A former janitor working in the Goldman Sachs building during Hurricane Sandy claims he was sent home by his boss in the midst of the storm and forced on a 13-hour trek back to Staten Island in dangerous conditions.
In a lawsuit filed last week, Mefit Zecevic accused Eric Holt, his manager at building services firm ABM, of drunkenly forcing him to leave Goldman Sachs' lower Manhattan building during the storm. Zecevic's dangerous trip home to Staten Island included wading through very cold water that was at times neck-high and attempting to avoid downed power lines in near-darkness, according to the lawsuit.
Zecevic claims in the suit that he was told to report to work on Sunday, Oct. 28, 2012, to begin emergency preparations at the Goldman building. As part of the preparation, Zecevik and his colleagues placed sandbags around the building and secured equipment. The workers slept at the building during this period because it was too dangerous to travel home, the lawsuit says.
On Tuesday morning, Holt, allegedly smelling of alcohol, ordered Zecevik to remove one of his colleague’s shirts containing $100 from a Goldman closet where ABM employees were prohibited from storing their things, the suit claims. Zecevik removed the shirt from the closet. He was later ordered by Holt to leave the building, according to the suit.
Standing in waist-deep water, Zecevik pleaded with other managers to let him stay in the building until the dangerous conditions passed. They sent him home anyway, even after being told by a police officer that they were putting Zecevik at risk, the suit claims.
Zecevik trudged home, again at times in waist-deep water and in mostly darkness. He crossed through Brooklyn, following the shoreline of the New York Harbor until he came to the Verrazano Bridge, according to the lawsuit. Zecevik ultimately made it to Staten Island with the help of a police escort, 13 hours after he began his journey. Then in November, he was fired for allegedly stealing tenant property.
Zecevik is suing ABM for $10 million over the ordeal and his lost job.
ABM denied Zecivik’s allegations in an e-mailed statement to The Huffington Post.
“Mr. Zecevic’s claims and characterizations are inaccurate and misleading, including but not limited to his descriptions of the circumstances surrounding his termination for theft and his departure,” the statement reads. “Because this is pending litigation, we intend to let our legal filings speak for themselves.”
The suit claims Zecevik filed a claim for unemployment benefits with the Department of Labor, and the agency ruled there wasn’t any misconduct on his part. As for Goldman, a managing director at the firm expressed confidence in Zecevik’s integrity, according to the suit.
Goldman, which is not named as a defendant, declined to comment on the suit when reached by HuffPost.
Unfortunately, Zecevik is one of many workers in the New York City area who have accused their employer of mistreatment in the wake of the storm. Some employees alleged they were forced to show up to work -- or be docked pay or vacation days -- shortly after Sandy ripped through the region, despite the fact that much of the city’s public transportation system was shut down during that period.
Others alleged they weren’t paid for working overtime after the storm.
Zecivik recounted the incidents described in the lawsuit to the New York Daily News last week, a task which was so trying he threw up in a garbage can, the paper reported.
“They destroyed my life, what they did to me,” Zecevic told the paper. “I worked day and night. They destroyed my life for nothing. Nothing.”
(Hat Tip: New York Magazine)