For Najee Rivera, it’s the principle.
“If I would have never had this incident, I would still had that job until this day,” he told NBC10 on Tuesday. Now he’s deputized the Internet to help fight to get back his job at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
It was nearly two years ago when the swing of a police baton knocked Rivera off his scooter along a North Philadelphia street. Two officers then brutally beat him on the street in an attack caught on surveillance video. There was so much blood staining the concrete another officer thought the 25-year-old had been shot. Police then charged Rivera for allegedly attacking police.
Rivera’s eye socket was fractured, his right eye severely swollen shut and he suffered many cuts. Immediately after getting hospital treatment and being bailed out of jail, Rivera says he went back to overnight work keeping the world’s foremost children’s hospital clean.
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He had just gotten the job weeks before and didn’t want to miss work. Arriving bruised and battered, his boss sent him home concerned he could catch an infection in the hospital through the open wounds, he said.
Within a month, at the end of his probationary period, Rivera was pulled aside and terminated by the hospital.
“The lady said I had three days no call, no show,” he said. “I told her my manager never put me in the system. I was out for three days because of medical reasons and gave him a note.”
A human resources staffer told Rivera she would check into the matter, he said. But nothing ever came of it. He emailed management, including CHOP's CEO, Steven Altschuler, asking for another chance. He got a response from human resources saying he could reapply, but they weren’t interested in reinstating him, the man said.
Since then, he said “they haven’t called me, they haven’t emailed me — nothing.”
As the months rolled by, Rivera’s girlfriend found surveillance video showing the beating, an investigation was launched, the charges against him were dropped and Rivera settled with the city for $200,000. In February, the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office then charged the officers — Sean McKnight, a 7-year veteran, and Kevin Robinson, a 6-year veteran — with assault and set them for termination.
Still, the father of a baby girl remains without work — determined to turn a wrong into a right.
“The job was a good paying job. That was a nice career for me. Doing what I like to do best, is to clean,” he said. “I worked hard to get to that spot. People wait years to get into CHOP. For me, it was a steppingstone. It was a good job for me and I like to be around kids.”
Two weeks ago, he posted a petition to Change.org asking to get his job back. Some 62,000 people (and counting) agree he should.
“You're telling me that a HOSPITAL's HR dept. couldn't find somewhere for this man to work until his injuries were less visible? Senseless and deliberately cruel,” wrote Barbara Finch from Silver Spring, Maryland.
Another endorser, Joshua Kricker from North Carolina said, “No one should lose their job because of being the victim of an attack, particularly when the attackers are police officers acting unlawfully.”
NBC10 reached out to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia about Rivera’s fight and the petition, but has yet to hear back.
In the meantime, with the number of signers still growing, Rivera continues to focus on his recovery and spending time with his daughter. A preliminary hearing in the criminal cases against McKnight and Robinson is set for early April.