The Washington Post ran a story on Friday on how federal agencies and employees were using the guise of paid religious holidays to take their vacations. This allowed them to cash in on unused vacation days when they finally retired:
When Mark Elengold retired as a top government drug regulator in 2005, he received $18,733 in his final paycheck, on top of his normal salary. The money was not a bonus, overtime pay or compensation for unused vacation hours. Rather, it was for time he had reserved to go to synagogue but had not actually used for that purpose during his three-decade career.
Early in the Bush administration, the Navy determined that three civilian managers in Rhode Island had accrued hundreds of hours of religious leave and used the time to play golf, gamble, run marathons and travel to Europe. They banked their regular vacation leave so that they would be eligible for large cash payouts upon retirement.
Asked whether he considered a golf tournament to be a religious observance, one of the workers told Navy investigators: “They could be for some people.”
How widespread was this fraud?
FDA payroll records show that about 120 employees had more than 16 hours of religious leave banked. At the beginning of this year, at least 11 workers had unused balances in excess of 50 hours. And many were allowed to keep accumulating hours despite having large balances.
And what was the amount that the taxpayers paid for the workers’ “religious observances” (i.e. extra vacation time)?
At least 31 FDA employees have received payouts for unused religious comp time since 2002, the FDA told Congress. [Joseph A.] Biviano’s [$20,658 payout] and Elengold’s were the largest; most of the other checks were less than $2,000.
By the time they were caught using the time for recreational purposes, the workers had each banked enough leave to be eligible for payouts of $195,000 to $250,000 when they retired, investigators found. They were stripped of the excess leave as part of the inquiry.
Either we need atheist holidays or I’m taking Talk Like a Pirate Day and Charles Darwin’s birthday off next year.
[tags]atheist, atheism, holiday, religious, Christian[/tags]