A former public works employee is suing the Borough of Roselle after he was denied a reinstatement for the third year in a row.
His lawsuit, filed in federal court, claims that the borough chose to hire a man with less experience, rather than reinstate him to his previous position as superintendent in the Department of Public Works.
Paid Leave of Absence to Seek Help
According to the lawsuit, in mid-2015 the employee left to seek therapy to recover from mental health issues that he had begun to experience as a result of his job. He had begun to experience anxiety and panic disorder, which were in turn causing him many sleepless nights and weakness.
However, the employee alleges that as a result of his permissible leave, he has still been subjected to “animosity and hostility.”
Working His Way Up the Ranks
In 2002 the employee began working at the Department as a laborer, working his way through the ranks. Eventually, in 2010 he became superintendent, a position he held until 2016, when the borough council voted not to reinstate him, according to the complaint.
The department handles construction, operation, and maintenance of public facilities and infrastructure.
The decision not to reinstate him allegedly cost the employee $50,000 in wages and benefits.
Politics May Have Played a Role in The Decision
Even though the superintendent position remained open, the former Roselle borough administrator would not reinstate the employee to the position. Apparently, the employee’s ability to perform the job was called into question at public council meetings.
According to the lawsuit, the former borough administrator said that he would be “politically f—–“ by the borough if he was to support the employee.
Denied Reinstatement Three Times
In January 2016, the mayor recommended the employee to the borough council for the position of superintendent. According to coverage of the January 2016 meeting, the mayor said the employee, “… is the strongest manager in a department that needs strong management skills.”
Despite the mayor’s glowing recommendation, the borough council voted 2-4 not to re-appoint the employee. A councilwoman had explained that the council felt that there was a lack of communication, and that there were issues that they did not have time to address with the employee.
In 2017 the employee again applied for the position and was recommended once more by the mayor. Instead, the council appointed an interim supervisor, even though he did not have the correct certification. Not only was the employee a certified public works manager, he had 14 years of experience, compared to the interim supervisor’s five.
For a third time, the employee applied, but was rejected for the superintendent position. In March 2018, the interim supervisor obtained the needed certification and was moved from his interim position and appointed superintendent.
The employee filed suit claiming that the council’s decision not to re-appoint him was done in retaliation for taking leave under the Family Medical Leave Act.
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