The San Francisco Chronicle reports: "One public employee received a $594,976 lump-sum payment from the state when he retired last year; another got $553,253. The two – a surgeon and a dentist who provided care to prison inmates – topped the list of some 300 state employees who left or retired from their state jobs in 2010 and collected six-figure payments for unused vacation and other paid time off accumulated during their careers."
State policy caps the number of vacation hours a worker is allowed to bank at 640 hours (16 weeks), and sometimes higher for public safety workers. "But many agencies do not enforce the limits," the Chronicle noted.
A California Highway Patrol sergeant in Los Angeles County received $208,772; a parole agent in Santa Clara County collected $268,990; and a prison psychiatrist in Solano County took home $262,535 in a lump sum, thanks to unused time off.
CalTax Vice President of Communications and Research David Kline told the newspaper: "It is shocking but not surprising. We've seen so many examples of bad management decisions that cost state taxpayers millions of dollars. … In the private sector, business owners set standards as far as how much vacation time an employee can accrue, and they stick to those standards."
A spokeswoman for Governor Jerry Brown said the furlough program instituted by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger likely exacerbated the problem by adding to the amount of unused vacation and leave time. (Source: San Francisco Chronicle, March 20.)