Beginning tomorrow, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power will require employees who are out sick for three days or more to provide a doctor's note.
The change comes less than a week after The Times reported that a 32-year old policy has allowed thousands of DWP employees to take paid days off well beyond the agency's nominal 10-day-a-year cap on sick days.
Since 2010, the department has paid employees more than $35.5 million for 103,802 extra sick days, the equivalent of 415 years of lost productivity, according to a Times examination of data obtained under the California Public Records Act.
"The revelations from last week were simply outrageous," said Yusef Robb, spokesman for Mayor Eric Garcetti. "The mayor and the council called for swift action, today the general manager issued a mandate that goes into effect tomorrow."
Last year, 10% of the department's roughly 10,000 employees took at least 10 extra days off, The Times found. More than 220 took an extra 20 working days off, or about a month, the data show.
The records show one senior accountant averaged 49 extra sick days each year from 2010 to 2012. A security guard averaged 43 extra days. A customer service representative averaged 38 extra days. That did not include regular sick days, paid vacation days, holidays or other "personal" days paid by the department.
The DWP reviewed personnel files of 150 employees who took the most extra days off in 2012 and found 67 — fewer than half — "who appear to have bona fide chronic illnesses, who have doctor's notes," General Manager Ron Nichols said in an interview last week.
"I was elected to reform DWP, and that's what I'm going to do," Garcetti said on Wednesday. "This is a good step to curb this abuse, but I will continue to look for ways to make DWP operate more efficiently."
The new policy, which requires a note from a healthcare provider on the third day of absence, matches the existing policy for city of Los Angeles employees.
The note will have to include the doctor's name and phone number, the date of the examination and the date of the employee's expected return to work.
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