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L.A. Now Live: DWP's unlimited sick pay policy costs millions

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Join us at 9 a.m. when we talk with Times reporter Jack Dolan about the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power policy that has paid thousands of employees a total of $35.5 million since 2010 in extra sick days.

The utility's top executive acknowledges the system has been vulnerable to abuse.

DWP employees benefit from a 32-year-old policy that allows them to take paid days off well beyond the agency's 10-day-a-year cap on sick days.

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Last year, 10% of the department's roughly 10,000 employees took at least 10 extra days off, the data show. More than 220 took an extra 20 working days off, or about a month, according to a Times examination of data obtained under the California Public Records Act.

In fact, records and interviews show, there is no limit to the paid time off DWP employees can take when they say they're sick, and requirements to provide medical proof of their illness have been loosely enforced.

After reviewing data compiled for The Times, DWP Executive Director Ron Nichols said this week that "there appear to be some people who are abusing [the policy]." But he stressed that the average DWP employee takes only 4.4 sick days a year, about the same as the national average.

High compensation for DWP employees — who receive about 50% more pay than other city employees, and 25% more than employees at other area utilities — emerged as a central issue in the recent mayoral campaign, after their union became the biggest contributor to the losing effort to elect Wendy Greuel.

Mayor Eric Garcetti and other officials on the city's employee relations committee are scheduled to discuss a new DWP contract Friday. The city-owned utility provides electricity and water to Los Angeles businesses and nearly 4 million residents.

 

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