Would You Fire Someone for Not Taking Enough Vacation?
BY Courtney Rubin
A Nebraska county employee of more than 30 years is axed for letting his vacation time pile up.
A Nebraska county employee of more than 30 years has been fired because of a backlog of vacation time.
Dick Kincaid, the weed superintendent of southern Nebraska's Buffalo County, accrued 688 hours of vacation time.
The county's employee manual allows just 240. Kincaid said he couldn't use the time off because his department is understaffed, yet he was fired last week by vote of the county's board of supervisors.
"In 60 seconds I became unemployed," Kincaid told NTV, Nebraska's ABC affiliate.
Ivan Klein, the seven-member board's only dissenting vote on the issue of Kincaid's firing, said that just the year before, the board agreed to get Kincaid some extra help so he could have some time off.
"I think this is a little bit too severe myself," Klein told KearneyHub.com.
The issue first arose in 2008, when a new employee manual was approved, setting a limit on accumulated vacation hours. Previously, there was no limit. The board couldn't take the time away from Kincaid, but it could force him to use it – which he was supposed to be doing.
Why didn't Kincaid -- who's been an employee for 32 years and superintendent for 23 -- just take the time? He told KearneyHub.com that every time he got a new person trained well enough to work alone, the person took a new job – and that he didn't want to be away when there were new people doing the weed-spraying.
"I can't leave someone out there to get hurt or screw up for the public," he said. The county -- named for the plentiful buffalo that used to roam -- is nearly 1,000 square miles.
County Attorney Shawn Eatherton said the county has to compensate Kincaid for the unused vacation, but wasn't sure of the amount.
"That's part of the problem," Eatherton said. "That's part of the reason why the county adopted the rules they did a few years ago when people were accumulating these ludicrous amounts of vacation, and then when they retired they were having to be paid out."
NTV was told that the weed department does indeed work all months of the year, "doing a lot more than just spraying weeds."
Inc. contributing editor COURTNEY RUBIN was for five years a London-based staff writer for People magazine. Rubin, a former senior writer for Washingtonian magazine, has written for the New York Times magazine, Time, Marie Claire, and other publications. She is the author of The Weight-Loss Diaries.