Some public employees in New Jersey have been getting big payouts for unused sick time when they retire.
State workers have had a $15,000 cap on those payouts for decades. A limit that also applies to county and local employees hired since 2010.
A bill advancing the legislature would put impose some new restrictions.
Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt says there would be no cash payout for leave time accrued after the enactment of her bill, but up to $7500 of the amount that was built up could be used for health care expenses for up to five years.
“$7500 over a period of five years would be something that easily people could utilize to help offset their expenses and adjust to the new pocketbook of their retirement salary.”
Robert Fox with the New Jersey State Fraternal Order of Police says police and firefighters would be more likely to call in sick as they approach that $7500 threshold.
“And he’ll be replaced by somebody for time and a half. So it’s just shifting the money. It’s like a little bit of a shell game. You pay for it now or you pay for it later.”
Public employee unions oppose the legislation, saying it would violate collective bargaining agreements.
Donna Chiera, the president of the American Federation of Teachers in New Jersey, says the sick day payout at the end of their career amounts to a savings account for public workers who don’t have big salaries.
“Because when you retire on a pension and social security, it’s money that you need to lean on.”
Seth Hahn with the Communications Workers of America says most of the union’s members get less than $10,000 in accumulated sick leave payouts after working for 30 years or more.
“We consider this a fairly modest retirement benefit, not something that is bilking taxpayers.”
Hahn says it’s career political appointees who get the big cashouts.
Assemblywoman Angela McKnight says when she was in the corporate sector, she either used her sick time or lost it.
“To have someone bank all of these hours and then at the end they get this huge cash payout, it’s not fair to the public.”