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Disgruntled underlings took photos of sleeping Tollway boss for revenge

Joseph Caffarello was making $78444 year when he was fired as maintenance supervisor for an Illinois Tollway garage.

Joseph Caffarello, was making $78,444 a year when he was fired as a maintenance supervisor for an Illinois Tollway garage.

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Updated: May 1, 2013 3:53PM

Illinois Tollway underlings took photos of their boss sleeping on the job because they were upset he was finally making them put in “a day’s work for a day’s pay,’’ an attorney for the fired Tollway boss said Friday.

Attorney Margherita Albarello said then-Illinois Tollway garage supervisor Joseph Caffarello only “fell asleep on the job once,’’ and that was because he was “low on sleep” from staying up late with a wife distraught over a miscarriage.

Underlings took photographs of the snoozing 29-year-old Caffarello that day because he had been sent to their Gurnee Tollway garage to “get the office in shape” and they were not used to putting in “a day’s work for a day’s pay,’’ Albarello said.

The Chicago Sun-Times this week published two photographs of a sleeping Caffarello that were given to state Rep. Rita Mayfield (D-Waukegan), who sent them to Tollway authorities with a request that Caffarello be investigated.

At the time, Caffarello was making $78,444 a year as a Tollway maintenance garage supervisor and had been fired by the Tollway twice before — only to win reinstatement both times.

Mayfield wrote authorities that she was “appalled’’ that Caffarello was “asleep at his desk while on company time.’’

“Obviously there is a lot of waste within the Illinois Toll Authority if members of management are allowed to sleep during regular working hours and employees can mill about taking pictures of them,’’ Mayfield wrote the Tollway on May 12, 2012.

Tollway spokeswoman Wendy Abrams said Friday that Caffarello was suspended without pay for two days last April 2, based on the sleeping incident, and was ultimately fired in February 2013 for “a totality of circumstances completely unacceptable to Tollway management.’’

Tollway Inspector General James Wagner said his investigation indicated Caffarello had slept on the job “on more than one occasion.’’ Caffarello’s firing followed additional allegations that he had intimidated and threatened employees; doled out “unsafe” and “discriminatory” assignments, particularly to older employees; and created a “hostile work environment,’’ a report by Wagner’s office indicated.

Albarello insisted Caffarello “rebutted each and every one of those allegations during the course of the investigation” and will be fighting his third termination from a Tollway job.

Asked if clout could have played a role in Caffarello’s ability to overturn previous firings, Albarello said, “Why are you suggesting . . . that he has clout?

“This is a guy who came to work, put in a hard day’s work. He was promoted, and he was sent to this particular operation to get it in shape. He had been asked to do the same thing at other locations. He had done it satisfactorily and then he was sent to [the Gurnee garage],’’ Albarello said.

“Perhaps the real reason he was fired was because of Miss Mayfield’s clout, not Mr. Caffarello’s clout.’’

Albarello called the investigation of Caffarello “a farce.’’ After serving two days suspension without pay for sleeping on the job, Albarello said, Caffarello was suddenly called into a supervisor’s office, told he needed “a time out,’’ and was suspended without pay.

The attorney charged Caffarello sat at home, not knowing the exact charges against him, for two months. The allegations that arrived by mail in January 2013 were vague, but Caffarello rebutted all of them, Albarello said.

Responded Abrams: “Through Tollway processes, Mr. Caffarello was given the proper notice regarding his suspension and given the opportunity to respond.’’

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