A former fire captain in Paterson, New Jersey, has sued the city on the grounds of wrongful termination.
The case dates back a few years, when the city decided to take a tough stand on employees whom they suspected were abusing sick time provisions. Paterson’s risk manager hired an investigator to watch the fire captain while he was home on sick leave for 11 days in December 2016. The man said he had a back injury.
The investigator caught on video the man doing household tasks, such as sweeping in front of his house, taking out the garbage cans and clearing snow from the family cars.
The city fired him in 2017, using those videos as the evidence for their decision.
After a hearing with the state civil service commission and an administrative law judge, the city was ordered to give him back his job. The administrative judge said the videos didn’t show any action that contradicted the man’s contention that his back pain kept him from performing his work as a firefighter. The judge also said the city should have offered him an assignment that involved lighter work.
By December 2018, he hadn’t been rehired so the man filed a wrongful termination suit. He also accuses city officials of retaliation and disability discrimination.
In the lawsuit, he also contends his back injury got worse because he couldn’t see a doctor when his medical insurance stopped upon his termination. He also said he was eligible for a promotion at the time he was let go from his job.
The workers’ compensation doctor who treated him also has been named in the lawsuit.
Sick time is available for a reason: it helps an employee heal and so they can return to work as a productive part of the team. This man said he wasn’t given that chance and has every right to pursue his job through the court system.