NY DAILY NEWS: NYC correction unions file joint lawsuit calling on Correction Department to end triple shifts, re-test staffers with coronavirus


Uniformed staffers at the city’s Correction Department are working 24-hour shifts, while others who have tested positive for coronavirus must return to the job before getting a second COVID-19 test, according to a joint lawsuit filed on Thursday by the city’s correction unions.

The Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association, the Correction Captains’ Association and the Assistant Deputy Wardens and Deputy Wardens Association filed the suit in Queens Supreme Court claiming that uniformed staffers have had to work triple shifts without sleep, court documents show.

The suit also says the Correction Department’s Health Management Division does not call for re-testing uniformed staffers who have coronavirus before they are ordered to return to work to ensure they are no longer contagious.

Both issues — first reported by the Daily News — raise serious questions regarding Correction Department policies, said Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association President Elias Husamudeen.

“DOC is requiring officers to work triple tours and refusing to require return to work negative tests before ordering sick officers back to work,” Husamudeen said.

“Along with the Correction Captains’ Association and the Assistant Deputy Wardens/Deputy Wardens Association, we are again challenging the city’s continuing disregard for the safety of our members,” he added. "We believe these two acts jeopardize their ‘bodily integrity’ in violation of the NYS Constitution’s due process clause and common law doctrine. Our members’ health, safety, and legal rights must be protected and that’s precisely what we are asking the court to do in this action.”

The Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association sued the city April 2 over lack of masks, hand sanitizer and testing sites for officers working at Rikers Island and other city jails. That suit was settled April 16.

According to the new suit, officers, captains and wardens working in local facilities — an epicenter for coronavirus — are not getting the rest they need to stay healthy.

“The city has mandated (uniformed staffers) for an abusive level of mandatory overtime including requiring them to three consecutive tours of duty in excess of eight hours each,” the suit says. “The risks of working such triple tours are manifold including the heightened risk of contracting communicable diseases such as COVID-19.

The suit also criticizes how the DOC’s Health Management Division has the authority to order officers with symptoms to go back to work.

“The return to duty is solely at HMD’s discretion. HMD doctors, notably, are not treating physicians, yet, have the authority to order Uniformed Staff to return to duty from illness or injury even where such order conflicts with the recommendation of treating physicians,” the suit says.

In a statement, the city Law Department said the administration “is deeply concerned about the health and safety of its employees and has been following CDC guidelines and addressing challenging staffing issues to keep people at DOC facilities safe. We take seriously the issues raised by the complaint and will review it carefully.”