Hero's Reward

updated 03/20/2000 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/20/2000 AT 01:00 AM EST

He seems, in every respect, the ideal big-city bus driver. One of the two pins on Rodney Plummer's uniform collar is for nine accident-free years wrestling his 17-ton vehicle through Manhattan's busy streets. The other recognizes his courtesy toward passengers. Not surprisingly, when he was on his lunch hour on Feb. 11 and saw a teenager being beaten, he played Good Samaritan—and got himself hurt. Naturally his employer, the New York City Transit Authority, did something special for him—it docked him two weeks' pay. The reason: Plummer did his good deed on his lunch break, making him ineligible for workers' compensation. "It's out of our hands," says T.A. spokesman Al O'Leary.

For Plummer, 47, the loss of innocence began when he spotted two teens attacking Francisco Perez, 17, at a Times Square subway station. Plummer, who lives in Edison, N.J., with his wife, Mai, and their two children, got between Perez and his assailants. Only after police arrived did he realize his left leg and arm had been badly bruised. On orders of T.A. doctors, he stayed home, losing 11 days' work. On Feb. 29, he found that two weeks' pay—$1,400 after taxes—had not been deposited in his bank account. His February rent check bounced, and Plummer had to borrow lunch money for his 15-year-old daughter.

New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani calls the ruling "idiotic," adding, "This is one of the things that drives people crazy about bureaucracies." For Plummer, who is appealing the pay ruling—a process that could take a year—the price of heroism is just beginning to sink in. "My feeling," he says, "is that I'm being beaten up again."

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