State employees are receiving hundreds of millions of dollars in payouts for unused vacation days upon retiring, the San Jose Mercury News reports.
For its investigation, the Mercury News analyzed state workers' salary data from the last three years.
Details of the Payouts
California does not allow state employees to cash in their vacation time while still employed, so workers receive their entire vacation payouts when they retire.
The Mercury News found the state paid a total of $800 million in vacation payouts from 2009 through 2011. The total includes $293 million in vacation payouts distributed to retiring prison employees, including health care workers and corrections officers.
According to the Mercury News, many of the largest payouts went to state workers who have vital jobs, such as physicians in prisons or state hospitals.
The analysis found that 27 workers -- including 19 prison physicians and dentists -- received checks for more than $250,000 when they retired. Some of those 27 employees retired with more than 500 unused vacation days.
Nancy Kincaid -- a spokesperson for the state Correctional Health Care Services department -- said, "You can't force people to take time off. I've never been able to do that in my time as a manager."
However, private employers can cap vacation day accruals and require workers to use days off, according to the Mercury News.
Elizabeth Ashford, spokesperson for Gov. Jerry Brown (D), said that the governor intends to address the vacation payout issue. She said, "The problem, like the $26 billion deficit, is a carry-over from a prior era," adding, "Employees were furloughed for short-term savings, which has left a long-term debt in the form of accumulated leave" (Peele/Willis, San Jose Mercury News, 10/15).