Warning

 

Close

Confirm Action

Are you sure you wish to do this?

Confirm Cancel
Member Login
Posted: 9/15/2010 11:55:38 PM EDT
Linky

Firefighter ruled out of bounds
Allentown fires veteran employee who played golf after calling out sick.

By Jarrett Renshaw, OF THE MORNING CALL

9:25 PM EDT, September 13, 2010
Advertisement

A veteran Allentown firefighter was fired last month after a city-hired private investigator caught him playing golf on the same three days he called out sick, city records show.

Richard G. Gawlik Jr. played a round at three different courses — including Allentown Municipal Golf Course — on Aug. 17, 18 and 19, all days he called in sick, according to records obtained by the Morning Call, including a termination letter sent to Gawlick.

Gawlik also called out from work on Aug. 20, the final day of his four-day shift, but apparently did not play golf. The nine-handicapper did play 20 rounds that month, online records show.

"The city regards golf while on paid sick leave a misuse and/or abuse of paid sick leave, which is a fraudulent act and theft of time. This is a serious violation of the code of conduct," states the Aug. 25 termination letter, obtained under a Right to Know request.

Mayor Ed Pawlowski, who has long bemoaned the fire union's generous sick day policy, said, "Sick leave is clearly not vacation time. You can't call out sick and go out and play golf."

Gawlik, hired in 1995, could not be reached for comment.

The firefighters union has appealed the firing and union President John Stribula said the public should not jump to any conclusions.

"We have full faith that once the facts are brought before arbitrators, Mr. Gawlik will be getting his job back," said Stribula, who does not dispute that Gawlik played golf on the days he called out sick.


Without providing more details, Stribula said "playing golf was well within the guidelines of his diagnosis."

Fire Chief Robert Scheirer said the city is serious about cracking down on the abuse of sick days, especially since the department is headed to its highest sick-day figure in history, driving up overtime costs by $600,000 or more.

The Pawlowski administration hired Harrisburg-based Investigative Consultant Inc. for $2,300 to check out firefighters suspected of abusing the sick-day policy. That decision came four months after a Morning Call story in August 2009 showed a large number of firefighters abused the policy, generating overtime and inflating pensions.

For example, city taxpayers shelled out $2,000 to pay for overtime contractually necessary to cover the four days Gawlik, 40, called off sick last month, including the three he played golf.

Scheirer said firefighters other than Gawlik, who ran unsuccessfully for Lehigh County Commissioner in 2007, are being looked at as well, but he declined to provide details. The chief did say investigators are focusing on a list of suspected abusers and have looked at some firefighters and determined no violations occurred.

"It's the minority of firefighters who ruin it for everyone else," Scheirer said. "We have repeatedly told them to take sick days only when they're legitimately sick."

Gawlik posted his scores on his profile on the website golf.com and even played at the city's golf course, where he paid for a round of golf with his credit card, according to a source familiar with the investigation.

His electronic profile on golf.com shows he shot 86 at Allentown Municipal Golf Course on Aug. 17. He shot 78 at Rich Maiden Golf Course near Fleetwood, Berks County, on Aug. 18 and 95 at Silver Creek Country Club in Hellertown on Aug. 19.

Gawlik posted scores for 20 rounds of golf in August on his golf.com profile.

The union contract allows firefighters to take four consecutive sick days without providing a doctor's note. The benefit has allowed firefighters, whose shifts run four days on followed by four days off, the equivalent of a 12-day leave.

Between January 2006 and July 2009, firefighters called out sick in four-day spurts 609 times, according to the Morning Call analysis. Six out of every 10 times a firefighter called out sick, it was for exactly four days and did not require a doctor's note, the analysis showed.

Gawlik called out four consecutive days nine separate times during that 43-month period.

Because of staffing requirements, a sick day for one firefighter has nearly always meant overtime for another, leading to more than $2.5 million in overtime costs to cover sick days from January 2006 through Sept. 3, city records show.

City officials said the Morning Call story prompted them to hire the private investigator and they focused on the serial abusers.

After the story ran last year, firefighters' use of sick days declined dramatically, leading to the lowest amount of reported sick days since at least 2005, records show. Since January, the number began to rise, leaving the city on pace to have the most sick days in the department's history.

"We are bound by the contract, but we are going to do whatever we can to try to crack down on abuse and control our overtime costs," Scheirer said. "With the amount of overtime we're paying, we can buy a fire truck."

Gawlik, a Democrat, ran for county commissioner on a platform of fiscal conservancy and talked much about his firefighting experience on the campaign trail. Gawlik was on sick leave from Sept. 18 until Nov. 16 that year and finished last in the eight-person field.

He also volunteered in Pawlowski's first mayoral campaign in 2005. "I have a job to do, and I take that very seriously," said Pawlowski of his previous relationship with Gawlik. "I don't show any favoritism. Friend or no friend."

Copyright © 2010, The Morning Call
Link Posted: 9/15/2010 11:59:29 PM EDT
Firefighters are heroes.
Link Posted: 9/16/2010 12:03:21 AM EDT
Why is this even news?
Link Posted: 9/16/2010 12:03:29 AM EDT
I don't even leave my house when I call in sick. Atleast act the part, smart guy.
Link Posted: 9/16/2010 12:07:32 AM EDT
Originally Posted By TXGunnersM8:
I don't even leave my house when I call in sick. Atleast act the part, smart guy.


Yep.

Link Posted: 9/16/2010 12:12:25 AM EDT
I was going to try justify him calling off a 24 hour shift.
But it appears they work 12's, and are calling off 4 at a time.


fwiw, at my work. My personal time off, is my sick time.
I have the choice of going on vacation, or calling in sick to work.
Link Posted: 9/16/2010 12:12:44 AM EDT
You have to be actually sick to use a sick day?

I save all of mine for those "just in case I can't get a certain day off" days.


Then again I guess it depends on the employer. I have some friends who work at places with a "use it or lose it" policy and it's not frowned upon to call in sick and not actually be sick. Where I work, it hurts your yearly review if you use them(but it's such a small part of it that it doesn't matter), but if you don't use them they accumulate over the years and most people use them to get full pay for maternity leave or a medical procedure that takes more than three days to recover from.
Link Posted: 9/16/2010 12:20:08 AM EDT
Link Posted: 9/16/2010 12:33:20 AM EDT
Originally Posted By Kidney:
You have to be actually sick to use a sick day?

I save all of mine for those "just in case I can't get a certain day off" days.


Then again I guess it depends on the employer. I have some friends who work at places with a "use it or lose it" policy and it's not frowned upon to call in sick and not actually be sick. Where I work, it hurts your yearly review if you use them(but it's such a small part of it that it doesn't matter), but if you don't use them they accumulate over the years and most people use them to get full pay for maternity leave or a medical procedure that takes more than three days to recover from.



Some employers do it differently. When I worked for Dell, we had X amount of time for 'vacation', and a standard of 10 days of 'personal business allowance', which were effectively your 'sick days'. You could use PBA for things like doctor's appointments or family emergencies, but you weren't supposed to use 'em to just play hookey. I think I did a few times - hey, I'm not perfect!

Now the job I'm at, you have 'earned time off'. I get 4.62 hours for every pay period (two weeks). That time is vacation and sick leave. I'm allowed to accumulate 120 hours, and it rolls over from year to year. After a few years, I'll be able to accumulate 160 hours (IIRC). We also start out with two 'floating holidays', and get additional 'holiday ETO days' for holidays when we work them, or if they happen on a day we're normally off. My manager also gives us a day off for our birthdays.

I like the concept of ETO, because you have to work for it. I wish you started with some balance instead of 0, tho. It'll take a year to get up to 120 hours, and that's if I don't take any days off.
Link Posted: 9/16/2010 12:42:03 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 9/16/2010 12:43:47 AM EDT by Kidney]

Originally Posted By Matthew_Q:
Originally Posted By Kidney:
You have to be actually sick to use a sick day?

I save all of mine for those "just in case I can't get a certain day off" days.






Some employers do it differently.

Corporate America is funny about that stuff.

Through the years, I've pretty much had the same amount of time, but it's been called different things at different times. We've been on the same plan now for the past two years, recently we've received a memo from HR saying how everything is still the same, we just want to call it all a different name.



Link Posted: 9/16/2010 1:48:42 AM EDT
There is alot missing from this story. No one is going to tell me there is a staff of P.I.'s standing by, waiting for someone to call in sick so they can go bust his ass. He did something to raise an eyebrow or two that led to the investigation.
I used to work with a guy that claimed he got 4 jury duty summons in 6 weeks time. He could never produce the letters and was eventually fired
Link Posted: 9/16/2010 1:56:10 AM EDT

This is why many companies now lump vacation and sick days together as "personal days". Take them for whatever reason you want.

Link Posted: 9/16/2010 1:57:53 AM EDT
I was almost going to give him the benefit of the doubt, perhaps he was mentally sick and needed time off to clear his head, relax. But it sounds like this was not the case and there is a history with this guy, as well as other in his department.

If you're going to play hookey, at least be smart about it!
Link Posted: 9/16/2010 2:23:49 AM EDT
Gawlik called out four consecutive days nine separate times during that 43-month period.


Nine times
Link Posted: 9/16/2010 2:30:10 AM EDT
Can we get Zero fired for the same thing?
Link Posted: 9/16/2010 2:33:32 AM EDT

Originally Posted By Tim_the_enchanter:
Firefighters are heroes.

If you say so. They do get injured a lot patting themselves on the back.
Top Top