Victory for Laid-Off Disabled Workers

Public Employee Press

Members reinstated with back pay at ACS, Health; case pending in Finance

Victory for laid-off disabled workers

PEP photo by Gregory N. Heires

DC 37 won back jobs and pay for disabled Local 1549 workers laid off by Mayor Bloomberg and is still fighting in court for Local 1113 members shown above.

Disabled workers in two agencies who were laid off by the Bloomberg administration will be reinstated with 18 months to three years of back pay under recent settlements in lawsuits and grievances the union filed for the members, who were working under New York State’s Section 55-A program.

The settlements cover 11 Local 1549 members in the Administration for Children’s Services and the Dept. of Health laid off in 2011 and 2012. Still pending is the union’s lawsuit on behalf of 40 Local 1113 members in the Dept. of Finance; in that case, the Appellate Division of the state courts ruled that the layoffs probably represented illegal discrimination against the 55-A workers.

“We did not give up and these members never gave up,” said Local 1549 President Eddie Rodriguez.

“Laying off these disabled Clerical Associates was a mean-spirited blow that struck at their sense of independence,” said DC 37 Clerical Division Director Renee Gainer.

Grievance Rep Donna McDuffie filed a grievance for the 11, and DC 37 filed lawsuits charging that the agencies violated the New York City Human Rights Law. The suit pending against the Dept. of Finance is based on similar grounds.

“The city singled out the most vulnerable, the disabled, and we were outraged. The city refused to accept that they are protected under 55-A, but we refused to give in,” said DC 37 Assistant General Counsel Jesse Gribben.

The grievance charged that the city had violated the job security provision of the citywide contract by laying off the 55-A appointees, excluding them from the recall lists and failing to recall them. It was rejected at earlier steps of the procedure, but an impartial arbitrator ordered the agencies to reinstate the workers with back pay and restore their full seniority.

The arbitrator found “no credence” in the city’s claim that the 55-A clericals were not covered by the Citywide Contract because the group is not specifically mentioned and called the city lawyers’ argument that the workers were not protected by the contract’s job security provisions because they were negotiated before the 55-A program was enacted “specious.”

The 55-A program allows these valued workers to attain civil service status without taking competitive exams. They are qualified and able to perform their duties despite physical or mental disabilities that may include deafness, blindness, diabetes or HIV. Some have worked for decades as Clerical Associates for about $35,000 a year.

“This is a strong victory for DC 37 and for our local,” Rodriguez said. “We stand by every member.”

“I have worked with these members. They are overwhelmed by this decision and are forever grateful to this union for winning their jobs back,” said Gainer.

“We are glad to see these members return to work with back pay. DC 37 has again prevailed against injustice,” Gribben said.
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