Cowpies and Sick Leave

What do cowpies and migratory birds and your sick leave have in common? The answer could be quite a lot. Senior Correspondent Mike Causey explains.

You’ve probably heard the story about the tiny bird who ran in to trouble while flying south for the winter. He iced up and had to make a crash landing in a farm. He was freezing until a cow came by. It covered him with manure. Cows are like that! Given new life by the warm manure, the bird began to sing for joy. A cat heard him. It walked over to the cow pie, dug in, found tiny bird and ate same.

There are 3 morals to this story as follows:

  1. Not everyone who drops manure on you is your enemy.
  2. Not everyone who digs you out is your savior.
  3. When your are deep in it (manure) keep your mouth shut!

For the longer, official version, click here.

All of the above (especially lesson No. 3) brings us, naturally, to sick leave. CSRS employees have an incentive to save their leave. They get credit for it at retirement. FERS employees get the same amount of leave and can accumulate it. But it’s a use-it-or-lose-it-deal.

Yesterday’s column dealt with efforts to give FERS employees a pro-rated one-time payment at retirement (of up to $10,000) for not using sick leave.

That prompted a flood of e-mails on the subject. The first one brought to mind the bird-cow-cat story. Here’s what folks are saying about sick leave:

I think we have to be careful about what we ask for, or else we just might get it.

Let’s say that FERS folks, like myself, get some type of benefit from our sick leave after retirement… lump sum check, additional service time for annuity calculations, etc. Congress will likely then take a close look at just how much sick leave that Feds accumulates each year. 13 days is practically unheard of in private sector for the rank and file staff member. I like things just the way they are. I’ll take my 13 days of sick leave per year and keep quiet… just to keep our sick leave benefit out of the limelight in Congress.

Interesting point! Most private sector feds don’t get 13 days a year, nor are they allowed to bank it. In the DC area both the city and a Maryland jurisdiction are pressing for bills that would give employees of small firms 3 (as in THREE) days of sick leave a year. Many of them don’t have any sick leave.

  • “I’m in what may be my final year, sitting on over 1,100 hours of sick leave. I’m pondering abusing it to dump it, or hanging on to it in the slight possibility that Congress would act favorably. Thanks for helping me decide my golf game needs time and practice this year.” J.B.
  • “I have read they are looking at a $10,000-$15,000 payout for the unused FERS sick leave. What I haven’t seen is the number of hours needed to trade in the green stamps. If they are going to go with a high number as in over 1,000 sick leave for $10,000, (it) may not be a large enough incentive for FERS employees to save. I am a CSRS manager in a campus where most FERS employees have low sick balances. We also some a good number of CSRS employees with low sick balances and if the current system isn’t a incentive, I don’t think the FERS employees will buy into it …” Ted of the IRS
  • “Being a CSRS employee I think if they are going to give the FERS employees a lump sum payment for their Sick Leave, then the CSRS employees should get the matching contribution for TSP.” Richard “Chip” Sandage
  • “I’m just glad we’re allowed to carry over sick leave. Sure does help if someone were to have a catastrophic illness take hold. Plus, the fact we’re allowed to use it for family leave. (It) really does help families with young ones in daycare… Cause the kids catch EVERYTHING going around. Me… I’m gonna be a sick lil’ pup the last few years before I retire.” Cathy
  • “Basically, I think that fair is fair, and what’s good for the CSRS goose is equally good for the FERS gander. ..a benefit provided to one Fed employee should be provided to any other Fed. It would cost taxpayers a lot less to give a retiring FERS employee a one-time, lump-sum payment for unused sick leave than it costs to allow a retiring CSRS employee to use unused sick leave to pad their COLA-indexed pensions for the rest of their lives, for sure. As a retired uniformed service member, I am not going to be a FERS employee… long enough for me to earn much of a FERS pension, but I will have hundreds of hours of unused sick leave that will simply evaporate into thin air when I retire, under the current system. Since both annual leave and sick leave are earned benefits, I have always disagreed with the FERS retiree getting NOTHING for accumulated unused sick leave, while he/she can sell back unused annual leave.” Tom at FDA
  • Nearly Useless Factoid

    Today, upgraded to “close to totally useless”: Leap Day, February 29th, happens 97 times every 400 years. I’ll drink to that.

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