Let the healing begin: Firefighter sick leave drops by 80%

Victor Joecks

Is an 80 percent drop in sick leave for Clark County firefighter battalion chiefs a miracle or evidence that Clark County firefighter battalion chiefs had been gaming the system to increase their pay? From the Las Vegas Sun:

Previously, the department always kept three battalion chiefs – only nine firefighters have reached that rank – on duty at all times. When one “batt chief” called in sick, the department called in another one to fill that spot. The battalion chief called in would receive either overtime or callback pay; callback is overtime plus a contribution to his or her retirement fund, and results from someone calling in sick within 12 hours of the start of his or her shift.

On May 26, the policy changed. Now, when a battalion chief calls in sick, the department operates with two, saving overtime or callback cost of summoning a third.

At the time, the Fire Department expected this policy to save about $150,000 annually.

To see if it was working, a 12-week period was compared with the same period in 2009.

Officials found sick-leave use fell 80 percent.

Commissioner Steve Sisolak, who has done a ton of good work on the firefighter compensation issue, thinks the answer is obvious.

“It’s clear people were taking sick leave who were not sick.”

And now we know a big reason why firefighter compensation is so expensive in Nevada.

It’ll be interesting to see what impact, if any, these revelations have on the binding arbitration about to get underway between Clark County and its firefighters.