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Labor union finds woman worked 85 days straight, including 52 16-hour shifts

Published: Dec. 16, 2020 at 9:44 PM EST
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - A labor union is now calling for change after an employee at Sunland Center died while driving to work. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees claims this happened after she worked 85 days straight, her last days working 16-hour shifts.

Now, coworkers from Sunland, which is a treatment center for individuals of mental and physical disabilities, are speaking out. They are calling for more staff to make sure this never happens again.

Donald Bailey is a fellow employee at Sunland who had worked with Hawlen Ebanks, the employee who died, for more than 15 years.

“If she had something, she would give it. And everybody loved her,” said Bailey. “And she could run two units by herself and I have seen that lady work and work and work and come back the next day.”

Bailey was one of Ebank’s greatest friends. They worked together in Miami, then both moved to Marianna in 2004.

“Days off she’d be working and days in between she would be working,” said Bailey.

According to AFSCME, which is the union for public service employees, on Nov. 24, Ebanks was driving to Sunland. That is when they say she crashed on the premises. After 12 days in a coma at the hospital, Ebanks died.

After her coworkers reached out to the agency, AFSCME requested her timesheets from the state. Christopher Serrano works for AFSCME.

“We then were appalled by what we saw. It was a tremendous amount of time that she had been working without any days off,” Serrano said.

As seen in the timesheets, from Sept.1 to Nov. 24, Ebanks worked at least 52 days of 16-hour shifts. Some for stretches of eight days straight.

“It’s a crazy thought,” said Bailey. “But I can realize it because I have been there done that.”

“Happens all the time, unfortunately,” Serrano said.

However, the union also found discrepancies.

In the timesheet, there are areas that show Ebanks worked for 24 hours straight. There are also six days that are missing from her timesheet.

AFSCME says it did confirm with her employers and colleagues that she worked 85 days at Sunland, with no days off.

“That needs to be something that they are pushing to address and fix,” said Serrano. “To make sure that that place does not just meet the minimum coverage requirements, but meets the requirements of a human being to function without having to work those long hours, and have minimal sleep and work in a dangerous facility that every move could lead to life and death.”

The reason for the time-sheet errors is unknown. AFSCME believes it may be an error when the time-sheet was copied from the state’s system to an Excel sheet, however that has not been confirmed.

On Tuesday, WCTV reached out to Sunland. We asked why Ebanks was approved to work those hours, and what might be the cause.

As of Wednesday night, we have not yet received a response from the center.

Serrano said he believes it’s due to a staffing shortage.

“You have to have the necessary amount of employees employed at the hospital to run efficiently, not that you work the ones that you have to death,” he said.

“If we don’t say it if we don’t shout it from the mountaintops, who is going to say it?” Bailey said.

Employees are wanting answers, and hope something changes, so this never happens again.

AFSCME says they have an emergency meeting scheduled with Sunland for Friday at 1 p.m., and that is where they hope to get some answers.

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