New Jersey Captain Sues for Reinstatement

A New Jersey fire captain who was fired after being filmed shoveling snow while off with an injury, is now suing to get his job jack. Paterson fire captain James Reyes filed suit last month in Passaic County Superior Court seeking reinstatement.

Captain Reyes was terminated on February 23, 2017 on charges of incompetency, inefficiency, failure to perform duties, conduct unbecoming a public employee, neglect of duty, and violation of municipal injury and sick leave policy. The city had surveillance video of him engaged in activities that it claimed were inconsistent with his reported injuries, including shoveling snow and lifting cases of water. The videos were shown to his doctor, Dr. Robert Kayal, who stopped treating him and told the city’s comp insurer they constituted “indisputable evidence” he was able to perform his duties.

Captain Reyes appealed the decision to the New Jersey Civil Service Commission, claiming his condition allowed him to bend forward but not backward without pain, and that the videos were consistent with his stated medical condition. The city countered that he should have made himself available for a light-duty assignment. The Commission found the city failed to notify Captain Reyes that light duty assignments were available and ordered him reinstated, subject to a fitness for duty examination.

According to the suit, the city has “stonewalled” his requests to return to duty. Also named in the suit is Dr. Kayal. A copy of the complaint was not available. More on the story.

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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