Eight of the 20 highest-paid Wisconsin corrections officers in 2006 called in sick for a shift and then picked up the immediate next shift at least once. That meant they worked eight hours but were paid for 16, eight of them at time and a half, says the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Officers on average use about 100 hours – or 12.5 days – of sick leave a year. That’s more than 50 percent above the average for all state employees.
The newspaper won a lawsuit in last year that said the secrecy provision in state labor contracts could not trump the state’s open records law. State labor unions appealed in that case, and the state has refused to release information about employees until the case is resolved. Although state rules make it difficult to identify improper sick leave, the newspaper’s investigation raises the prospect that some officers who routinely pick up overtime shifts could be using sick leave inappropriately. “This is just blatantly an abuse that has to be addressed,” said Sen. Alberta Darling a member of the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee. “We cannot have people just going their own way to fatten their own pocketbooks at the taxpayer’s expense. It’s just totally unacceptable.”