The city Department of Correction put its workers at risk for COVID-19 by “purposefully” misdiagnosing staff and inmates — and even using faulty thermometers that give ludicrously low readings, jail guards allege in a new lawsuit.
City Correction Officers Marchele Franklin and Christopher Kinloch allege in their Manhattan Supreme Court suit that they both were severely hit after contracting the virus at work — with Kinloch even “suffering COVID-19 pneumonia” — due to the agency’s shoddy handling of the outbreak.
Further, the jail guards were forced to work without proper PPE including masks and hand sanitizer “and in some instances [were] prohibited from wearing masks,” the suit, filed Saturday, alleges.
Another plaintiff, CO Michael Nelson, and Franklin are “forced to work around inmates that the department is purposefully misdiagnosing as asymptomatic only [to] later categorize such inmates and housing areas as infected with COVID-19,” the court documents claim.
And a fourth plaintiff, Jasmine Jonas, “who was pregnant,” was forced to work alongside Franklin in the Manhattan Detention Center without any protection, the court papers allege.
The DOC screened staff for fevers by taking their temperatures when they entered DOC facilities — but used “defective temperature thermometers that read staff as having temperatures so low that they would be dead if the thermometers were correct,” the court filing claims.
And none of the temperature readings were recorded anyway, the court papers allege.
“The defendants act of misdiagnosing and purposefully failing to diagnose infected persons and track and trace inmates and staff breached the defendants’ duty of care,” the suit charges.
The DOC’s “reckless and intentional conduct in failing to mitigate against the virus has caused plaintiffs distress as to their wellbeing, but also that of their loved ones,” the court documents charge.
Because of the poor handling of COVID-19 at city jails, some of the guards “isolated themselves from going [home] to their loved ones in an effort to mitigate their exposure,” the suit claims.
The officers are suing for unspecified damages.
These four plaintiffs were also part of an April lawsuit filed by 23 city jail workers which alleged that the DOC let inmates and officers move about freely, flouting social distancing.
They claimed at the time that the jails intentionally kept these bad pandemic policies in place to force worker “absenteeism,” taking advantage of the crisis to enact a long-term goal of reducing the workforce.
That case was settled a few months later in June.
A similar lawsuit was brought by a group of city jail guard unions in April claiming officers were forced to work in a “cesspool of illness.”
The DOC deferred comment to the city Law Department. A spokesman with the city Law Department said, “DOC follows the relevant guidance from its public health partners to ensure the health and safety of everyone in its facilities.
“We’ll review the case.”