NYC Sanitation Worker Gets Dumped for Taking a $20 Tip

Forfeits $70,000+ job for accepting gratuity from grateful resident

NYC Sanitation Worker Forced To Retire After Accepting $20 Tip


There are all sorts of people you might tip from time to time: mail carriers, people who plow snow from your driveway, babysitters, or even sanitation workers who haul away the refuse of life. At least, you might tip the latter anywhere but within New York City.

Lenworth Dixon, a 25-year veteran of the sanitation department in New York, was forced into retirement, losing his $73,534-a-year job, and fined $1,500, according to the New York Post. Why? Because last September he took a $20 tip for going above and beyond what you might expect in most cities. However, when it comes to trash, unusual for most places could be ordinary for New York.

Back in September, Dixon was asked by someone on his usual route to remove a large amount of "bulk refuse," including wood and furniture, from in front of someone's house, according to the New York Daily News. A resident gave Dixon $20 for hauling the lot away.

Part of the job
According to the city's Department of Sanitation, there is free curbside removal of bulk items that are too large to place in a container or bag. Such items can include old lumber or tree limbs tied in bundles that are less than two feet high or four feet long. The department does say that if there's a "large quantity" of items, consumers should consider splitting the amount over several collection days.

That meant the extra work fell within the normal scope of Dixon's duties, and New York City law -- section 206, as listed by FindLaw -- has a particularly strict ethical code. Subsection 13 states: "No public servant shall receive compensation except from the city for performing any official duty or accept or receive any gratuity from any person whose interests may be affected by the public servant's official action."

A little thought explains why such a stance might be considered necessary. Gratuities could all too easily turn into bribes. Corruptly implemented, citizens already liable for local taxes for services might find themselves having to spend even more to grease the wheels to get what they've already paid for.

Not the first time
So there's a low tolerance for any breach of the statute. According to the New York Daily News, two sanitation workers were caught splitting a $10 tip in June last year. Each had to pay a $2,000 fine and then retire. So, the potential danger of accepting a tip was clearly known.

"He's not a thief, you know, they could give him a warning, but to fire him?" said Erma McPhatter, Dixon's landlady, to radio station WINS. "This sounds like a set up."

"It is a harsh punishment, but they don't tolerate taking money from the public," said Harry Nespoli, president of the Sanitation Workers Union, to the Daily News. "We're not allowed to take any money, even at Christmas time. We don't work for the post office."

Something unknown is how city officials learned of the tip in Dixon's case. According to Nespoli, the city sometimes places cameras on garbage trucks to see if workers are taking tips.

According to McPhatter, Dixon plans to leave New York and head south in April.

> Find a driving job in Florida
Erik Sherman

Erik Sherman

Contributor

Erik Sherman is a widely published writer and editor who also does select ghosting and corporate work. Follow him on Twitter at @ErikSherman

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum

803 Comments

Filter by:
jets3131

If you wanted that job and it's benefits, you could have taken the test. It's available to anyone. Being jealous is not a reason to question his salary. Take a civil service exam and get on a waiting list like everyone else. FDNY,NYPD,DSNY are all very difficult and worthy of their pensions. No-one forced you to apply for your current job. If you don't like it, then quit. Crybaby give me what you have attitude because it's not fair. Go cry somewhere else.

February 16 2014 at 7:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
freeportragdoll

this man may have taken 20.00 but how much money have these greedy politicians have taken ..where is all the lotto money going sure is not the schools the way they are..what a dam shame for this man..if he were hire up the ladder this would not have happened.. man I feel for you and pray for you, good luck to you !!!

February 11 2014 at 11:34 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
pntbalplyr

its a shame that the politicians (and cops) dont live by the same rules as the rest of us

February 10 2014 at 8:14 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
cooky2816

Every Christmas I always tip my Sanitation workers! My God what is $20.00 going to hurt? I hope here in NJ there is no such rule, it doesn't matter I would do it anyway. I hope the poor man gets his job back. Some one says it sounds like a set up, I agree.

February 07 2014 at 7:27 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Glen Whelpley

And when a lobbiest gives a politician a free meal, donation the respective party should that be considered a gratituity? Should the politician be impeached and fined for conduct unbecomming and reciept of a gratitutity which amongst NYC workers can lead to arrest and forfitsure off all retirement benefits or a fine which can b e deducted from them pensio0n aftger they are retired -As usual some "gargbage man" who does a good job takes a hit while the scumbag elite politicians create more protective legislation - It'w been a long time since a politician was elected by his constituitents in a popular vote - It's all golden rule ' those who have the gold make the rules" -

February 07 2014 at 12:01 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
pepelaputr

"...the city sometimes places cameras on garbage trucks to see if workers are taking tips."
Is that really a worthwhile use of city resources?

February 07 2014 at 11:50 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
adjrk31697

Let's remember, for a salary like that, he garners the title of Sanitation Engineer, not Garbage Man

February 07 2014 at 12:29 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
merstockgto

What a crock. Curious to know how much money the higher ups may have taken under the table.

February 06 2014 at 10:05 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Larry Ripley

how ******* ignorant! I absolutely love our garbage man....he is one of the most thoughtful, kind and courteous service providers we have the privilege of knowing. I am disabled and in a wheelchair most of my day, if I don't have the can out he will come and get it for me and always brings it back to the house for me, calls us if he will be later than usual or has to change days. I do not flipping care what the gratutity policy is at our sanatation company and I have told his supervisor and the owner of the company that...I WILL decide if his actions merit a thoughtful thank you from us to him...and you know what they do!! and we have as the occasion dictates.

February 06 2014 at 4:31 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
zee28074

To those making comments as to how a "garbage man" is below you, how ignorant. In case you are not aware, a New York City Sanitation worker, in most cases is a hard worker, who takes a test both written and physical to make sure he/she is capable of doing the job. They don't have special trucks that pick up the cans for them, they get in and out of the truck and pick up the heavy loads themselves. When it snows they drive plows and salt spreaders and works 12 to 16 hour days. It does not matter if it is a holiday or it's their kids birthday, if it snows, their working. When Sanitation calls because it is snowing, you drop your plans with your family and you go to work. When Sandy hit, they were there around the clock. When it's 100 degrees outside or 5 below they are outside doing their job. So know your facts before you compare them to a private carting companies. To the commenter that stated "garbage men" should not make $73,000.00 a year these jobs should go to "high school dropouts",If you were "smart" you would have been a New York City Sanitation Worker". Good Luck to Sanitation Worker Dixion.

February 06 2014 at 4:20 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Search Jobs

In Partnership With
Keywords:
Location:

Search Articles

Top Companies Hiring

April 13 - April 20

Looking for work? See what companies added new openings this week.