In 2016, thanks to the hard work of IBEW 1049 and the IBEW Utility Labor Council of NYS, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the Utility Worker Assault bill into law. This made it a felony to assault a utility worker while they are on the job.
Unfortunately, this week a National Grid employee in Fort Edward NY was assaulted while attempting to do their job and turn off the customers power. The employee suffered severe facial lacerations and required an overnight hospital stay.
Thanks to the Utility Worker Assault legislation, the perpetrator will now face a felony count of assault instead of a misdemeanor charge and could face up to 11 years in prison. I have provided more details below.
IBEW 1049 works hard every day to make sure that our members go to work and come home safe. While we can control safety conditions on the job site, we can not always control what customers do. That is why we fought for years to pass the Utility Worker Assault bill. This important legislation lets the public know that it is never okay to attack a worker for doing their job.
National Grid Worker Assaulted During Visit to Home.
A National Grid worker was assaulted Tuesday morning by the resident of a Broadway home who attacked her as she went to the home to turn off electricity, police said.
The worker suffered facial injuries when she was tackled from behind and punched by Patricia Lafferty, 25, who had argued with the employee moments before the attack.
Fort Edward Police Sgt. Dean Watkins said the National Grid employee suffered "serious" facial injuries that required a trip to Glens Falls Hospital, but he believed she had been released as of Wednesday morning.
National Grid spokesman Nathan Stone said the worker suffered "pretty serious facial lacerations" and it was unclear when she would return to work.
The worker had gone to the home to turn off electricity around 8 a.m. for an unspecified reason when Lafferty became angry with her and argued with her, Watkins said. The employee turned off the power and was leaving when she was attacked and knocked to the ground, he explained.
Lafferty was charged with felony counts of assault and unlawful imprisonment, the assault count elevated to a felony because the victim, as a utility worker, was a "public employee." Under state law, it is felony unlawful imprisonment when a person "restrains another person under circumstances which expose the latter to a risk of serious physical injury."
Watkins said Lafferty fled the area on foot after the confrontation and later got a ride out of the village, but turned herself in at the Washington County Sheriff's office station in Fort Edward later Tuesday morning.
She was arraigned and sent to Washington County Jail for lack of bail.
Stone said attacks on utility employees are rare, but serious. "We get some yelling and screaming, but generally they don't go after our people," he said.
He said he could not disclose the resident's billing situation that led to the shutoff, but said the payment plans and other arrangements are made to try to avoid a shutoff of service.
"If they stop paying, we have to terminate service at some point," he said.
The charges are punishable by up to 11 years in state prison, if sentences were run consecutively.
Watkins handled the case, assisted by Hudson Falls Police.