By DIANE S. WILLIAMS
The DC 37 General Counsel’s Office obtained a consent award that granted posthumously $20,000 in back pay to a Local 1597 Custodial Assistant, who was wrongfully terminated from Brooklyn College.
Management alleged that Hope McNeill failed to follow the college’s procedures for approved medical leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and fired her. Ms. McNeil died before her case went to arbitration.
McNeil had worked for Brooklyn College for about three years when an illness left her unable to work. But when McNeill was ready to return to her job at the college in April 2015, she learned she was terminated.
Management fired McNeill in a letter that accused her of abandoning her job and alleged that her medical leave had not been approved.
Blue Collar Council Rep Norlita De Taza filed a grievance to appeal McNeill’s termination. It was denied at step 1.
The union went to step 2 and Deena Mikhail, a DC 37 lawyer, was assigned to the case. The grievance was denied at Step 2, and the union went to arbitration.
“We were racing against time in this member’s fight for her job and back wages. Sadly she died before seeing justice,” said De Taza.
At the arbitration hearing, a consent award was issued giving the estate $20,000 in back wages.
Mikhail said what adds insult to injury is, since Ms. McNeill was not on payroll when she died, the city denied her death benefits.
But in the consent award, there was a silver lining.
“CUNY agreed that but for her termination, Ms. McNeill would have been on payroll at the time of her death. As such, her estate is able to now receive the death benefits,” Mikhail said.
“No doubt this case has a very bittersweet ending,” said Local 1597 President Eric Latson.
“As Hope McNeill was fighting for her life, her union was behind her all the way, fighting long and hard to protect her rights as a city employee and union member, and, in the end, her estate and her beneficiaries. We are saddened by her death but Hope’s legacy is tied to the ongoing fight for workers’ rights.”
This article originally appeared in the March 2017 issue of Public Employee Press.