Nearly 240 Cook County correctional officers call in sick for Super Bowl
Super Sunday sees 239 corrections officers – or 19 percent of the staff assigned to work that day – call in sick despite pleas to officers ahead of time from the Cook County Sheriff’s office.
Nearly 240 Cook County correctional officers called in sick Feb. 5, and the fact it was the same day as the Super Bowl should come as little surprise.
Anticipating the sick calls, the Cook County Sheriff’s office took precautions, including asking 70 employees who were scheduled to have Sunday off to come to work. On top of that, officials from the sheriff’s office contacted approximately 300 correctional officers who had called in sick on previous Super Sundays in recent years, according to CBS 2 Chicago.
While the sheriff’s office claimed these measures helped the overall situation, it did not stop 239 correctional officers ̶ 19 percent of those assigned to work that day ̶ from calling in sick, up slightly from the number of officers who called in sick for 2016’s Super Bowl 50, according to WBBM Newsradio, CBS 2 Chicago’s radio affiliate. Cara Smith, the chief policy officer for the Cook County Sheriff’s office, said 109 correctional officers called in sick in the morning shift and another 130 called in sick for the second shift, CBS 2 Chicago reported.
On a normal Sunday, 60 to 70 corrections officers call in sick, according to CBS 2.
However it’s not just the Super Bowl that causes correctional officers to call in sick. In October 2016, during the playoff season that eventually led to the Cubs’ historic World Series victory, more than 370 correctional officers called in sick. During the NBA Finals in June 2016, over 300 correctional officers called in sick, causing the entire Cook County Jail to be placed on lockdown due to the limited number of guards.
The numbers are even higher over the holidays: On Mother’s Day 2016, 464 correctional officers called in sick. The absences on Mother’s Day cost Cook County an extra $75,000 in overtime pay.
Smith claims that one of the reasons why so many officers call in sick is because 90 percent of them have certified intermittent conditions, covered by the Family Medical Leave Act. The conditions are various and can be anything from back pain to anxiety, CBS 2 reported.
“Unless we have some reason to believe that they weren’t suffering from whatever they said they were suffering from – which is protected by federal law – there’s very little that we can do,” Smith said told CBS 2.
Fortunately, Cook County jail was able to continue regular services for inmates, thanks to the 70 correctional officers who showed up ahead of the sickout, WBBM Newsradio reported.
The union which represents the Cook County correctional officers, Teamsters Local, 700, has defended their members’ sickouts in the past, saying, “Regardless of how earned sick time is used, we won’t let our members be subjected to the ridicule that the current jail administration puts forth in an attempt to hide the real issues that they should be paying attention to.”
A culture that enables continued “sickouts” on holidays and major sporting events is unfair to inmates, visitors, taxpayers and the hardworking officers who don’t call off work. These mass absences can lead to curtailed visiting hours, inmate lockdown and increased cost to taxpayers.
Officers who called in sick in order to watch the Super Bowl should consider all these factors and more the next time playoffs come around.