Use and Abuse of Sick Leave

By on January 25, 2007 in Current Events with 0 Comments

A recent series of articles by Bob Gilson on the topic of sick leave. The articles hit a nerve with many readers and generated a large number of comments. In fact, for a topic that many consider to be bureaucratic, and cut and dried, the subject generated a passionate response from many readers. Here are those articles for those who may have missed them:

Here are several examples of the comments that expressed a wide range of views:

  • From a Public Health Analyst at CDC: "It is my Sick Leave and I can and will use it anyway I want. I dare someone to try and stop me."
  • An employee relations specialist wrote: "Hate to break the bad news…but any responsible and 1/2 capable Employee Relations Specialist will stop you. If you can’t produce administratively acceptable evidence of needing sick leave, you won’t get it, your absences with be charged to AWOL and you’ll be removed."
  • A claims authorizer from the Social Security Administration wrote (with emphasis): "Sick leave is "earned" just as your salary is earned, so I say you earned it, you can’t take it with you as a FERS employee, so USE IT !!!!!!!!!!"
  • An HR specialist with DoD said: "[W]hen you say you use sick leave anyway you want, do you lie and say you’re sick when you use it for something other than non-health related reasons? If you do then you’re dishonest."
  • A program analyst with DLA commented: "Extraordinary attempts on the part of supervisors at Draconian methods to enforce arbitrary rules, which will not be uniform nor uniformly enforced, will further degrade the morale in fedral service."
  • A human resources specialist with Interior stated: "The bottom line is that using sick leave when a person is not sick is not the intent of the current system and to think otherwise, regardless of the rationalization that is used, is unethical and can subject the person to disciplinary action."
  • An analyst with the Census Bureau offered this view of government employment: "I much prefer working for the federal government and using all of the leave that I have earned. If I wanted to deal with people getting all over me for every day I miss I’d go back to private industry (or back to middle school for that matter)."
  • A program analyst with USDA: "My gut response…: Whatever happened to integrity and responsibility, ethics and honesty? What kind of a role model are you for the next generation?"
  • Another employee of USDA says the system is discrimination because it treats people differently: "As a Senior Citizen eligible for retirement I feel that I am discriminated against (as opposed to a person covered by CSRS) because I will loose (sic) my banked sick leave when I retire."
  • An HR specialist with the Army has this view from the personnel office: "We FERS people watch other FERS people burn their sick leave as soon as they earn it and management does nothing. So under FERS, you are rewarded if you use your sick leave and punished if you save it."
  • Another HR specialist wrote: "I agree sick leave is like a gift! It should be saved and used only when actually needed. Earning the leave we do is a priviledge, not an entitlement. Personally, all this bunk about FERS people using it because they are losing it is for the birds."
  • A retired HR director from the Air Force thinks the existing system for FERS employees creates a problem: "Many FERS employees do look as their sick leave as "use or lose" which is not good for them or their agency. This part of FERS should be changed to mirror the CSRS provisions on sick leave. I retired with enough sick leave to add 20 months to my length of service. Being able to build sick leave account was a great additional benefit and gave me and my family peace of mind. Plus, it did not cost me anything."

In short, many readers feel they are entitled to use sick leave whether they are sick or not because they do not get credit for the leave when they retire. Other readers have an equally strong view that sick leave is not a benefit to be used as the employee sees fit but is a benefit to be saved and used for legitimate purposes.

With as much passion as appears to be surrounding this issue, we decided to ask readers several questions to get their views on the issue. Take our most recent survey and feel free to send in your (anonymous) written comments on the issue as part of the survey. We will publish the results along with representative comments sent in by readers in a few days.

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