Op-Ed | New York’s injured workers deserve to be defined

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I am a proud native New Yorker, born and raised right here in Williamsburg, Brooklyn before it was cool. I live with my partner and our son, and we’re expecting a daughter later this year. Yet, as a result of an on-the-job injury that has resulted in a significant reduction in my pay, our lives have drastically changed. 

Governor Hochul can help injured workers, just like me, continue to provide for our families by signing the Justice for Injured Workers Act, defining temporary total disability and ensuring adequate, livable benefits.

Following the initial impacts of the pandemic, I was able to get a union job at a local liquor distribution center, where I was doing any task that my bosses needed to be completed: unloading trucks, filling racks, you name it. However, I sustained an injury while lifting a case, causing pain in my neck and back as a result of a herniated disc, and I’ve had to take leave from work.

Following a visit to a doctor, it was determined that I’m 75% injured. As a result, my pay has been cut from $500/week to $630/every two weeks. This has put my family and me under a significant amount of financial stress, on top of dealing with the physical challenges from my injury. 

Even though my injury is permanent, I am doing everything I can to get stronger. However, with the reduction in pay, I am now faced with the decision of having to return to work and risking further injury just to put a roof over my family’s head.

We’ve had to leave Brooklyn and move to Queens to live with family, and even then, I am still struggling. Recently, I had to rely on the generosity of my friends and co-workers in order to celebrate my son’s birthday. At this point, I just want to be able to support my family. 

Unfortunately, my story is not unique. Under the existing workers’ compensation law, there is no definition for temporary total disability, meaning there are no protections or guidelines for receiving wages when you’re unable to perform your pre-injury duties.

The Justice for Injured Workers Act, which passed both the Assembly and Senate during the legislative session, would define temporary total disability as an injured worker’s ability to perform pre-injury duties while also allowing workers to seek modified duties consistent with their injury with the same employer. 

I don’t think I can adequately describe what this change would mean for workers injured on the job. With this bill, workers can return to gainful employment as they recover while also providing them with adequate wage replacement benefits when they’re not.

While this legislation can’t retroactively help me and my family, it can help countless others who may get injured on the job get by without having to go through what I did. Injured workers can’t afford the financial uncertainty that comes with a workplace injury. Governor Hochul: it’s time to stand up for injured workers and sign this bill into law.

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