CHICAGO (CBS) — Despite efforts to get ahead of the issue, a large number of guards at the Cook County jail again called in sick on Super Bowl Sunday.
Cook County Sheriff’s Chief Policy Officer Cara Smith said 109 guards called in sick for the morning shift, and another 130 called in sick for the second shift.
That’s four more sick calls than 2016, and accounts for about 19 percent of the staff assigned for the day.
Knowing that the Super Bowl tends to bring out sick calls, the sheriff’s office asked 70 employees who were not assigned to work on Sunday to work in case of a sick-out. They also called some 300 guards who have called in sick during the Super Bowl in the last four years. That helped reduce the cost and need for other replacements.
“From an employment and accountability standpoint, it is a devastating situation to be dealing with,” Smith said.
Smith acknowledged some of those who called in are genuinely sick, but said “these numbers would suggest maybe some are not.”
On the average Sunday, 60 to 70 guards call in sick.
Smith said part of the problem is 90 percent of their officers have certified intermittent conditions – such as migraines, anxiety and back problems – that are covered under the Family and Medical Leave Act, but are difficult to prove.
“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,” she said.
WBBM has reached out to Teamsters Local 700 for a comment.