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Article updated: 5/23/2013 8:41 AM

Elgin city council keeps sick leave donation policy

By Elena Ferrarin

A program that allows Elgin employees to donate their unused sick leave to sick colleagues will continue to stand for now, as city council members continue debating the topic.

Right now, employees can donate sick time to other employees who have a severe illness and have exhausted their own sick leave. The employees getting the donation must have a minimum one year of service and must have had in their "sick bank" at least half the sick leave they were eligible to accrue by the onset of the illness.

Nineteen employees have used the program since 2003. One donated 790 hours of unused sick leave at retirement, and the other donated 1,000 hours to a co-worker's ill spouse, City Manager Sean Stegall said Wednesday during the city council's committee of the whole meeting.

The proposed changes are part of an overall review of human resources policies that aim to curtail abuse of sick leave by a handful of employees, Stegall said.

"Sick leave is not meant to be paid time off. Sick leave is meant to be used when you are sick," Stegall said.

The proposed changes include being able to donate only vacation and compensatory -- not sick -- time, or perhaps a 50/50 mixture of sick and vacation leave, he said. Other ideas include capping the total amount of donated leave for each recipient, eliminating the minimum sick leave accrued requirement and eliminating approval by the city manager.

But council members said that because very few employees have used the program, the changes seemed unnecessary.

"Two people per year, out of 600 to 700, is not (the program) being abused," Councilwoman Tish Powell said, later adding, "It seems like we're trying to overcorrect a policy where, really, there isn't a significant problem right now."

Councilwoman Anna Moeller said the sick leave donation program is a safety net for those who have an extraordinary need for it. "I see sick time abuse as a separate issue from this program," she said.

Mayor David Kaptain agreed. "The employees know who's abusing sick time, and they will help regulate that," by not donating their sick time to that person, he said.

Councilman John Steffen said he wanted to know more about rules that govern sick, compensatory and vacation leave for different classes of employees. The labor unions that represent city employees should be consulted before making any changes, Councilman Rich Dunne said.

The city council will tackle the topic at a future meeting.

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