The Great Recession and subsequent fragile recovery have shifted many Americans' view of taking time off from work. Fearing that they won't have jobs upon their return, plenty of workers leave paid vacation and sick days on the table -- and lose them because their employers require those days to be taken within a specified time.
In Chicago, however, the former chief of the city's community college system, Wayne Watson, will be paid for most of the 500 paid sick days he accrued during the last 10 years of his three-decade-long tenure, netting him an extra $500,000, Chicago News Cooperative reports.
Watson, who stepped down in 2009, has already received $300,000 of that amount, and is due two more annual payments of $100,000, the website says.
Watson may be the biggest beneficiary of a policy that permitted employees to cash-in unused sick days, but he's hardly alone. Another 140 City Colleges of Chicago employees have been paid at least $3 million during the last decade and are due another $4.2 million.
When asked about the $500,000 he's received for unused sick days, Watson told the News Cooperative, "You're asking me about three years ago and a different institution," and declined further comment.
The former community college chancellor is now president of Chicago State University, where he earns an annual salary of $250,000. He also draws a $140,000 yearly pension.
Policies revised last fall that took effect Jan. 1 now prevent nonunion employees from cashing out sick days when their employment ends.
The change was made to "save taxpayer resources," City Colleges Vice Chancellor Laurent Pernot said in an email to the news organization.
Under the old system, certain nonunion employees were able to set aside 80 percent of their unused sick time and be paid for them upon their departure, with no cap on how many days could be accrued.
During the last decade of his 31-year-long tenure, Watson only took 11.5 sick days while at City Colleges and was permitted to convert some unused vacation time into sick days. Further, he was paid $37,000 for other unused vacation days that hadn't been converted.
News Cooperative reports that at least 15 other former City Colleges administrators were owed $100,000 or more in unused sick time payments during the past decade, according to documents.
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