The average salary of a Bay Area Rapid Transit employee is just under $60K a year. Recently, one janitor earned nearly five times that much.
In 2015, Liang Zhao Zhang got paid everyday. Why? Because he spent a mind blowing 17 hrs a day at work! This resulted in an extra 10 or so hours in overtime wages.
Zhang’s superiors did little to monitor how the janitor spent his time during those marathon shifts, leaving it up to surveillance videos to tell the real story—and it ain’t pretty.
Although Zhang was technically on-site for each of those shifts, he would spend extended periods of time in various backrooms and hallways in an effort to skirt his duties. One day of video footage chronicled him spending 90 minutes holed up in one closet, then spending another 78 minutes holed up in a different closet. There’s also plenty of footage showing Zhang playing around on his phone for nearly an hour while chatting with co-workers.
A spokeswoman from BART said Zhang was paid everyday because he “signs up for every overtime slot that becomes available.” The San Francisco Chronicle reported that 49 other janitors earned over $100,000 in 2015 for similar reasons.
At first glance this sounds like criminal behavior. How can a janitor earn that much money? Easily. Due to an increased homeless presence in BART stations, there is more work for janitors to perform in the way of cleaning up urine, blood, and heroine needles. As a result, many janitors are electing to take on fewer shifts. This opened the door for ambitious people like Zhang to swoop in and earn a massive salary.
The burden of blame should fall squarely on BART management who let this happen right under their noses. Investigators learned that BART never conducted an investigation of Zhang’s hourly irregularities or noticed that he had grossed over $700,000 in a three year span.
The conditions in and around BART subway stations present a massive health concern. Inside of the Powell St. station’s elevators lies a “constant mess,” in the words of one investigator. Distinct substances and odors are a mainstay in this area of every station.
With regards to Zhang’s time spent in the janitor’s closet? He claims to be spending it taking meal breaks. The jury is still out on whether that’s true or not, but one thing is for sure… Zhang is a beast of a worker. During a 17-hr day consisting largely of cleaning up urine, it’s understandable why you’d need to take a few extra breaks.