The family of a 911 operator in Phoenix who died after working a nearly 16-hour shift while sick is suiing the city for $35 million, according to reports.
The operator, Pamela Cooper, 49, was rushed to a hospital after working the shift and later died after being taken off life support, KPNX-TV of Phoenix reported.
“This never should have happened,” Jonathan Michaels, an attorney representing the family, told the station. “Certainly no one should have to die for their job.”
“This never should have happened. Certainly no one should have to die for their job.”
— Jonathan Michaels, attorney representing Pamela Cooper’s family
Cooper had returned to work about two weeks ago after being out for six weeks as she battled the coronavirus, the station reported.
The operator had run out of paid leave time and was supporting her mother, a widow on Social Security, and her husband, whose unemployment benefits had run out, according to Phoenix New Times.
Her family claims a supervisor mandated that she work a nearly double shift recently, even after she complained she wasn’t feeling well.
“No opting out or I get written up,” Cooper had messaged her mother, according to New Times.
“They could have sent her home when she wasn’t feeling well because that’s protocol,” Joel Cooper, the operator’s widower, told KPNX. “They overworked her.”
City officials told the station they’ve lost 11 operators since the start of 2021 and that operators are required to work overtime, if needed, so that 911 calls can be handled round-the-clock.
But employees who are feeling sick should be sent home by their supervisor, a city spokesperson told the station.
The city’s 911 dispatch operation has lost employees because of the coronavirus and because of low pay and burnout issues, New Times reported.
In January, Phoenix reported 911 call-answering averages that were below the national standard of 95% of calls handled in 20 seconds or less, according to KPNX.