$46,000 workers compensation payout sparks talk of injured workers returning too soon | Paterson Times

$46,000 workers compensation payout sparks talk of injured workers returning too soon


Two city employees who were injured while on duty received workers compensation totaling $47,000, according to city documents.

Richard Prescott, an employee at the city’s recycling department inside the Department of Public Works, was injured on November 2nd, 2011, and is set to receive $23,433 in workers compensation claim.

Prescott, according to documents, “injured his right shoulder when throwing material to the back of a recycling truck at Sherwood Avenue.”

Jaime Mejia, a city police officer, was involved in an automobile accident resulting in injuries on July 27th, 2012. Mejia is set to receive $23,964 in workers compensation claim.

Mejia “was involved in a motor vehicle accident while responding to a call and allegedly suffered an injured head, neck and back,” according to city document.

Council members had apparently questioned the process by which an employee returns to work after suffering injuries during a closed door meeting last week.

“My recollection was you just wanted to make sure the city has a policy with those who are injured with regards for testing before they come back to work for the City of Paterson,” responded Charles Thomas, city’s business administrator, after being asked about city’s injured employee return policy.

Ruby Cotton, 4th Ward councilwoman, wanted to know what protections are in place to avoid repeat injuries to employees. “If they are back to work they can get injured again,” said Cotton.

Thomas said the city runs an injured employee through “fitness for duty testing” where a physician examines the individual and determines whether he is fit to return to work.

Kenneth Morris, councilman at-large, asked Thomas whether Prescott went through a fitness for duty test.

“Did he have a fitness for duty test?” asked Morris.

“I don’t have his report here,” responded Thomas.

Morris appeared skeptical at the business administrator’s explanation. He commented, “We learn that folks were back at work with diminished physical capacity and were not given modified duty.”

Thomas said the city’s public works department does not have modified duties.  “Department of Public Works doesn’t have a light duty schedule,” said the business administrator.

Morris mentioned that it is more prudent for the city to place an injured employee at desk duties rather than have him work in the field where there is a chance he may injure himself again leading to more workers compensation claims.

Thomas suggested council members have a discussion with Christopher Coke, the director of public works, to better address the policy issue.

Julio Tavarez, 5th Ward councilman, voted against approving workers compensation claim for Mejia.

The city has another workers compensation claim pending involving Dexter Jackson, a public works employee.