911 operators who work for the police department say that like everyone else, they need a sick day every now and then, but that the New York City Police Department penalizes them for trying to take them, and the matter has ended up in federal court. NY1's Dean Meminger filed the following report.
A federal judge in Brooklyn says that the New York City Police Department may need a checkup when it comes to the way it handles sick days for its 911 operators. In a hearing Thursday, Judge Pamela Chen said, "I am troubled about the sick leave issue."
Operators and their attorneys tried to convince the judge to order the NYPD to halt what they call a blanket suspension of allowing 911 call-takers to call out sick.
"The whole idea of this is to stop this highly inhumane act that has be going on for too long," said Sam Maduegbuna, a lawyer for the 911 operators.
The city argued that during high volume call periods, it must make sure that operators show up to work. The city said that last July 4, 137 operators called out sick or requested emergency family medical leave. On New Year's Day, 116 people called out.
The workers' attorneys told the judge that there are up to 700 operators working on most days, and that the NYPD is at fault if it is under-staffed.
The workers are also complaining of forced double shifts, which could cause fatigue on the job.
"It is straight-out dangerous for the city, and all the people that rely on the 911 operators, including all of the police officers in the field, EMTs," said Will Cowles, a lawyer for the 911 operators.
After hearing arguments, Chen said that she could not order the NYPD to stop suspending sick leave because the issue is being arbitrated between the city and the union, even though the operators said that the union, District Council 37, isn't doing much to help them.
The judge did say that the city appears to have "a pattern of calling for emergencies that result in sick leave being canceled."
The union said it's trying its best.
"I think that she's right that there are issues with sick leave, and DC37 is going to arbitration because it thinks that the city has violated the collective bargaining agreement," said Hanan Colco, a lawyer for DC37.
The judge said the work that 911 operators and the NYPD do is important, and she wants an update on how arbitrations are going just in case she has to make an emergency ruling.