Once again, I was going through my Quora feed and I really wanted to share another question I answered. Have you guys ever posed a question or answered one on Quora? I just love it. I can be in there for hours on end and then realize that I neglected my own research and writing. Anyway, the question and answer to follow, although probably 75% unrelated, will give you some insight into the origins of my Lupus diagnosis. Please enjoy my story and it’s ok to laugh. 🙂
Are You Writing a Novel Based on Your Experience as a C.O.?
You know, it’s funny you should ask. I recently gave it a lot of thought, but I opted to start a Lupus Awareness blog instead. Go figure.
I was with the NYC Dept. Of Correction for almost 10 years, a few months shy of being able to collect my pension, when they fired me because of my Lupus even though I had all 10 of my doctors saying I was physically fit enough to work. But yet, I still lost my job and not even the union fought for me. That’s the way New York City is. It’s so ruthless and unforgiving and this is not a rare occasion. Whenever someone is close to retirement, they do everything they can to sabotage their pension by doing things like drug testing or bringing the officer up on charges for things they make up. And believe it or not, ultimately I was fired because I was brought up on charges. Of course they couldn’t come out and say, officer, we know you are now disabled and we are knowingly breaking every Americans with Disabilities law because now that you have lupus. You are no longer useful to us, so we’re going to make it look like it was your fault that you were terminated and you’ll never see your pension.
You’ll never believe what I was charged with. Looking back now, I can’t even believe I didn’t fight it and let them get away with it. It’s probably important to mention that I so loved my job almost as much as I loved my family. It was everything to me, it defined me, I walked the halls of Rikers Island tall and proud and excited to report to roll call every day followed by a tour that lasted anywhere from 8 1/2 hours to 17 hours. Overtime was mandatory, there was no way out. But I didn’t care, I did it. And let me tell you, the administration in my jail, comprised of mostly females, they hated me, they couldn’t stand me. Wow, I’m going on and on, I really should write a book. But I digress. They hated me so much that they did everything they could to break me but they couldn’t do it. After finishing my own tour, they would always stick me for another tour resulting in a lot of 17 hour days, 2 hours of driving, and very little sleep, so usually, officers on overtime were always assigned posts where they could relax and kick back. But not me, no sir. I’d get sent to the Bing to patrol a house of 50 of the worst, most violent criminals you could imagine agitated by the fact that they were locked in for 23 hours a day with only a few minutes of shower time, an hour of exercise and limited phone calls and visits. For those that don’t know, The Bing is sort of like solitary confinement, but without the solitary part. Anyway, when I wasn’t in the Bing, instead of allowing me to have a bubble post where I would just be responsible for the log books with no inmate contact, instead I would be sent to the highest classification houses on the whole rock. Yep. Just little old me , the only officer on the floor sitting with 50 very dangerous men who could have snapped my neck at any time. But it didn’t matter. Corrections couldn’t break me. At any given time, you could have walked into any house I was working and you would have me playing chess or poker or watching Prison Break with my guys. Lol. They respected me so much. Nobody could touch me. And once, when I was assaulted, it was my guys who came to the rescue and never the punk ass officer sitting behind the safety of the bubble. But they respected me because I showed them respect and that’s something a lot of officers didn’t understand. Even though they were criminals, they were still human and whenever I worked a house, I always gave them their minimum standards. They were entitled to basic necessities and I always made sure they got them. If they were stressed out, they always knew that they could talk to me. And I’m not kidding when I tell you that i would sit there with them playing whatever even though it wasn’t allowed. But other officers would treat them like dogs, denying them the most basic of things, namely toilet paper, or even just allow them to go into their cells to use the toilet. It was so bad and the number of alarms would just increase with every new officer that joined the ranks. The academy never taught us to be compassionate or understanding or at the very least, not to be so disrespectful, but no. They didn’t teach us any of that. They taught us how to punish. They taught us how to put a grown man down, or how to respond to an alarm or a riot or how to use pepper spray. So it really doesn’t surprise me when I hear about the recent influx of assaults on officers. And believe it or not, it was so much worse after the cameras were installed. You’d think it would be the opposite, but no. Inmates knew that they could do whatever they wanted to us as long as they raised their hands in surrender immediately afterwards and that’s exactly what they did knowing they had the protection of the cameras. So now officers were getting severely beaten or sliced from ear to ear, and as soon as he or she was out of the hospital they were being brought up on charges and prosecuted for assault and retaliation. Omg, u have so many stories I wish i could tell, but I see I went so way off track that I had to go back to find out what the question was, so I’m going to try and wrap it up. I guess I didn’t realize how much I’ve missed my job.
Ok, let’s see,… why was I hated? Because being an attractive female in corrections is either hit or miss. If you catch the attention of a high-ranking male officer, chances are you’re going to have an incredibly comfortable career with no inmate contact, in a nice cushy office in a trailer somewhere doing things I shouldn’t mention, But when you attract the attention of a higher ranking female officer, you’re pretty much screwed. Why, because the pretty officer is now taking away their shine. The male officers flock to the pretty girls and look out for them and make sure they have lunch, etc. So because the ugly captain can’t get any attention, she punishes the pretty officer for taking away the attention. U think the best way to pay homage to all the stupid, immature, spicy things that went on in that place, would be to rename the rock, Rikers Island High School.
I think I know why I strayed so far from the original question. I was trying to demonstrate that even through all the bull that went on, I still loved my job so much that I felt totally betrayed when they fired me, took my pension and to add insult to injury, they brought me up on charges. But I’ve never been able to tell a story anyway, so there you have it.
Ok bear with me. We’re about to round home plate and the bases are loaded… Go Yankees!
So the last major, important detail is that in my 8th year, I got pregnant. NYC Corrections has unlimited sick time, but when it comes to pregnancy, the officer can choose whether she wants to go to work or stay home and nobody could touch you. You couldn’t lose your job or anything. I was a high risk pregnancy so I spent my nine months at home plus the 2 months they allow after pregnancy before you are required to return to work while getting my full paycheck every two weeks. And because I was already at top pay, it was a very substantial check to stay home and eat bonbons. So here’s the thing. While pregnant, I developed Lupus. And as a requirement of getting that unlimited sick time, we have to provide the department with medical documentation every month. So they found out about the Lupus and my goose was cooked. I was just in the beginning stages of my disease so I was still very able-bodied, very strong and still capable of doing my job, and that’s exactly what my team of doctors documented. Each one cleared me for full duty but Corrections knew they got me. Just Another person’s livelihood, another persons pension taken away without having to think about it twice. But they were smart. They couldn’t fire me immediately after being diagnosed or they would be violating the ADA laws. So every month I brought documentation from 10 very capable very respected doctors to the health management division and every month they denied me going back full duty by a little old lady who was older than Moses who at sometime practiced medicine back in India and then nobody else would hire her so she went to work for corrections. And apparently, her stupid opinion that she dragged out of what crevice, I don’t know, her alleged medical knowledge was so extreme that it over ruled all of my doctors opinions. So for a little bit over 2 years, I sat at home getting paid and only allowed to leave my house between 1 — 5pm, as another requirement of receiving sick pay, but they continued to pay while I was at home becoming sicker and weaker and easier for them to justify my termination. But they still couldn’t claim that as the reason because the department was supposed to provide me with reasonable accommodations. But they were genius. With only a few months left before being eligible to collect my pension, I was brought up on charges.
You’re going to love this. I was charged with abuse of the sick leave policy, therefore I was also charged with conduct unbecoming an officer. WTF!!!! But this part is really funny…. After I was hit with charges and terminated, they subsequently dropped the charges because I was no longer an officer. All I can say is WOW! So then the big bad wolf lived happily ever after while Little Red Riding Hood grew old and bitter. The End.
A book, hmm.……………..
So guys, have any of you ever been terminated from a job because of an illness or chronic pain? Did you follow up? I’m really interested in hearing your comments to my post and would also like to know if you’ve experienced a similar situation and how you handled it. Please comment below. Good night, my beautiful Butterfies, Good night.
Ria Robi 🦋