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County discusses new sick day policy

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By Jesse Osbourne

A new policy on county employees donating sick days to each other could be in the works for Washington County.
Washington County Judge-Executive John Settles brought before the court a request to consider what he called an emergency situation on Friday during a regularly scheduled meeting.
“We have a situation that has arisen, and to be quite honest, the employee has not asked for this,” Settles said. “Some of the other employees have inquired about contributing some of their excess sick days to this employee.”
Settles said this situation has come up before with a different employee, but no policy for donating sick days is in place.
“We had an employee that was going to donate bone marrow, and they knew how long they were going to have to be gone,” Settles said. “This situation is a little different because there is not a set schedule as far as how many days the person is going to be off.”
Settles said a policy needed to be developed, but this particular situation needed to be acted upon then.
The current sick day policy for county employees is that one day is accrued for every month of employment with the county for a maximum of 24 days.
Settles read a sample policy, from where he did not disclose, that allowed full-time employees with more than 15 sick leave days to donate to an individual in need of sick days.
“The number of days donated should not reduce the employee sick leave balance to less than 15 days,” Settles read from the sample. “Any unused sick leave shall be returned prorated to the employee who donated.”
Settles said the reason for leaving the balance was to prevent the employee that is donating from depleting their own sick days.
“You wouldn’t want them to deplete all their sick days because then if they have a major catastrophe or illness, then they wouldn’t have reserves,” Settles said.
Magistrate Hal B. Goode said that most school systems and manufacturers have that type of policy in place.
Magistrate Billy Riney inquired if employees had to use up all of their sick days and vacation time before receiving donated sick days.
Settles said that all sick and vacation days are used first, and after those are gone, the individual is left with no source of income.
“This employee has been working all that he can, but it’s been kind of sporadic,” Settles said. “He’s certainly not abusing it. I can testify to that. He’s not abused the sick leave policy in the past either. He’s accrued and maintained several sick days.”
Settles said that the current situation should be a one-time donation.
“I think what we need to set today is, if we agreed to do it, it would be a one-time donation of sick days, but we make sure that the person who is donating leaves so many in the bank,” Settles said.
Settles said he wouldn’t want someone to get overzealous and donate 10 sick days when they only had 11 days.
“And of course they can’t donate any if they don’t have any,” he said. “It’s going to restrict some employees who can donate because some employees routinely use that. We can’t control that.”
Riney asked if employees currently have to submit a doctor’s note if they call in sick.
“For one day they can just call in sick,” Settles said. “If they’re out over two days, then the third day they have to have a doctors note.”
“I say that might be reviewed, too, where you have to have a doctors statement for even one day,” Riney said. “If you’re sick, you’re going to need to be going to the doctor.”
Settles added that sick days also cover time off if an employee has to take an immediate family member to the hospital or doctor.
Riney said the employee would still be able to obtain a doctor’s statement.
County Attorney Hamilton Simms asked if there would be a limit on how many donated sick days the employee could receive.
“We need to either decide to do nothing or, two things: put a cap on the number of days that can be donated to that one individual, and put a floor on the individual that is going to be donating,” Settles said. “We don’t want to deplete somebody.”
Settles recommended that a 15 to 20 day maximum number of days donated be applied to this case.
Magistrate Greg Simms made a motion to allow a maximum number of 15 days be donated to the employee, and that anyone who donates the sick days must have at least 10 remaining after donating.
“This is a one-time motion, not to carry over to anybody else,” Simms said.
Goode seconded the motion. The court voted without dissent to pass the motion.