A call for change at SED following long-time member’s death
By KATE MOSTACCIO
The days leading up to Charles “Charlie” McCarthy’s death at age 87 were a whirlwind of unexpected administrative leave, being turned away at the doors of his workplace, confusion, and distress for the longtime PEF member.
One day in September, McCarthy reported to work as he had many times — only to be turned away at the door and informed he had been placed on administrative leave and could not enter the building.
A PEF field representative said McCarthy contacted her after he had been locked out, confused and distraught, having no idea why he had been placed on leave.
After McCarthy spoke with the field rep, he was found at his residence, unresponsive and in critical condition on September 20. He was transported to Ellis Hospital in Schenectady but sadly, on September 28, McCarthy died of a massive stroke after suffering a severe brain bleed. He had never regained consciousness.
PEF requested information about the administrative leave at his family’s request.
“I can advise that this action was taken by the agency to address a situation where sanitation standards/protocol were potentially compromised,” an SED Bureau of Labor Relations representative stated in an email to the field rep.
PEF Division 194 Council Leader Annette Chambers said in a letter to Chancellor Betty A. Rosa that she had been attending the PEF Convention in Albany when McCarthy was placed on leave, and the timing, she thought, was intentional and unfair.
“I understand that these things do happen; but why was it necessary for HR to put Charlie out on administrative leave?” Chambers wrote. “Is it possible for you to look into this case and see why this most senior professional staff member was treated this way?”
She also called for Rosa to look into the HR practices at SED, stating the department “calls for termination of almost all of our members that are brought up on suspected charges, or they are put out on suspension without pay.
“They often take actions because the ‘contract allows them to do so,’ but with little to no regard for an employee’s wellbeing,” she added. “An example: putting employees out on Suspension without Pay, could you live for 10 months without your salary?”
She said there is an assumption of guilt and these suspensions happen before employees are given a chance to prove their case.
“Just because they ‘can,’ does not necessarily mean they ‘should,’” she said. “Many of our members who have experienced this behavior are older members who have dedicated many years to SED and have never had an issue. I would truly like to see the seasoned/dedicated employees be treated with more kindness and dignity.”
The SED email stated that lockout was standard procedure for staff placed on administrative leave. The representative stated that “significant efforts” were made to contact McCarthy prior to his arrival at the SED building, including multiple phone messages.
“OHRM extends our sincere condolences to Mr. McCarthy’s family. A number of our staff who knew or had dealings with Mr. McCarthy were very saddened to hear of his passing, myself included,” Benjamin Gifford, director of SED’s Bureau of Labor Relations, stated in an email.
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