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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Friday, June 21, 2024

Janitor Anita Posadas forced to leave work after injury on the job

Janitors march to Ballou Hall after voting yes to authorize a strike if necessary when the current contract for Tufts workers expires on Halloween, 27 Oct. 2016.

Anita Posadas, a janitor who has worked at Tufts for 20 years, said she suffered a fall on the job in March and tore a muscle in her left shoulder. Posadas, whose statements were translated from Spanish to English by her granddaughter Ana Castaneda, said that she has not received adequate workers' compensation for her injury and the loss of work it has caused. 

Posadas said she fell at 7:35 a.m. on March 2. She said she had a vacuum backpack on and was cleaning the stairs of the Granoff Music Center, about six feet up. She said that her supervisor, Victoria Guerra, startled her and yelled at her, causing her to fall. Guerra then tugged on Posadas’ arm and urged her to get up and continue working.

Julio Quintanilla was the janitor assigned to clean the second floor of Granoff while Posadas was also on shift, but only from 7:30 a.m. to 9:00 a.m, according to Posadas.

Quintanilla said he was present in the building when Posadas fell, though only Guerra was in the exact location at the time of the fall. Quintanilla said his boss called him to tell him what had happened, and he came down to find Posadas crying on the stairs.

Posadas said that she blacked out at this point. She said she doesn’t remember the subsequent events, but Quintanilla confirmed that Posadas was put in an ambulance.

Because Posadas has not worked since sustaining the injury, she no longer receives health insurance. Posadas said she is unable to have a necessary surgery done because Cushman & Wakefield (C&W) Services, the company with which Tufts contracts its custodial services, will not pay her medical bills and she does not have the health insurance to pay for her care. The employer is required to pay the medical bills of a worker injured on the job, according to Massachusetts' workers' compensation law.

She said while injury is preventing her from returning to work, C&W only began paying her workers' compensation on Sep. 18, over six months after her injury. 

Posadas said she has hired a lawyer to communicate with C&W. She said she did not reach out to the janitors’ union because she did not believe they could help her case. 

Castaneda confirmed that from March to September, the company did not pay Posadas. Posadas said she does not understand why they did not begin paying her immediately after the fall.

According to Posadas, the company is denying her case because it claims it found her sitting on the stairs at the time. Posadas rejects this explanation, saying that it would have been impossible to sit on the stairs with a vacuum backpack on.

The day Posadas sustained the injury she was expected to clean Granoff in the first four hours of her eight-hour shift, which lasted from 5:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., she said. Posadas said that after cleaning Granoff in the first four hours, she was expected to clean Stratton Hall. According to both Posadas and another janitor who asked to remain unidentified, two people are meant to work for the entirety of the shift.

“One person can’t do that job, because it’s a lot,” the janitor said. “It’s too much for one person.”

Another janitor, who spoke anonymously out of concerns for job security, explained the difficulty of cleaning Granoff, a building with multiple floors, plenty of floor space to mop and multiple bathrooms, rooms and auditoriums. Castaneda, echoed that two people should have been working the entire shift.

Posadas said the company also claims that the injury is related to long-term stress from working.

One of the janitors who spoke anonymously said that Posadas never had serious health issues before and stressed that the management seriously lacks compassion for Posadas at her age.

“She never had a problem. She’s working all the time, she’s working in different places,” the janitor said.

Castaneda, breaking from translating the interview, explained her grandmother had never faced these problems prior to the incident.

"She sees it as a one-time injury because she had never experienced any [serious] pain before," Castaneda said.

While Posadas has worked at Tufts since April 1997, she says she first noticed workplace harassment in 2015. According to Posadas, Guerra, Account Manager at C&W Shawn Amaral and Assistant Manager Douglas Interiano followed her around, appearing frequently during her lunch break. Posadas said that since Interiano started working at Tufts in 2015, he presented her with multiple contracts detailing higher workloads. 

Posadas also said Interiano gave her constant warnings beginning in February 2016. She said there was no reason for her first warning.

"There was no reason for the warning at all ... since she was not doing anything wrong. She was just cleaning the basement ... like she usually always does," Castaneda said on behalf of Posadas.

Both Posadas and an anonymous janitor said that, since 2015, they have felt a fundamental lack of respect in the workplace.

“Before I was treated like a human. You work for these people. They have a connection with you,” an anonymous janitor said. “This is not the same place where I was working before.”

Interiano could not be reached for comment.

Posadas' complaints about management are not in isolation; in April, Tufts Labor Coalition posted on its Facebook page a list of demands from janitors hoping to address unacceptable working conditions. These demands include firing Douglas Interiano due to his unacceptable treatment of workers and giving workers clear rationale for changes in workload.

Patricia Campbell, Tufts’ executive vice president, declined to comment on the details of the case.

"We appreciate the work of C&W custodians and their contributions to the cleaning of the spaces we work and learn in. The issues raised in this case are properly addressed by the custodians’ union and the custodians’ employer, C&W,” Campbell told the Daily in an email.

Amaral's response was similar to Campbell's.

“C&W Services takes all employee concerns seriously but it is not able to provide any details or comment regarding any ongoing employee claims due to confidentiality,” Amaral told the Daily in an email.

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