Baker bill would limit state workers’ sick time


Associated Press
Published: 5/25/2016 9:03:08 PM

BOSTON — Gov. Charlie Baker is pushing legislation to limit how much sick time state workers can save up.

Baker said in a statement Wednesday that the goal of his bill is to avoid exorbitant payouts to retiring workers who have used little or no sick time.

Baker said sick time is meant to help workers deal with health and family issues, not a retirement bonus.

The bill would cap the amount of sick time employees working for executive branch agencies under the governor could accrue at 1,000 hours. That’s equivalent to about six months of work.

The bill would exempt 5,800 state employees who have already accrued more than 1,000 hours of sick time. Their sick time would be capped at the amount they have when the bill becomes law.

“Bringing the commonwealth’s sick leave accrual policy in line with other private and public sector employers just makes sense and is the fiscally responsible thing to do,” Baker said.

The move comes amid a heightened focus on sick time benefits on Beacon Hill. The review was sparked in part after the former president of Bridgewater State University Dana Mohler-Faria faced criticism for cashing in his unused sick and vacation time for a one-time payment.

Mohler-Faria subsequently agreed to volunteer his time instead.

The Department of Higher Education launched a review of decades-old leave policies for top officials and asked for recommendations for changes to policies including those related to accruing sick and vacation time and documenting leave time.

Massachusetts Teachers Association President Barbara Madeloni said collective bargaining agreements are the best way to set fair sick leave policies, not passing new laws.

“Gov. Baker’s proposed legislation is a reaction to a few highly paid administrators abusing the system,” Madeloni said a statement. “Instead of addressing that, the legislation would affect hard-working public employees who provide essential services to residents of the commonwealth.”

State employees can currently accrue a maximum of 15 sick days per year and those employees who retire are permitted to cash out 20 percent of unused sick time.

In the 2015 fiscal year, 378 employees had accrued more than 1,000 hours upon retirement, according to Baker.

Based on the last three fiscal years, Baker said, a 1,000 hour cap would have saved the state an average of $3.5 million in cash payouts per year.

The bill now heads to the Legislature.

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