Thousands of additional state workers accumulated more vacation and annual leave time last year than state law is supposed to allow, according to new data provided to California Watch this week by the state's Department of Personnel Administration.
As of December 2009, more than 19,000 state workers had exceeded their vacation and annual leave caps, compared to more than 14,000 in December 2008. Last year's total accounted for 8 percent of the total state workforce, compared to 6 percent in 2008.
As we reported last month, state rules allow most employees to bank up to 640 hours, or 80 days, of vacation and leave time throughout their careers. The limit, however, is rarely enforced, potentially costing the state hundreds of millions of dollars.
We also provided a database that allows you to look up the top earners.
The 2009 figures provide one of the first glimpses at how furloughs have affected the leave balances of state workers. Many of the sources we talked to in our reporting expressed concerns that furloughs were causing people to use less vacation than ever, potentially putting the state on the hook for millions in liabilities that could offset furlough savings.
The DPA data, which was calculated by the state controller's office, does not take into account a number of state departments whose payroll is tracked outside the standard state system – including most public universities.
The data shows modest increases in banked leave across the board, from rank-and-file workers to managers. In 2008, for example, 18 percent of exempt employees (typically managers) were over the cap. Last year it was 19 percent. That number obviously rises as more employees accumulate vacation over the cap, but those increases are offset by drops when other employees retire.
The Sacramento Bee reported last month that the number of vacation hours used by state employees fell 31 percent in 2009. Workers used 58 percent of their unused vacation time last year, compared to 86 percent a year earlier, the Bee reported.