Paterson teacher getting $75,000 from district over alleged disability discrimination | Paterson Times

Paterson teacher getting $75,000 from district over alleged disability discrimination


School officials have agreed to settle a foreign language teacher’s lawsuit alleging disability discrimination by paying out $75,000.

School board members approved the settlement on September 14.

Marbel Tamayo, a Spanish teacher at School 24, had extreme difficulty in walking and using stairs due to her ongoing cancer treatment for Lymphoma, severe arthritis, and torn meniscus, C-shaped piece of cartilage that acts as a shock absorber, in both knees.

Tamayo, who had taught in the district for 21 years, fell at the school in Dec. 2016 that resulted in the torn meniscus, according to the lawsuit filed on Jun. 5, 2019. She had been out on workers’ compensation leave for six months. She was scheduled to undergo surgery in Jun. 2017, but that did not happen due to a conflict with her chemotherapy treatment for cancer.

She tried to reschedule the surgery, but to no avail, says the lawsuit. In May 2018, the school district switched her treating physician for “purpose of worker’s compensation benefits.” She met with the new doctor, who told her he will prepare a report for the district on her physical condition.

On Aug. 2018, the district ended Tamayo’s workers’ compensation benefits. In Sept. 2018, she filed a petition for worker’s compensation benefits to be reinstated. The next month, Tamayo returned to work. She submitted a request to Florita Cotto, principal of School 24, to provide accommodation.

Tamayo did not have a permanent classroom. She had to travel from class to class pushing her teaching materials in a cart. She had to use multiple stairs at times throughout the day, says the lawsuit.

She wanted a classroom in the first floor to avoid the pain of her itinerant teaching post and using stairs. She wrote to the principal and told her if she is not provided accommodations, she would take up the matter with superintendent Eileen Shafer.

The lawsuit alleges Cotto was “unwilling” to provide accommodations. The lawsuit states Cotto replied and warned her not to “threaten” her and that she “made a mistake” in coming to her for accommodations.

Tamayo then submitted medical paperwork to the district seeking accommodations. She was told in an Oct. 25, 2018 letter that the district would provide her a classroom, 2-3 periods off on most days, and minimize her travel.

“Most of these accommodations were never implemented,” says the lawsuit. She was never given a classroom. She had to travel to classes between floors while “suffering great pain and distress,” says the lawsuit. She was also not provided 2-3 periods off on most days.

In one instance, Tamayo was “admonished” by vice principal Lillian Perez for exiting the building using a staircase that had fewer steps to avoid pain and discomfort, according to the lawsuit.

On Feb. 24, 2019, Tamayo wrote, again, to Cotto seeking accommodations. She never received a response, says the lawsuit.

The intense physical pain, forced Tamayo to take unpaid leave of absence from May 1 through Jun. 30, 2019, says the lawsuit.

On May 6, 2019, Tamayo attorney in a letter cited New Jersey law to urge the district to provide accommodations to his client. After receiving the letter, the district told her she would be transferred to another teaching post in a different building that presented “even more challenging difficulties,” says the lawsuit.

Tamayo was seeking $200,000 in damages from the district.

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  • HankMorgan

    The cruelty of these people is staggering! This isn’t an isolated event either. Among the worst offenders that have been involved in similar events are Kelly White, Joe Ribitzki, and Mary Anne Perratto. It’s long standing administrative tactic in Paterson Public Schools to abuse faculty who are disabled, request accommodations or who are simply disliked for personal or political reasons. Of course, this is generated, enabled and approved from the top, Eileen Shafer. Her spectacularly mindless minions in the field wield their cruel inhumanity with shameless pride.
    No wonder the district can’t find competent teachers to work there.

    • Miss jamaica

      Reading this article today just upset me
      I will say to all these people karma is a bitch.
      You see your today you don’t see your tomorrow, sometimes tomorrow never comes. But when it comes it can be a painful lonely journey.

      • HankMorgan

        Let’s hope so. These people are responsible for widespread mental health issues and suicides among many staffers. Not surprisingly, these miscreants are given raises and promotions for their cruelty. Unable to find employment in more legitimate educational settings they dig in to Eileen Shafer’s whims, do harm to the educators under their supervision and freely debase themselves during their tenures. As with one recently deceased former administrative employee I say good riddance to bad garbage.
        How do you take such cruelty to the grave, unacknowledged and devoid of remorse?

  • bigron

    Excellent work Marbel. Kudos to you!