Athens mayor seeks tighter sick leave rules for employees - Live5News.com | Charleston, SC | News, Weather, Sports

Athens mayor seeks tighter sick leave rules for employees

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Athens firefighters currently receive 36 days of sick leave per year. Athens firefighters currently receive 36 days of sick leave per year.

Athens city employees are facing a major change in sick-leave policy. Firefighters appear to be getting hit the hardest, but they mayor said when you take a closer look, it's not just about money, but about being fair.

Mayor Ronnie Marks said Athens firefighters get three times the amount of sick leave hours than other employees. He said they should get more – just not that much more.

Firefighters get 24 hours of sick leave allowed per month. If you take that number and divide it by an eight-hour work day that comes out to 36 sick days per year. All other city employees get twelve per year. Firefighters work 24-hour shifts, and they do work more hours overall – some 18 hours more per week than most other city workers.

Mayor Marks said he wants to even things out by cutting firefighters' sick leave to 11 hours per month, which comes out to 16.5 days per year, less than half they are allowed right now.

"The other 330 of those employees are based at one level, and we've got a certain department based on another. It's, in my administrative opinion, not right, and it needs to be consistent and fair," said Mayor Marks.

Another sick leave-related issue the mayor wishes to fix is accumulated leave hours. Currently, the amount of unused sick leave an Athens city employee can use when they retire is unlimited, and officials said it's time to put a limit on that.

For example, most full-time workers get 12 sick days per year. If an employee who worked with the city for 20 years never used any sick days, they could retire eight months early with pay. Mayor Marks wants to cap the amount of unused sick leave to 1,040 hours - or four months. An employee already over that cap would not be affected by the rule change.

"It should not be looked at as a perk or a retirement system within a retirement system," said the mayor.

This could all happen soon. The mayor said he expects the city council to vote whether to cut firefighters' sick leave hours at their Nov. 12 meeting.

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