Washington, D.C., Fire and Emergency Medical Services Chief Kenneth Ellerbe ordered a sweeping, though temporary, change to the agency’s sick time policy, reports NBC Washington.
In an official memo obtained by the News4 I-Team, Ellerbe suspended the use of unannounced sick time through June 2 for any firefighter who isn’t first checked at the fire department’s in-house clinic or one of two D.C. hospital emergency rooms.
Ellerbe’s memo was issued amid concerns about widespread usage of sick time by firefighters during holiday weekends, a city official said.
“The Department occasionally finds it necessary to temporarily suspend its Minor Illness Program in order to minimize the use of unscheduled leave around the holidays,” Ellerbe said in a statement to the News4 I-Team. “When our members are granted leave to spend time with families during the holidays, it’s important to maintain sufficient staffing to keep units in service and respond to all emergency calls.”
Ed Smith, president of International Association of Firefighters Local 36, said the union filed a formal grievance against the new sick time policy. Smith said such changes should only be enacted after official bargaining sessions between the city and union. Smith said any shortfall of staffers during holiday weekends is the result of overall agency personnel shortages, not sick calls.
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