Paid time off given to City of Las Vegas employees is so generous that in 2021, the city paid $6.2 million in buybacks to employees who didn’t use their time off.
Las Vegas firefighters are the city employees who have the most unused sick and vacation days accumulated, resulting in $2.7 million in buybacks in 2021, according to city payroll records provided to OpenTheBooks.com via a Nevada Open Records Act request.
There are 2,619 city employees, including fire fighters, who have accumulated unused sick days, with the average worker having 59 unused 8-hour sick days — 469 hours — according to the city’s paid time off accruals.
The approximately 700 fire department employees have an average of 2.4 times that much.
The average FD worker has accumulated 1,128 unused sick hours —which is 141 of 8-hour days, or 112 of 10-hour days or 47 of 24-hour days.
Fire department employees work various length shifts, with firefighters or “fire combat,” working 24-hour shifts, while most supervisory employees work 8-hour shifts and other positions are on 10-hour shifts, according to fire department union contracts.
There are 2,616 city employees, including fire fighters, who have accumulated unused vacation days, with the average worker having 20 unused 8-hour sick days — 162 hours — according to the city’s paid time off accruals.
Fire department employees have an average of 223 hours, or 28 8-hour days.
How Paid Time Off Accumulates
City employees get paid time off for sick leave, vacation, birthdays and TILO, or “time in lieu of.”
The annual time off allotted, and the maximum accumulation of unused hours depends on which union the employee is in and the terms of their contract, which also depend on how many years of service the employee has.
Fire department employees get between 80 and 312 hours of annual leave — or vacation — across the various-length shifts.
They can accrue between two and two-and-a-half times their annual leave — or between 160 and 780 hours.
Fire department employees get between 96 and 288 hours of sick leave each year.
For fire department employees working a 56-hour week hired before July 1, 2013, the maximum accumulation of sick leave is 2,304 hours, according to the contract. For those hired after July 1,2013, the maximum accumulation of sick leave is 1,920 hours.
For 42-hour personnel, the maximum accumulation of sick leave is 1,727 hours, and for 40-hour personnel, the maximum accumulation of sick leave is 840 hours.
Other city employees get between 80 and 208 vacation hours — or between 10 and 26 8-hour days, according to their contracts with the city.
They can accumulate a maximum of between 200 and 520 hours of unused vacation — between 25 and 65 8-hour days.
They get 104 sick hours per year — or 13 8-hour days and can accumulate between 420 and 840 hours of sick leave, or between 52.5 and 105 8-hour days.
Cashing In Unused Time
The contracts for the several unions representing city workers provide payouts for some or all unused sick and vacation time.
The city employee with the most saved sick time is fire engineer Nicolas I. Sandoval, who has 5,741 hours of unused sick time off, City of Las Vegas records show. That’s the equivalent of 239 24-hour shifts.
Sandoval made $184,142 in 2021, according to city payroll records. That includes $97,065 base pay, $57,502 in overtime and almost $30,000 in other pay, including $12,713 in annual buybacks — the city “buys back” his unused sick leave.
Sandoval and 121 other fire department employees had more sick hours accrued than the maximum of 2,304 hours allowed in the fire department contract with the city.
City spokesperson Jace Radke said, “This occurs due to language in the collective bargaining agreement which allows ‘…up to a maximum of 2,304 hour or individual cap plus any current accumulation.’”
More than half of fire department employees had income from buy backs in 2021, according to city payroll records, with an average payout of $6,500.
About one-third of all city employees had some buy back income in 2021, with the average amount being $5,003 — for a total of $6.2 million.
Radke said, “Rates of pay vary for employees, and differences in sellback time are attributed to such. Vacation buyback is an option for workgroups within the city. This means that instead of taking time off, an employee may choose to sell back vacation hours. This is a personal decision for each employee to make.”
Radke added, “Firefighters typically accrue more sick leave because of their work schedules (generally, a continual 56-hour work week) and tenure. They generally use less sick time due to being off more days in the week (less sick time on duty than off duty).”
The employee with the most saved vacation time is fire captain Erik E. Phillips, who has 784 hours of unused vacation time, City of Las Vegas records show.
Phillips made $183,956 in 2021, according to city payroll records. That includes $109,824 base pay, $40,349 in overtime and almost $34,000 in other pay, including $17,181 in annual buybacks.
“There are many different jobs at the city and the city works to provide competitive compensation for these positions. Different positions and groups have different salary ranges, vacation and sick time accrual and caps,” Radke said.