Published: August 26, 2013
Publication: The Chief
By Sarah Dorsey
Transport Workers Union Local 100 filed suit Aug. 9 seeking back pay for a Bus Operator who was fired after he was assaulted on the job and remained on disability for two years—though the Metropolitan Transportation Authority scoffed at his claim, saying it “has a demonstrable ring of emptiness to it.”
Under civil-service law, employees who’ve been injured and unable to work for a year can be terminated; a provision in the Local 100 contract gives Bus Operators assaulted on the job an additional year.
Scuffle Led to Injury
On Sept. 14, 2009, Richard Morrison was assaulted by a passenger who allegedly yanked his belt and hyperextended his right thumb. For two years, Mr. Morrison’s doctor said he couldn’t work because he had pain when moving his thumb and gripping. He received Workers’ Compensation payments during that time.
Two days before the MTA could legally fire him, the bus driver presented a doctor’s letter saying he was cleared to return to work.
The union claims the agency unfairly dismissed him Oct. 4, 2011 despite this; it’s seeking back pay from the date of his injury until he was reinstated in July 2012.
But an MTA attorney said that the agency requires a longer doctor’s narrative before a worker can rejoin the company. Mr. Morrison ignored a request for the paperwork for two months, the attorney claimed.
The MTA also alleges that until he was rehired, Mr. Morrison continued to submit progress notes from the same doctor saying he was still injured and couldn’t work.
‘Doctor’s Mixed Signals’
Four times after he said he’d been cleared, Mr. Morrison submitted doctor’s notes saying he was still “100 percent” disabled, attorney Baimusa Kamara wrote in a June 2013 statement denying his back-pay grievance. In January 2012, the MTA’s independent medical examiner concluded he was capable of driving a bus. Mr. Kamara claimed that the bus driver continued to affirm he was disabled by signing off on his Workers’ Compensation checks, which required him to acknowledge that his condition was ongoing.
Local 100 attorney Arthur Schwartz said it was the MTA that denied Mr. Morrison a job for nine months, and is suing to force the agency to allow arbitrator Richard Adelman to decide the issue of back pay.