Published: February 5, 2006
Publication: Daily News
By Pete Donohue
BEING A BAD BOSS has its price. The Transit Authority will have to shell out more than $330,000 to workers who claimed they were improperly fired or otherwise mistreated by the agency, according to recent settlement agreements and rulings. And that could be just the tip of the iceberg. The payouts are going to just six workers – a fraction of the workforce that the agency hits with disciplinary actions each year. Thousands of cases result in legal challenges. The six cases finally came to a conclusion in the last month after years of legal maneuvering and delays by the TA. The princely sum – enough to hire 10 station cleaners and pay their wages for a year – doesn’t include the many hours the TA’s labor relations division spent fighting these six futile fights. “Every one of these cases could have been resolved a long time ago for a lot less money if the Transit Authority would bargain with the union in good faith,” said Arthur Schwartz, the Transport Workers Union Local 100 lawyer who represented the workers. “Given the facts of these cases, it’s no wonder workers are as angry as they are at the authority.
” Much of that anger was evident when the union staged a three-day strike in December. Much of the money is back pay to employees who were fired. Some of it is for periods when they were demoted to lower-paid positions. The TA declined to comment on any of the cases. Here’s a look at some of them: . Franklin Woodruff, stock handler, $125,000. After a four-year legal battle, the state’s highest court ruled the TA was too harsh on Woodruff in firing him for failing to urinate on command for a routine drug screening test. Woodruff, then 60, was nearing retirement when fired. . Angel Herrera, bus driver, $87,900. Herrera fainted at home in 2001. After a brief stay in the hospital, and months of recuperation, he was given a cleaner’s job the following year. He passed a battery of tests and regularly asked to be allowed to drive a bus again. Doctors, including neurologists, told the TA he was fit to drive. The TA didn’t put him back behind the wheel of a bus until November 2004. . Brian Jones, subway station cleaner, $42,688. Jones was out of work for more than a year after suffering an injury, and was fired by the TA, which is permissible under civil service law. He reapplied for a cleaning job after fully recovering and was told in 2001 that the next opening was his. But the TA hired many other cleaners before bringing Jones back in June 2004. . Joseph Middleton, train conductor, $35,836. Middleton was fired six months after being hired. A review of his record uncovered an arrest on nonviolent misdemeanor charges, including trespassing – eight years earlier. He successfully appealed and was put back to work in August 2002, but at the new employee rate, not the higher rate he would have been earning if not dismissed.