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Abusive Workers Caring for Disabled Still On State Payroll

When a person has mental or physical disabilities too severe for family members to care for them, it may be necessary to seek out professional help and place that person into a group home. Placing a family member into a group home is an agonizing decision and families may spend a lot of time to find the best place with the money they can afford. There is an expectation that workers will care for the family member, but the New York Times has discovered that abusive workers are not being disciplined or fired when necessary.

New York Times 2011 Article

More than 2 years ago, the New York Times ran an investigative piece about abuses against disabled individuals in state-run group homes. It found many cases of abuse, but not many of those cases were referred to law enforcement. Out of the cases referred for termination proceedings, a miniscule number actually ended in the employee being fired.

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo pledged in 2011 to change the low dismissal rate in order to rid the system of abusive employees and give better care to disabled individuals in state-run or state-permitted group homes. “The Cuomo administration announced a framework agreement with the union to create a table of mandatory punishments for various offenses, which would take many decisions out of arbitrators’ hands.”

New York Times 2013 Article

Fast-forward to 2013 and the Times revisited the group home situation. The Times found that the number of employees fired for abuse was still quite low. “The state had made no discernible progress in firing abusive and derelict workers. Not counting workers ultimately cleared of all disciplinary charges, the state still manages to fire only about a quarter of those recommended for job termination, a rate that has not budged.”

Mr. Cuomo’s agreement with the union, announced in 2011, has still not been finalized, which means that arbitrators still have wide latitude in employee discipline. Then there is a new state agency created by Mr. Cuomo called the Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs that “will oversee and improve enforcement of crimes against vulnerable populations. … The Justice Center has modestly increased the number of state investigators, adding 40 more agents dedicated to overseeing a vulnerable population that numbers in the hundreds of thousands.”

Yet there are many advocates who find that the Cuomo administration is not doing enough. Advocates argue “that abuse reports [should be] made directly to the police.”

Caring for people with developmental or mental disabilities is a difficult job — residents can range from fragile and incapacitated to unruly and potentially aggressive.” But this does not mean that employees have carte blanche to abuse these disabled individuals.

If you have a family member who has been abused in a group home, New York law requires the parent or legal guardian to be alerted within 24 hours. If a family member was abused, whether the parent or legal guardian was properly notified, that abuse should be compensated for. Contact our personal injury attorney to assess your situation today.

Photo Credit: fairfaxcounty via Compfight cc

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