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.

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Aaron Carter

There is surely something that can be done! I am a firm believer in second chances, but I also believe in morals. If he wasn't suppose to take a tip then he shouldn't have, but if he was doing an exceptional job I would have insisted he took it. I am so split on the topic.

Aaron Carter |

April 24 2014 at 11:53 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Bob Strong

I am really disappointed that he got fired so easily. It is important for the company to follow its rules, but could certainly give out second chances. Maybe this have been happening a lot.

April 21 2014 at 10:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Laurey Williams

I wonder if he knew he couldn't take tips. Do you think his bosses made that clear to him when he got hired? I feel like it's important to follow the rules at a job.

April 21 2014 at 6:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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

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

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

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

"...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

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

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