Over 370 Cook County correctional officers call off work during Cubs playoff run
Cook County correctional officers’ unusually high use of sick and family medical leave coincides with Cubs playoff games.
Over 370 Cook County correctional officers called off work Oct. 16. The likeliest reason behind the absences is the Chicago Cubs, who played a postseason game that night.
Although the Cubs playoff run is historic, the pattern of spikes in mass call-offs is far more common. In June, Game 7 of the NBA finals caused 317 correctional officers to call off, resulting in a mandatory inmate lockdown. On Mother’s Day, 464 correctional officers called off.
A spokesperson for the Cook County Sheriff’s Office told CBS Chicago these unusually large amounts of call-offs are taking place during major sporting or weather events and are becoming a significant problem.
“It puts [an] enormous burden on the hardworking men and women who do come into work and taxpayers because we have to hire overtime to keep jail running,” Cara Smith of the Cook County Sheriff’s office told CBS Chicago.
Most of the call-offs are being utilized under family-medical leave coverage. “Even if we suspect that someone maybe misusing that benefit, our only recourse is to send it back to the same doctors that certified them. So we have, the federal law is a problem,” Smith said.
Inmates and their loved ones also suffer when an unexpectedly high number of officers call off duty. When there are a high number of call-offs, visiting hours sometimes must be curtailed due to a lack of staff.
“I’m a Cubs fan myself, so I understand [the desire] to be part of history. But everybody is an adult. We all have responsibilities, and unfortunately we have to sacrifice and need to attend to business,” Enda Garcia, a family member of a Cook County Jail inmate, told CBS Chicago.
Taxpayers, visitors to the jail and the Cook County Sheriff’s Office have voiced complaints over the mass call-offs. Nonetheless, Teamsters Local, 700, the union representing Cook County correctional officers, has remained silent on this latest round of no-shows. Faced with similar problems in the past, Teamsters Local, 700 stated, “The earned sick time of our members can be used at their discretion as long as it coincides with the rules of their contract, which Sherriff Tom Dart agreed to. 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.”
While hundreds of Teamsters Local, 700 members stay home – quite possibly in order to watch baseball – taxpayers, inmates and their families and correctional officers who show up to work pay the price.