HAWTHORNE – Ed Ayree doesn’t mind hard work.
For years, he’s balanced his job as a direct support assistant (DSA) at a state Office for People with Developmental Disabilities group home, a second gig at a local hospital and family life as a proud father.
But while continued hard work should help a person get ahead, his state job caring for individuals with developmental disabilities has been so wrought with overtime that he’s actually falling behind.
When Ayree finds out he must work overtime, he generally isn’t notified until near the end of his shift. That instability means Ayree’s kids have missed doctor’s and dentist appointments at the last minute, he’s put plans to go back to school on indefinite hold and his health has suffered from cumulative stress and fatigue.
“There was one time when my kids were at camp and I had to pick them up,” Ayree said. “Nobody told me I was going to have to work overtime. I had the camp calling me saying the place was shutting down for the day and I needed to get my kids, but I had no way of leaving work. We aren’t all fortunate enough to have family nearby to help. When something happens like that, you are helpless.”
Holding two jobs to make ends meet, Ayree is also forced to worry about trouble at his second job as a result of his first.
“They expect me there just like they expect me here,” he said. “I get overtime here and when it happens with no notice, it affects my performance there.”
A veteran OPWDD worker, Ayree said he’s seen overtime increase as fewer vacancies are filled. Workers’ widespread fatigue leaves Ayree and his co-workers concerned about the impact on the individuals in their care.
“There are safety aspects to consider,” he said. “We’re driving the individuals and handling medications.”
Ayree said he considers himself a team player, but years of working around-the-clock with no relief in sight is taking its toll.
“It wears you out, both mentally and physically,” he said.