Niskayuna highway worker files suit over not being promoted

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By Steven Cook

NISKAYUNA — A Niskayuna highway worker has filed a lawsuit claiming the town passed him over for promotions due to nepotism.

Robert E. Paige, 52, of Delanson, filed the petition earlier this month. In it, he states he sought promotion to a work crew leader position three times and was the best-qualified candidate each time.

But the town “repeatedly filled employment positions with friends and people known to them,” he states in the lawsuit.

“This nepotism is indeed the cornerstone of the existing hiring and promotional practices in which the (town) engages, in contravention of NYS Civil Service and Labor Law,” the petition states.

Paige names the Town of Niskayuna as defendant. Town Supervisor Joe Landry would not comment on the filing this week.

Paige’s attorney, Lowell R. Siegel, said Paige remains employed by the town. The suit focuses on the Civil Service law he believes the town violated, Siegel said.

“This action basically says to the town, ‘You have failed to comply with the Civil Service laws and rules, and you insist on continuing to violate such rules, regulations and laws,’ ” Siegel said. “As a result, my client was subjected to a loss of right to be promoted in accordance with the rules and regulations.”

Paige cited three promotions for which he believes he was improperly overlooked. He started work as a town highway department truck driver in 2009 and had long held the responsibilities of the formal leader position he sought.

One of the other candidates received a promotion to a work crew leader position in early 2014 that Paige had sought. The town conducted no interviews in that case, the claim reads, and the other individual soon received another promotion. The town then selected an individual who had no supervisory experience and didn’t know how to operate equipment to fill the original leader position, even though Paige had the experience and was No. 3 in seniority.

The third rejection came in October 2015. Several applied, but Paige again didn’t get the promotion, “even though he was best qualified among the applicants and had the top seniority and the most experience.”

Paige filed a grievance and filed a charge with the state Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in August. The EEOC filing focuses on Paige’s age as the reason the town didn’t promote him. That claim remains pending, the petition states.

Paige also filed a Civil Service complaint with County Attorney Christopher Gardner. Gardner determined “the Town of Niskayuna made an unbiased review of Robert Paige’s work record, found it to be wanting and properly exercised its discretion in deciding not to promote him,” according to a letter from Gardner included in the filing.