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Firefighters, jailers, garbage collectors top list of NYC's sick leave users

The city's uniformed employees face a greater risk of on-the-job injury than other city workers.

City firefighters, correction officers and sanitation workers face a greater risk Getty Images

Firefighters, prison guards and garbage collectors tend to use sick leave more than any other city employees, according to report compiled by the New York City Independent Budget Office.

Firefighters were absent for 7 percent of their scheduled work hours during the 2016 fiscal year, the report shows. That sick leave rate includes time off for injuries sustained on the job.

Correction officers missed slightly more that 6 percent of their scheduled work hours and sanitation workers missed 6 percent of their scheduled work hours.

By comparison, police officers missed less than 3 percent of their scheduled work hours, the report shows.

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One reason that uniformed employees of the FDNY, corrections department and sanitation department tend to use more sick leave than other municipal employees is that they face a greater risk of on-the-job injuries, the report states.

Another factor is that uniformed city employees are given unlimited sick time.

Sick leave by uniformed employees has financial consequences for the city.

“Sick leave usage by uniformed employees is a key driver of city overtime spending—a set number of workers are needed, for example, for patrol cars or fire and sanitation trucks whether or not the regularly scheduled employees make it to work,” wrote Bernard O’Brien, who prepared the report.

Firefighters and police officers on average use less sick leave than uniformed employees of the correction and sanitation departments—when on-the-job injuries are excluded.

The report also notes that 48 percent of police officers and 31 percent of firefighters used no sick leave at all in the 2016 fiscal year. “Conversely, 92 percent of correction officers and 90 percent of garbage collectors used at least some amount of sick leave for reasons other than being hurt on the job,” O’Brien wrote.

In all four uniformed agencies, a small number of workers account for a disproportionate share of routine sick leave, the data show. Agencies do monitor sick leave and watch for abuse.

“Uniformed personnel who are chronically absent may be subject to home visits to verify their condition and may also face the loss of certain discretionary benefits and privileges such as eligibility for assignment to special units or commands,” O’Brien wrote.

 
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