Cook County workers take nearly twice as much paid sick leave as other state and local government workers across the country., according to statistics compiled by the county.

That’s according to statistics compiled by the county and reported by the Chicago News Cooperative today.

The county says for the latest full fiscal year employees averaged 6.64 hours of paid sick leave a month, compared with a nationwide average of 3.6 hours a month for state and local government workers reported by the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The most sick time — 8.05 hours a month — was taken by workers in the county assessor’s office.

Sick time levels were down only .04 hours on average from 2010, after the new county board president, Toni Preckwinkle, took office.

An aide to Preckwinkle said officials don’t know whether county workers here are more prone to illness, or whether they’re taking advantage of the system.

Original story

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Cook County Assessor’s office

    35 workers at the County  Assessor's office were originally laid off last January prior to the AFSCME's deal with the County in late February.  Cook County doesn't pay out sick days when you leave.  This fact made prospective laid off employees "burn" as many sick days as possible before they were laid off.  Additionally, a number of these laid off employees eventually bumped another employee because of seniority rights which made the bumped employees also "burn" as many sick days as possible.  The Cook County Assessor's office has a highly professional staff that isn't represented correctly by the figures in this study.

    1. Not surprising

      You have got to be kidding. Cook County has always had a high number of sick days that exceeded the national averages. It is just another reason our nationwide reputation is so bad and we are known as CROOK COUNTY, Illinois.

      1. Gaming the System

        Either the County Building has sick building syndrome, or the employees are simply gaming the system.  I'm leaning that the latter might be the case.

        Perhaps the county should adopt what's taking place in the private sector…lump sick & vacation time into the same bucket.  Ran out of PTO?  Too bad, so sad, welcome to the real world.

    2. “burning” sick days = fraud

      Shouldn't you only be taking sick days off of work if you are actually sick?

      When you say that "this fact made prospective laid off employees "burn" as many sick days as possible before they were laid off" what you are really saying is that these employees were fraudulently taking sick pay for days that they were not actually sick.

      The tone of your post seems to indicate that you condone this kind of activity.  Are you really condoning the perpetration of fraud by public sector employees against the taxpayers?  I don't see how you can laud the Cook County Assessor's office staff as being "highly professional" when, according to your testimonial, they were routinely committing acts of fraud.

      Do you or did you work for the county or another government job?  Did you engage in this activity?  If so, what is your name?  Inquiring minds would like to know.

      1. Workplaces need to revaluate their policies

        Of course, it would be ideal if everyone played by the rules.  The problem with any government employee is that it must work BOTH ways for both management and rank and file to feel committed to such an agreement.

        The problem is that the system is set up such that those who work really hard (i.e. are there all the time, always strive to get their work done, and suggest better methods of working, etc.) don't have any way to be rewarded more than the next guy.

        They get the same paycheck whether or not they excel at their positions or do the minimum required.  In this way, the system set-up reduces everyone to the same mediocre level.  After working really hard, taking on tough assignments that nobody else wants, or is any good at, year upon year and still seeing the same amount in their paycheck as their average (or less) co-worker, most people “justify” taking a  sick day even if they are not sick.

        And it really makes no difference to me if it is taxpayers you work for or a bank, or Apple.  The issue is the same.  To be clear, I am not approving it; just observing human nature.  Additionally, in these environments, you see people get promotions that they do not deserve because of who they know, or the color of their skin, or their sex as well as “layoffs” of good people who may have been too "outspoken" about a broken system.

        In general, an attitude prevails in these workplaces that “you are always replaceable” so you don’t feel needed, valued.  All of this plays into an unhealthy work place.  What is important to realize is that without fair play on both sides, and a healthy workplace environment, you will never get to the bottom of abuse of sick-time no matter how much micromanagement you do and how many doctor’s notes you require.  Management needs to look at how they can create healthy workplaces where people feel engaged, valued and there are policies to reinforce good and bad behaviors, with real concequences for both sides of that equation.

      2. Pay for un-used sickdays?

        Readers may have seen that the Chicago Mayor is cracking down on teachers getting paid for un-used sick days—even Arnie Duncan now Sec. of Education took $50,000 in this way.

        Hopefully Evanston schools and in contracts for all employees union or not have prohibited such payments.  If not, this should be done immediately.

        The same for vacations.  Vacations were something workers pushed for for years and employers expect those to be taken so employees come back refreshed [questionable after the strain of driving, planning, costs of vacation spots] and being more productive—not another way to get more money and perform below par.

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