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Wednesday, May 29, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

911 Operators Sue New York City

BROOKLYN (CN) - New York City Police overwork minority female 911 operators until they're sick, and retaliate against anyone who dares take a sick day, dispatchers claims in a federal class action.

The eight plaintiffs, who work at communication centers throughout the city, also say their union did nothing to stop the abuses.

Lead plaintiff Cynthia Hill claims the NYPD breached a collective bargaining agreement by declaring an ongoing emergency and requiring "excessive double-shifts back-to-back."

"Plaintiffs work in a demanding high-stress environment where every call counts, and can be the difference, literally, between life and death," the lawsuit states. The plaintiffs say they "sit at the crossroad of all emergency relief in the city."

The NYPD did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday morning.

The women say that between May and July the NYPD started requiring operators to work double 8-hour shifts three times a week. Since July, operators have had to work two 12-hour shifts per week.

Since May, plaintiffs have been relieved from duty at 3 p.m. after working a mandatory double shift, then were expected to return for their next shift that night at 11, according to the 52-page lawsuit.

"This schedule threatens not only the health of individual operators but all those who depend on the city's 911 emergency response system," the 911 operators say.

The NYPD also "frequently and arbitrarily" canceled sick leave accrued and intimidated those who tried to use it, the women say.

Anyone who does call in sick is subjected to "immediate reprisals," including cancellation of sick days, delay or denial of Family Medical Leave, and are hit with more mandatory overtime, according to the complaint.

The women say supervisors hid their clock-out sheets to keep them there, and required them to answer calls during their meal breaks.

They claim that even after working four consecutive 16-hour shifts, defendant Donald Church, who is in charge of the call centers, threatened them, while armed, saying he would take three days of their vacation time if they didn't work a fifth shift.

He gave them 5 seconds to return to their desks or run the risk of losing three more vacation days, the women claim.

They say the workload is causing "illness and fatigue in addition to the high stress job of being an operator."

In fact, since May, "a number of operators have collapsed from exhaustion while dispatching calls and were removed" from a call center by paramedics, according to the complaint.

Named plaintiffs Cynthia Hill, Gail Williams, Denise Inman, Vickie Gordon, Rolando Lopez Taura Pate, Ellen Ennis and Andrea Holly sued the City of New York, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, Richard F. Napolitano, Charles F. Dowd, Michael V. Polito, Ljubomir Belusic, Francis Kelly, Donald Church, David Lichtenstein, and Local 1549, District Council 37, AFSCE, AFL-CIO.

They seek damages for gender and race discrimination, 1st Amendment violations, labor violations and breach of contract.

They are represented by Samuel O. Maduegbuna with Maduegbuna Cooper.

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