PATERSON — George Meadows, a planner fired by the city after he went legally blind in 2018, should be reinstated to his job, the New Jersey Civil Service Commission determined this week.
The commission also decided that Meadows should get back pay for the time he was removed from the city payroll and that the city should cover his legal fees.
The commission upheld an administrative law judge's finding last month that Paterson failed to make any accommodation for Meadows' disability.
City officials declined to say whether they would appeal the decision on the grounds that they don’t comment on litigation and personnel matters. Meadows’ lawyer could not be reached for comment.
The decision by the judge, Susana Guerrero, and commission did not state exactly how much money the city owes Meadows.
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City personnel records say Meadows was hired by the city in November 2012 and was making $95,000 in 2017.
The judge’s decision said Meadows had laser surgery on his eyes in September 2018 and suffered from blurred vision when he returned to work. He asked for assistance with typing, the decision said.
The city then sent Meadows to a fitness-for-duty medical examination and he was placed on paid administrative leave at the end of that September. After a doctor told the city Meadows’ condition was permanent, Paterson officials decided to end his administrative leave in February 2019 and told Meadows it could not make work accommodations for his vision problem, the judge’s ruling said.
Meadows alleged that the city used his vision problem as an excuse to fire him, the judge wrote. But city officials maintained that in order to perform his duties, Meadows needed help from someone else and the state was not likely to allow Paterson to hire such a person, the ruling said.
The judge cited the Americans with Disabilities Act in ruling in Meadows’ favor.
Joe Malinconico is editor of Paterson Press. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
This article originally appeared on NorthJersey.com: Paterson NJ fired city planner after being disabled, must rehire him