Paterson school district allegedly told custodians to come in for non-essential work amid pandemic. Now they are suing. | Paterson Times

Paterson school district allegedly told custodians to come in for non-essential work amid pandemic. Now they are suing.


Superintendent Eileen Shafer’s administration allegedly directed custodians and maintenance workers to come in to work to handle non-essential duties in violation of governor Phil Murphy’s Covid-19 executive orders, says a lawsuit filed on Tuesday.

The Paterson Custodial and Maintenance Association, union that represents the district’s 90 custodians and maintenance workers, is seeking an injunction against the district. The lawsuit says the district also allegedly violated New Jersey Board of Education regulations related to the pandemic.

School officials ordered all custodian and maintenance employees to report to work on April 27 to perform “non-essential duties, including routine assignments, non-essential repairs and maintenance and other patently non-essential tasks,” says the suit.

“The foregoing requirements by the Board, places the employees of the District — many of whom are older adults with pre-existing conditions — at risk to their health and safety and the health and safety of their family members in the event of a Covid-19 infection, as well as being contrary to the safety, health and welfare of the public at large,” states the lawsuit.

When the schools closed in late March, the district told custodians and maintenance workers not to return to work and placed them on modified duty or on-call status. Workers were called on to assist in providing “essential services” such as distributing meals, providing school supplies and technology to students, and sanitizing and repairing essential school equipment.

Shafer did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

Email: [email protected]

  • Justice Forall

    To be sure the governor’s list of essential workers includes janitors and custodial staff. Moreover, all repairs are essential. Performing those repairs and engaging in ongoing maintenance exposed this staff to no risk at all, and certainly far less risk than the folks working at supermarkets or performing delivery service. You can be assured this group would be lining up to return to work if they weren’t receiving their full salaries to sit at home. If the job is simply too much for this group they out to just get out of the way for people who’d be grateful have a job with these salaries and cushy benefits.

  • Nino bueno

    Approximately three or four or more custodians already have the virus or had the virus. Schools are not going to be open to September. Why put these people and their families at risk.

  • Nino bueno

    We have to try to use common sense. One death already in the district. One to Manny.

  • HankMorgan

    Shafer and her administrators have learned over the years that the laws simply don’t apply to them. Even, or especially, when it comes to the health and safety of faculty, staff and students. Remember the basketball scandal a couple years ago? No accountability. “Let them drink bleach!”

  • Nino bueno

    I think the superintendent is in uncharted waters with this pandemic. She is making Trump like decisions. The union is going to sue the district for her decision making. We are in they should be suing her personally. Because at the end as taxpayers we are actually getting sued.