Department of Correctional Services

Administration of Workers' Compensation Leave

If the correction officers employed by the Department of Correctional Services are injured on the job and unable to return to work because of the injury, they are allowed by their collective bargaining agreement to be placed on workers’ compensation leave at full pay for up to six months. During the year ended March 31, 2002, the Department’s 22,000 officers were on workers’ compensation leave with full pay for a total of 89,736 work days. We estimate that these absences cost the Department at least $23.3 million in salary and overtime payments. We analyzed the officers’ use of workers’ compensation leave and found that about three-quarters of the claims filed, and about three-quarters of the leave days taken, related to injuries not caused by contact with inmates. We also determined that the amount of workers’ compensation leave taken by the officers increased by 37 percent between 1997 and 2002, even though the number of officers remained about the same. We further determined that this increase was almost entirely due to an increase in the average length of the absences, which increased from about 24 days to nearly 35 days per claim.

Our detailed examination of 14 correctional facilities confirmed that long-term absences are highly significant, as 88 percent of the workers’ compensation leave days at these facilities related to long-term absences that were an average of 5.3 months in length. A number of actions could be taken to reduce both the length and the number of long-term absences. The most effective action would be to modify, through the collective bargaining process, the negotiated benefit that allows the officers to receive up to six months of leave at full pay for any job-related injury without any charge to their leave accruals. In 1992, this particular benefit was negotiated out of the labor contract of another group of State workers, and between 1991 and 1999, the number of workers’ compensation claims filed by these workers declined by 42 percent.

For a complete copy of Report 2002-S-35 click here.
For a copy of the 90-day response click here.
For a copy of the associated follow-up report click here.