Root town worker sues to return to job
Firing came after yearlong disability
ROOT The town of Root’s former deputy highway superintendent is suing the town to get his old job back.
Jeffery Montanye filed a lawsuit in Montgomery County Court in late April taking to task town Supervisor John Thayer, Highway Superintendent Donald Oeser and all four members of the Town Board for what he termed his “irrational, arbitrary and capricious” termination.
According to his complaint, Montanye was fired due to a yearlong convalescence after fracturing his wrist on the job. He claims the town fired him without due process, and that because his leave was prompted by a work-related accident, he and his newly healed wrist should get his job back.
The case hinges not so much on his firing but on the way in which he was fired. Oeser had contract authority to fire Montanye after a year of sick leave, the lawsuit states, but was required to tell him before doing so, which he did not.
As of Thursday morning, Thayer had not read the lawsuit and could not offer extensive comment. Oeser did not return calls Thursday.
Montanye, according to court papers, was hired by the town in 2008 and promoted to deputy highway superintendent a short time later, serving in that capacity until February 2011, when he broke his wrist while using an electric drill.
“Though in great pain, Mr. Montanye continued to work for the next two weeks,” the suit states, “to ensure that the town’s roads were properly maintained during several snow storms.”
When he finally saw a doctor, he was told to wear a brace. Despite the brace, his wrist continued to hurt until September 2011, prompting Montanye to visit another doctor. That doctor found the injury hadn’t healed properly and required complex reconstruction of the complicated bone, cartilage and tendon structure at the base of his hand.
At first, he thought he would be back at work within three months, but the wrist required additional surgery.
In the end, Montanye was on leave from late 2011 until October 2012. Shortly after he was cleared to return to work with a wrist brace, the suit says, he received a letter from Thayer telling him his employment had been terminated.
Thayer would not comment except to say Highway Department employees are not under his or the town’s purview.
“Highway Department employees are hired and fired by the highway superintendent,” he said.
Montanye is seeking back pay, punitive damages and undisclosed compensation, along with being restored to his former position as deputy highway superintendent. Neither Montanye nor his attorney, Ronald Dunn, returned calls Thursday.