Correction officers union settles suit with NYC for coronavirus testing sites, masks

By: 
CHELSIA ROSE MARCIUS

The Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association settled a lawsuit against the city that called for more masks, personal protective equipment and coronavirus testing sites for officers working in city jails.

“I consider this to be a win,” said union president Elias Husamudeen of the suit filed in Queens Supreme Court and settled late Wednesday night. “We were able to force the city and the Department (of Correction) to give us testing sites for our members, and getting them to agree on the distribution of more masks and other types of PPE.”

The city partnered with Northwell Hospitals last week to provide COVID-19 tests to all Correction Department staffers who have coronavirus symptoms. The city also agreed to dole out more hand sanitizer, cleaning supplies and N95 masks to correction officers who are transporting people in custody with coronavirus, court documents show.

“If there’s any violation of this order, COBA will go back to court,” said Husamudeen, adding that the union did not want to drag out the litigation in the interest of expediting the flow of much-needed supplies.

The Legal Aid Society also filed an amicus brief on Wednesday in support of the suit.

"The health and safety of the Rikers corrections staff are bound up with the health and safety of the more than 4,000 men and women incarcerated there,” said Tina Luongo, attorney-in-charge of the Criminal Defense Practice at Legal Aid.

 

“Neither correction officers nor our incarcerated clients can be safe while the other is denied access to personal protective equipment and regular sanitation, and the ability to socially distance themselves from others. Simply put, these measures are needed or lives will continue to be lost.”