Diabetic Syracuse Firefighter Ordered Reinstated

A Syracuse, New York firefighter who was fired in 2013 because of diabetic episodes at work, has been ordered to be rehired and awarded backpay. John Williams was fired by the city over concerns that his diabetes was not being properly managed.

The city identified four incidents of poor diabetes management as proof that Williams was unfit for duty. Williams appealed his termination to the Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court

The appeals court concluded that the city failed to comply with the procedural requirements of the Civil Service Law. “These procedures are necessary to afford tenured civil servant employees… procedural protections prior to involuntary separation from service…. Because of the significant due process implications of the statute, strict compliance with its procedures is required.”

Despite the procedural mistakes, the court stated:

“We nevertheless conclude that the determination that petitioner [Williams] was unfit for active duty is supported by substantial evidence.   Based on the evidence introduced at the fact-finding hearing, we conclude that the “inference is reasonable and plausible” that petitioner was rendered unfit to serve as an active duty firefighter because of his inability to manage his diabetic symptoms.”

“However, inasmuch as respondents violated lawful procedure after initially determining that petitioner was unfit for active duty in August 2011, we conclude that petitioner is entitled to a hearing, should he request one, to determine his current fitness to be reinstated, provided that his application for reinstatement is made within one year of our decision herein.”

Williams was also awarded backpay and benefits.

Here is a copy of the ruling: Williams v Troiano

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 45 years of fire service experience and 35 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014, 4th ed. 2022) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.

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