Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Sick Pay: State Employees' Retirement Windfalls

Here's yet another story about excessive pay and benefits for state employees in California. Are you surprised to learn that a couple doctors who work for the Dept. of Corrections were able to cash in $500,000+ in unused paid time off?

One public employee received a $594,976 lump-sum payment from the state when he retired last year; another got $553,253.

The two - a surgeon and a dentist who provided care to prison inmates - topped the list of some 300 state employees who left or retired from their state jobs in 2010 and collected six-figure payments for unused vacation and other paid time off accumulated during their careers, according to records obtained from the state controller's office.

The records reflect a widespread failure by the state to control the amount of paid time off that employees amass. State policy caps the number of vacation hours an employee is allowed to bank at 640 hours - or 16 weeks - and sometimes higher for public safety workers. But many agencies do not enforce the limits.

Controller's data shows that in 2010, California paid $293 million in lump-sum payments to 20,048 state workers who retired or left. But while some checks were as low as 41 cents, others were for hundreds of thousands of dollars - reflecting months upon months, or in some cases years, of banked leave.

The outrage isn't the pay-out, of course. It's the fact that it was perfectly legal. And, we know what will happen in the highly unlikely event Gov. Brown tries to curtail these sorts of abuses. Suddenly, we'll be hearing about the "attack on the middle class," "rich v poor," "Koch Brothers," etc. Never mind that, if you stagger your paid time off right, you can earn a pay-off that will lift you right out of the middle class.


  1. I'm a teacher, and I receive 10 days of sick time a year. At most I use 3 of those, and have used none of them so far. I currently have over half a school year's worth of sick days saved up.

    I assumed, like anyone would, that I'd be paid for those days when I retire. That's not correct. Later I learned that I'd get that sick time added on to my "service time" for calculations related to my retirement pay--I'd get credit for having worked an extra half-year, or whatever. Well, that's not entirely correct, either. Turns out I get only a part of those days added on for retirement purposes.

    How does one get one of these jobs with the beaucoup retirement and major payouts of the type you mentioned?

  2. Oops! I meant "have used none of them so far this year." Lo siento!

  3. The Dept. of Corrections had the two who cashed out at $500,000+. One was a doctor and the other a dentist. Not too late for a career change, I hope!