Alabama maintenance worker Alan Owens believes he’s being pushed out of a job by Montgomery Public Schools (MPS) after the school district denied him sick leave for his recent hernia surgery, then denied any option for him to switch to a light-duty position within the maintenance department once he returned to work.
Even worse, he says, the district is rejecting his argument that his injury was caused by his job, saying he waited too long between his March 2017 injury and his August 2017 surgery to repair the problem.
“The type of work we do is very strenuous,” Owens told the Montgomery Advertiser. As a member of the district HVAC team, it’s not uncommon for him to move 160-pound window air-conditioning units up several flights of stairs. Units are often moved using a dolly with one worker pulling and the other pushing up each step along the way. Units also have to be loaded and unloaded onto trucks.
Such heavy lifting can have dire effects on workers’ bodies. Owens claims that among the four people on the HVAC team, three are currently unable to work because of their injuries. Had the team been provided with proper equipment, they likely would have been spared their injuries, he says.
Owens was able to have the surgery and keep a paycheck coming in during the months he had to take off because other MPS employees donated their sick days. He wants to work again, and even asked to return to a light-duty position, but MPS said there were no light duty or restricted positions available. “Mr. Owens will not be able to return to work until he can return with no restrictions,” MPS said in a statement.
Owens had his first hernia surgery in 2013 following an on-the-job injury. In March 2017, he says he re-injured the hernia site and was searching for a surgeon since the doctor who performed his first surgery retired. Then in June, Owens injured his back, requiring back surgery. But the back doctor refused to operate until the hernia was repaired.
Owens had his second hernia surgery in August 2017, after which he suffered an infection that landed him in the hospital for five days. While healed, his doctors say he is unfit to do any heavy lifting.
Owens has requested reimbursement of his co-pays, and plans to request he be reimbursed the sick days he had to use because the district didn’t recognize his August hernia surgery as being a work-related injury.
Source: Montgomery Advertiser