it away is really a stab in the back," one county employee said.
"It was hurtful," another worker said. "I feel like the county manager flat-out lied to us."
"I feel like this is not a reward, but a just-due for our sacrifice," a third county worker said. "When it was taken away, it felt like we were disregarded."
The employees asked WCNC Charlotte to protect their names, faces and voices.
The bonuses ranged from $650 to $2,250. County Manager Dena Diorio previously announced the $11.3 million worth of American Rescue Plan Act-funded bonuses earmarked "for employees working through the pandemic."
The workers are among 121 the county considers ineligible because they used more than three weeks of emergency paid leave during the pandemic. The employees said Diorio failed to make those rules clear, adding the county required them to take that leave in the early days of the pandemic.
A human resources memo in June listed no exclusions, but in the days leading up to payday, the memo changed to add language about eligibility.
"Two days before we were expecting to get paid, we found out we were not getting paid, and we found out because people started checking their paycheck stubs," one of the workers said. "Everybody worked, some people worked more than others, but at the end of the day, we're still here, which means we pushed through and we stayed committed as employees. That's what a bonus is for. A lot of people left. We didn't and we still weren't valued."
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While the workers express feelings of betrayal, the county isn't saying much. Through a spokesperson, Mecklenburg County declined WCNC Charlotte's request for an interview with the county manager.
"The County used a portion of the ARPA funds to pay employees bonuses in recognition of work performed during the Covid-19 Pandemic," the Mecklenburg County Human Resources Department said in a statement. "One hundred and twenty-one employees were ineligible to receive bonuses because they used more than one hundred and twenty hours of emergency paid leave."
When pushed about why the county added stipulations so late in the process, Public Information Officer Tammy Thompson told WCNC Charlotte, "We have no further comment on this matter."
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