Seeking justice for injured employee
January 31, 2012
In 1995 my husband Tony Spotts, a postal employee, was injured on the job. This injury resulted in three separate surgeries and a permanent partial disability. In 1997, Tony was offered a limited duty position.
On April 16, 2010, a district employee for the post office called Tony and his union representative into a meeting. The post office had implemented a program called the National Reassessment Program-or NRP for short. Under this program, employees who suffered on-the-job injuries across the nation were either offered limited hours, or no hours at all. In my husband’s case, he had been working eight hours a day for 15 years – the amount of time the post office accepted his disability. But on this day, he was told that those eight hours were no longer available, that he would be reduced to 3.5 hours a day. He could use sick time, charge Office of Workman’s Compensation or go with no pay for the other 4.5 hours a day. The job they offered to him in writing stated that he had two weeks to take the offer to his doctor for approval, but he was pressured into signing “right now.”
The union filed a grievance and it took until September 2011 before his case went before an arbitrator. The arbitrator ordered the post office to return Tony to full time work. The type of work was to be written using the guidelines of the Employees Labor Management guide-or ELM 546. The arbitrator also ordered the post office to reinstate all of the sick time Tony has used in the 18 months that he was denied full time work.
This is now January of 2012, and at this writing Tony is still working 3.5 hours a day, and has not been given any of his sick time back. The union has filed another grievance. The Postmaster claims to be working on it. The post office claims they need an “end date to reinstate the sick time hours used.” Tony has eight weeks of sick time remaining, then we either have to borrow from retirement savings to pay our bills, or face foreclosure and possibly bankruptcy. At 56, he can’t retire, he is too young to collect social security, and he also can’t access his thrift savings plan. He has 30 years of Federal Service, but the retirement will not cover the mortgage. And who would hire him with his injury?
In November 2011, I began to see signs of the emotional distress all of this was causing. Tony became listless, disinterested in everyday things. By Christmas I knew he was in deep trouble. I took time off work and got him into the doctor, who prescribed medications for “situational depression.” We also see a therapist. I go with him for these appointments, as I want him to get well. But for now we are just waiting, day by day, to see if Tony will be returned to full time work.
Susan Spotts is a Gardnerville resident