The Yonkers Federation of Teachers recently filed a lawsuit against the Yonkers Public School District over claims it has repeatedly denied telework requests.
Yonkers Public Schools was recently hit with a lawsuit by Yonkers Federation of Teachers, a teachers union, over allegations that the district “denied telework requests for staff with pre-existing conditions.” As part of the suit, the teachers union is asking the district to “consider the accommodation for staffers who request it, weeks before some of the district’s 27,000 students are set to transition into hybrid learning in October.” The suit further reads:
“Respondents’ continued failure to consider telework as an accommodation for vulnerable faculty and staff unnecessarily exposes at-risk YFT members to serious illness and/or death when instruction can be provided safely and effectively from remote locations.”
The lawsuit further alleges that the “blanket denial of more than 40 telework accommodations for staffers, who in some cases have conditions such as cancer or HIV, contradicts guidance issued by the state’s education and health departments.” It notes that the guidance passed down by the departments specifically requires schools to “have plans for vulnerable populations that include working from home as an option.” While Yonkers Public Schools has a reopening plan that includes that option on paper, the union alleges the district’s “routine denial of many requests shows that it is not really considering the option for vulnerable staffers.”
Because of their requests were declined, many staff members were either forced to use sick leave or go on an unpaid leave of absence, according to the suit. To make matters worse, in many cases the staff members “have also been deprived of alternative accommodations such as additional protective gear.”
According to court documents, the school district “responded to requests for telework by saying that they weren’t available because the school district was still teaching remotely.” However, even while students were learning remotely, “several staffers at Yonkers schools contracted the coronavirus and many of them were allowed to work from home,” according to the lawsuit.
Yonkers Public School District is the fourth largest in New York. Already it has had to “enact furloughs and other austerity measures due to delays in state aid as it spends more money on technology for students and infrastructure upgrades to prepare for hybrid instruction.”
When commenting on the matter, Samantha Rosado-Ciriello, the YFT president, said that while teachers want to return to in-person instruction, they have a “long list of concerns.” She added, “We’re going to make sure the folks who work in our buildings are safe.” Edwin Quezada, the Yonkers superintendent, added that the district has a variety of outside companies working on making adjustments to the building to ensure everyone’s safety.