A month after her husband and 18 other firefighters died tragically in a blaze that engulfed Yarnell, Ariz., Juliann Ashcraft is now fighting the city for salary and health benefits
she says she’s been wrongfully denied.
Andrew Ashcraft worked 40-hour weeks, Juliann claims, but he was still classified as a part-time seasonal employee by the city at the time of his death, which made them ineligible for lifetime benefits. As such, she was eligible for worker’s compensation and a single payment of $US328,000 but no health care for herself or her children.
“Quite literally, my bills are being paid by the good people of the world who are giving donations, because the city of Prescott isn’t doing anything for us,” she told CBS News. “Now I have four kids and myself, and I don’t know what I’m going to do.”
CBS News obtained paperwork confirming that he did earn a full-time salary from the city. The local firefighters union also told CBS News that Ashcraft was the only firefighter denied benefits that actually worked 40 hours a week year round.
Ashcraft said a city official responded to her insistence that her late husband was a full-time employee with, “perhaps there was a communication issue in your marriage.”
The Fair Labour Standard Act doesn’t define whether a job is full-time or part-time, relying on the employer to determine how to classify its employees, according to the Department of Labour. It is under this rule that the city of Prescott is claiming Ashcraft failed to qualify as a full-time worker.
City of Prescott spokesman Pete Wertheim told the Wall Street Journal the city has no record that Andrew was ever promoted to full-time status. There’s some hope Juliann may win her case, as the Arizona Department of Labour can consider issuing health care benefits to the families of the deceased on a individual basis.
Laura Adams, a senior insurance analyst from Bankrate.com, told Business Insider how crucial a life insurance policy can be for workers with families depending on their income.
“This kind of tragedy is why having an ample life insurance policy is so important,” she said.
“If you have dependents who would be hurt financially if you died, you need life insurance. It’s the best way to make sure that your survivors could maintain their lifestyle and reach important goals like going to college or retiring,” she added.