Sick Day Payouts Are Sickening
Last weekend, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch had a terrific, in-depth article about the practice of paying employees of the city of St. Louis for unused sick time upon retirement. I highly recommend the entire piece, by Jake Wagman and Kevin Crowe. This issue has been news before I remember Charlie Brennan discussing it in depth when Marie Jeffries got an $81,000 payout for her unused sick time when she retired in 2003. The Post sums up the issue nicely near the opening:
Under a system virtually extinct in corporate America and increasingly harder to find in government St. Louis city employees can bank all sick days they don’t take and exchange them for lump sum payments and a higher pension upon retirement.
Sick days are not vacation days. You use them if you’re sick, and you should not be rewarded for merely not being ill. I realize that people have been using sick days as vacation days since the practice of time-off work was first instituted during the reign of Charlemagne, but that’s not the point. It is actually preferable to use them inappropriately, in my opinion, than to get paid extra for them when you retire. Let’s not delude ourselves that government workers (which I used to be and this really applies to officials at every level, not just St. Louis city) work so hard that a co-worker can’t rather easily cover for them when they are out. Not to mention that giving incentives for sick people to come to work is not good for the overall health of a community or workplace, as this report discusses. So a city employee with the flu comes to work anyway in order to preserve their sick days for later payout, and ends up giving the flu to healthy people and screwing the taxpayers at the same time. Priceless. Or, more accurately, quite expensive.
P.S. There is no actual evidence that Charlemagne invented sick leave.