A veteran employee at Bellevue Hospital says that he has endured a two-year-long battle to obtain Workers’ Compensation after he was assaulted on the job—and the city stalled in providing evidence of the incident.
Supervisor of Stock Workers Level II Keith Mayo, who has worked at NYC Health + Hospitals for more than 25 years and supervises a small warehouse inside Bellevue, said he was attacked June 7, 2017 by a female co-worker in front of about 10 witnesses.
‘Grabbed Me Around Neck’
“I was sitting in a chair and she grabbed me around the neck, with my lanyard, then she started dragging me around the room. The other workers were rushing to tell her to stop and I spun around and that’s how I hurt my back. I was just trying to get away from her,” he said.
Mr. Mayo explained that the employee—who he said was suspended for 15 days—was angry about a lack of supplies.
“H+H went to these private vendors and we’re frequently out of supplies. There have been times when supervisors had to take money out of their own pocket and purchase toilet tissue for the facility,” he said. “They’re frustrated and getting aggravated, and it’s creating a hostile workplace environment with the employees.”
Under Mayor Michael Bloomberg, NYC H+H privatized its cleaning and catering services. That has resulted in hospital workers having to constantly fight to get more cleaning staff and supplies, and meals being served to patients that are akin to TV dinners, Mr. Mayo said.
“Everyone views Bellevue as the flagship, but it’s more or less the Titanic,” he said. Because he was a union representative for Teamsters Local 237, he often alerted H+H management to the unsanitary conditions.
Physical, Mental Ailments
He said that because of the assault, he suffered neck and back injuries, as well as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Immediately after it, he filed for Workers’ Compensation, and returned to work in October 2017 after depleting his sick days and vacation.
A year later, a state Workers’ Compensation Law Judge denied Mr. Mayo’s request upon reviewing video of the incident, and determined that he “had knowingly made a false statement or representation” in order to obtain Workers' Compensation.
“The video evidence presented, which runs from 7:27 a.m. to 7:29 a.m. clearly shows that there was never any physical contact between the claimant and his co-worker,” the Law Judge’s decision stated.
The problem? The assault happened at 7:25, according to Mr. Mayo.
“The Judge had to rule on the evidence that was given to her, so I don’t fault her, but I definitely fault the attorneys involved,” he said.
Bellevue Not Much Help
He questioned why just two minutes were submitted, particularly because he testified that the incident occurred at “approximately” 7:30. Mr. Mayo said that despite Local 237 repeatedly requesting a copy of video containing the incident, he was not able to obtain it until earlier this year.
Mr. Mayo also claimed that Bellevue Hospital’s Director of Labor Relations, Pedro Rivera, reviewed the footage but did not contact the Law Judge to confirm the assault.
“After working there for 25 years, it was just [incredible] that H+H wouldn’t do the right thing immediately,” he said.
An H+H spokesman said it had responded to the claim in a "timely fashion," adding that it "cares deeply about its patients and employees, and takes seriously any alleged assault and Workers' Compensation claims."
After obtaining legal counsel, Cohen Weiss and Simon, the city Law Department alerted the state Workers’ Compensation Board in February that “due to technical problems on part of the agency, the evidence received by the city was incomplete. Upon review, it was determined that the case should be accepted.”
A month later, the Workers’ Compensation Board’s administrative review division rescinded the Law Judge’s decision. “The case is to be reopened and returned to the trial calendar to address the issues of causally related lost time and awards,” reads the decision written by members Fredrick M. Ausili, Linda Hull and Samuel G. Williams.
Mr. Mayo, who continues to see a psychiatrist for his PTSD, said that he is still owed about four months of time. And the stress of his ongoing fight, combined with the hostile work environment, has had irreversible effects, he added.
“It caused me to get high blood pressure, I lost 70 pounds, and I suffer with anxiety and panic attacks,” he said.
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