NEWARK, N.J. — The past five months have been a painful ordeal for Winki Stokwe, a native of South Africa living in Newark, New Jersey.
She was working as a house cleaner for a large company called Handy. Handy pre-screens household service workers who can then be hired through the company’s website to work in homes and apartments.
Five months ago, Stokwe was cleaning an apartment in Hoboken, New Jersey. The owner has a dog, a black lab mix.
Stokwe said while she was at the sink, washing the dishes, “I turn and there come this dog and then it bit me.”
It was a traumatic moment she said she’ll never forget.
The dog had jumped up and bit her face, taking a chunk out of her chin, her upper and lower lip.
“I said this dog could kill me," she recalled. "If I turn, it was gonna hold me on my throat. I was just thinking about my children.”
Stokwe had no idea how bad the bites were, but she said there was a lot of blood. She managed to push the dog off her face, ran into the closet, and told the dog’s owner to call 911. She was rushed to Hoboken Hospital where, fortunately, a plastic surgeon was available to work on her badly damaged face. She said she contacted Handy immediately, and even sent them pictures.
The company responded:
“So sorry to hear about the incident with the dog. I hope you have a quick recovery. No need to worry about the jobs for the next two days.”
Two days? Her recovery has taken much longer than that.
“I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t drink. It was hard. It was very brutal," Stokwe said.
Stokwe said for the next five months, no one from Handy reached out to her to see how she was doing.
“What were they waiting for?" asked PIX11 News.
She said they only contacted her after PIX11 News sent Handy an email asking about the dog bite incident. In a statement to PIX11 News, a spokesperson for Handy said, “We regret the way this matter was handled initially…We stand ready to assist however we can.”
When asked what Handy could do for her, she said “they can pay the bill and fix the scar.”
The cost of the medical bills is astronomical. So far it's more than $87,000.
Stokwe has a green card but does not have health insurance.
On Handy’s website, it says among the employee benefits is health coverage. But the company says that coverage is for staff employees, not for independent contract workers like Stokwe. The company says that’s specified in the contract she signed, so she should have known that.
Winki has hired an attorney and says she will probably sue both Handy and the dog’s owner.
What a shame!