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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

City Employees Cash In $10.8 Million From Sick Days

Posted By and on Tue, Aug 3, 2010 at 2:10 PM

click to enlarge Hey, there's money down here.
  • Hey, there's money down here.
Hundreds of San Francisco employees retiring this past fiscal year ending in June were allowed to cash out a total of $10.8 million worth of accumulated sick days under a failed so-called "wellness program" designed to prevent employees from missing work.

Of employees listed in a spreadsheet prepared for SF Weekly by the San Francisco controller, of payouts made from July 1, 2009 through June 30, 2010, retired police Lieutenant Douglas Groshong
was the top cash recipient, collecting $117,494.16 on his way out the door.

Fellow cops James Lynch, an assistant chief; Inspector Stephen Morimoto; and former Chief Heather Fong all rounded out the top four. They cashed in, respectively, $104,538; $98,294; and $95,907. (Fong, incidentally, also draws a pension of nearly $266,000 yearly). The top non-cop sick day payout earners were former airport deputy director Ernest Eavis ($92,566), former health department physical therapist Dixie Marcin ($82,730), and retired airport civil engineer Baljit Boparai ($79,930).

On top of her $266,000 pension, Heather Fong cashed in $95,907 worth of unused sick days - JOE ESKENAZI
  • Joe Eskenazi
  • On top of her $266,000 pension, Heather Fong cashed in $95,907 worth of unused sick days
The "wellness program," in which employees were given the option of

receiving cash payments in lieu of days off for illness, was negotiated

into many of the city's labor contracts with public employee unions in

2003. The idea was to reduce abuse of paid sick leave, which employees

had come to consider time off available for any purpose. Under the program, employees could

cash out a percentage of sick time upon retirement.

This past

year, city negotiators decided the program was more expensive than

beneficial. People showing up to work received extra money, while others continued calling in sick. So, for many many city employees, the cash-out option was

eliminated in June. Employees wishing to turn their sick days into cash

had to retire June 30, or lose their accumulated "wellness" pay.

As

a result, water coolers throughout San Francisco government buzzed this

spring with "wellness program" talk, as employees made individual

calculations as to whether it was worth it to retire June 30 and cash

out sick pay, or wait a few years and earn greater retirement income

thanks to raises and increased pension pay earned for longer service.

Not all employees' wellness programs have been cut, however. Cops with contracts negotiated by the powerful San Francisco Police Officers Association still have the option of socking away special pay for not calling in sick.

A previous version of this story misidentified the city employee receiving the largest wellness program payout.

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