Sick day payout outdatedPublished 11:35am Monday, November 28, 2011
Some of you might take issue with me because some of my stances seem, well, too liberal.
Well, I’m going to surprise you on this one.
I think the policy that allows state employees to bank unlimited sick time, and then cash out any unused sick days once they retire, is a bad one.
This policy recently came to light in a story which shows that some officials of the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, of which M State-Fergus Falls is a part, received payments exceeding $100,000 on retirement.
One employee in particular, former MnSCU chancellor James McCormick, however, received $92,965 in unused sick-time payments, part of a severance package that totaled $272,995.
MnSCU records show that in 2006, for example, McCormick was paid a salary of $285,961 as part of a four-year contract.
Come on, are you kidding me? I have heard of some unusually large severance packages in the private sector. But then again, to me, a private company — provided they aren’t getting public subsidies — has the right to pay out whatever severance package it wants (even if it may be ridiculously large).
The government is spending our money on these packages, not to mention the ever-increasing tuition of students.
The bottom line is, the state’s sick leave package is far out of line with what most private companies offer.
Take our company. By company policy, I accrue one sick day every two months I work here, up to a maximum of 20 days. I do not get to “cash out” on sick time once I have left. I’m not sure how it compares to other companies, but I’m thinking it’s about average.
I have worked at The Journal since January 1998. That means that, without a cap, I would have accrued 82 days of sick leave.
To my recollection, I have missed two days of work over those years due to illness. That means, if I worked for MnSCU, I would have 80 days of work I could cash out. And who knows? Maybe I would have accrued even more sick days under MnSCU policies.
Union officials recently defended the sick policy, stating that allowing employees to cash out sick days prevents abuse. In other words, employees will only take sick days if they are truly sick, and not simply to play hooky.
I get that. During my 13 years as a manager here, I’m sure there have been a few occasions where employees called in sick when they really weren’t.
But isn’t there a happy medium? How about allowing employees a maximum of, say, 10 days to cash out sick leave?
The other defense I heard was that such liberal policies allow universities to be competitive for employees, since private industry tends to pay higher wages.
In this economy, I find that hard to believe. And if it is true, then maybe we need to think about our higher education system as a whole, and how much we pay administrators of it.
The purpose of sick time, in general, is to ensure that if someone is sick, they don’t come to work and make everyone else sick.
Our state needs to move away from it being another retirement cash cow for employees.
• • •
Two weeks on the phone app “diet,” and I have found an interesting pattern.
Most days have been good — that is, the number of calories I’m allowed every day, combined with my exercise “bonus” calories, have typically exceeded the number I have consumed.
Except there have been a couple of blow-up days. Take Thanksgiving Day, for example.
The day started out fine enough: a morning run, a piece of toast, banana and coffee.
But by 2:30 p.m., after I’d scarfed down the turkey, gravy, buns, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, scalloped corn, pumpkin pie and cake, I decided that my phone didn’t need to know about it.
Clearly, the saying holds true: the holidays are a bad time to start a diet.
Joel Myhre is The Journal’s Publisher. E-mail him at email@example.com