The Cook County Jail went into lockdown yesterday when a quarter of the employee’s scheduled to work called in sick.
This is a chronic problem for the jail, says spokeswoman Cara Smith. She says the mass call-offs tend to fall on holidays or sporting events — yesterday was Father’s day as well as the last game in the NBA finals.
Smith says the jail administration’s efforts to deal with this problem are hampered by the fact that about a third of its employees can call in sick under the “Family Medical Leave Act:” a federal law that guarantees up to four work weeks of sick leave each year for those with certain medical conditions, which can include intermittent problems like migraine headaches.
Yesterday about half of the employee’s that called in sick to the jail did so under FMLA, Smith says.
“So it makes it incredibly difficult to manage a 24/7 operation when you have this big question mark, that is present on each shift: how many people are going to need to use their FMLA, or chose to use their FMLA, or call in sick?”
In a written statement Michael Melone with the Teamsters Local 700, a union which represents correctional officers at the Cook County Jail, said: “The earned sick time of our members can be used at their discretion as long as it coincides with the rules of their contract….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.”
Smith said during the lockdown detainee movement was restricted, but visitations were allowed.