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State Workers Have Been Paid Thousands After Quitting. Is a Crackdown Coming?

Some workers are quitting their jobs, then using the funds as severance pay.
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Some workers are quitting their jobs, then using the funds as severance pay.

From Texas Standard:This week, Texas lawmakers in both the Senate and House  vowed to end the abuse of emergency leave for state workers.

Months of investigative reporting by the Dallas Morning News revealed that workers forthe AttorneyGeneral and the Agriculture Commission – among other agencies – were quitting their their jobs but still getting pay for weeks, sometimes months after leaving their posts. They were using emergency leave, meant to compensate workers in case of a crisis, as a de facto separation package. David McSwane, reporter for the  Dallas Morning News, says the fund is designed for emergency situations – like a death in the family or a tornado warning – something that would keep the employee from coming into work for a brief period of time.

"The state's HR laws are a little bit murky,” McSwane says. “But in general it's believed that there is no severance for state workers.”

McSwane says the emergency leave fund was created in 1999 when the Texas legislature was looking at problems surrounding employee regulation. Lawmakers realized there was a need for employees to be paid for emergency situation.

But the fund is being used by former employees weeks and months out after they leave their jobs, as if it were a severance pay package.

Cheryl Hines, for example, left her job as an investment manager at the Teacher Retirement System in January. She received $58,000 worth of emergency leave until April 30.

Listen to the full interview in the audio player above.

Prepared for web by Beth Cortez-Neavel.

Copyright 2020 KUT 90.5. To see more, visit KUT 90.5.

Rhonda is the newest member of the KUT News team, joining in late 2013 as producer for KUT's new daily news program, The Texas Standard. Rhonda will forever be known as the answer to the trivia question, “Who was the first full-time hire for The Texas Standard?” She’s an Iowa native who got her start in public radio at WFSU in Tallahassee, while getting her Master's Degree in Library Science at Florida State University. Prior to joining KUT and The Texas Standard, Rhonda was a producer for Wisconsin Public Radio.