Another group of public employees suffering from 9/11-related illnesses has been given unlimited sick leave as the de Blasio administration continues to grant these arrangements on a union-by-union basis. New York State employees as well as New York City first responders and sanitation workers have been allowed to take unlimited sick time as they deal with problems caused by unsafe air quality at the site. In this instance, approximately 25 civilian workers with a condition linked to Ground Zero exposure have been made eligible to receive this benefit.
Civilian employees, including those who support the NYPD and FDNY, have had a much tougher time obtaining unlimited sick leave. Some estimates place the number of affected city employees at 4,000. They include emergency medical technicians, traffic enforcement agents and others, many of whom have experienced lung problems and other medical conditions. Even the heads of the unions involved have complained about the confusion in eligibility. If you believe you’re affected, you should be aware of key issues such as:
- District Council 37 agreement — In October 2018, Mayor de Blasio came to a deal with the leaders of District Council 37, giving members of the union unlimited sick leave for Ground Zero-connected afflictions. This ended a long, emotional process and was seen as a gateway to deals with other unions.
- Treatment of remaining unions — Months after the District Council 37 agreement, members of about nine city worker unions still lack this important benefit. While city officials claim that union leaders just need to complete required paperwork to activate the benefit, the unions say they have not been provided with the necessary documents.
- Proving your eligibility — Though your job might give you the chance to take unlimited sick leave, you could still face hurdles when trying to secure this benefit. You need to demonstrate that you participated in the Ground Zero cleanup and that you are afflicted with a health condition associated with World Trade Center exposure.
Nearly 18 years after the attack, New York City still has not established a comprehensive program to give all affected workers the time they need to recover without risking their jobs. If you’re not sure about whether your union has made a deal with the city on this benefit, you should speak to an attorney with knowledge of these intricate issues.
Barasch & McGarry represents New York City employees, area residents and others who have contracted illnesses due to airborne toxins at and near the World Trade Center site. Please call 888-351-9421 or contact us online for a free consultation about the remedies that might be available and the steps you must take to file a claim.