Schenectady County

Appeal for disability benefits sought by former corrections officer

The officer contends she has job-related post-traumatic stress disorder. She is represented by th...

A former Schenectady County corrections officer who contends she has job-related post-traumatic stress disorder is in a fight for full-pay disability benefits.

Attorneys for Katie Caulfield, who started work at the jail in 2004, contends medical exams show she suffers from psychological disabilities, including PTSD, due to her twice contracting a serious infection at the jail and subsequent mistreatment by jail administration.

Schenectady County officials, however, rejected her claims, and an arbitrator earlier this year ruled in favor of the county, the officer’s petition reads.

Caulfield is now off the county payroll and is not receiving benefits, according to Schenectady County Attorney Christopher Gardner.

He said county officials believe the arbitrator properly decided the case, based on a well-regarded psychologist’s testimony.

“We believe that we have a very strong case and that we will prevail,” Gardner said. Gardner noted that such rulings are difficult to vacate upon appeal.

Caulfield is represented by attorney A. Andre Dalbec, associate general counsel for the state Law Enforcement Officers Union. Dalbec pointed to extenuating circumstances in the case.

In an affidavit filed in the case earlier this month, Dalbec contends the arbitrator failed to consider the “overwhelming medical evidence” that concluded Caulfield suffered from work-related psychological trauma.

According to Caulfield’s filing, her issues at the jail began in 2010, when she was diagnosed with Methicillin Resistant Staphyloccus Aureus, or MRSA.

She applied for the full-pay disability benefits, also called 207-c benefits, but was denied. After recovering, she returned to work, but the illness reoccurred. A second 207-c application was denied in August 2011. She again recovered and returned to work.

In late 2012, she suffered serious gastrointestinal issues and sought accommodations from the jail. She contends the county failed to accommodate her and she eventually filed a notice of claim that she later settled with the county, according to the filing.

However, incidents she saw as retaliation continued, and her doctor ultimately removed her from work in May 2014 for a psychological illness the doctor concluded was caused by work-related stress and mistreatment by her employer.

She filed again for 207-c benefits related to that diagnosis. The county again denied her claim. The arbitrator upheld that denial after a hearing in June.

Caulfield’s attorneys are arguing the arbitrator’s failure to properly admit the medical exams was arbitrary and capricious and deprived her of a full and fair hearing, and that even without the exams, the arbitrator’s decision should be annulled.

A state Supreme Court justice will now decide whether to take the case and then whether to rule.

Categories: News, Schenectady County

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