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State of New York vs. COVID-19 - Governor Andrew M. Cuomo periodically updates New Yorkers on the state's progress during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The latest reports of the number of new cases, the percentage of tests that were positive and many other relevant data points concerning COVID-19 are available at

N.B. §22 of the New York State's General Construction Law, in pertinent part, provides that “Whenever words of the masculine or feminine gender appear in any law, rule or regulation, unless the sense of the sentence indicates otherwise, they shall be deemed to refer to both male or female persons.” NYPPL applies this protocol to individuals referred to in a decision self-identifying as LGBTQA+.

January 7, 2010

Employee’s right to privacy to be decided on a case-by-case basis

Employee’s right to privacy to be decided on a case-by-case basis

Cooksey v Boyer, 289 F.3d 513

If the employer discloses that a public employee is under treatment related to his or her mental health, has the employer violated the individual's "constitutional rights to privacy and substantive due process." This was the significant issue in the Cooksey case.

The United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit, ruled that the issue must be decided on a case-by-case basis and in this instance its "holding is limited to the facts of this case." It then cautioned that the decision should not be viewed as implying that unauthorized publication of any and all information relating to an individual's mental health is constitutionally permitted."

The facts in this action were as follows:

1. In 1990, Donald G. Cooksey was appointed chief of police of Potosi, Missouri. In the spring of 1998, Cooksey sought treatment for stress and, in accordance with City policy, he submitted a statement from his psychologist explaining his need for an excused leave.

2. At a regularly scheduled meeting of Potosi's Board of Aldermen on July 13, 1998, then-Mayor Boyer disclosed in open session that Cooksey was undergoing treatment for stress by a psychologist. A discussion ensued which resulted in an agreement that Cooksey would need to provide a physician's report confirming his fitness for duty.

Cooksey sued, contending that Boyer's disclosure and the Board members' subsequent discussion of his mental health treatment violated his constitutional right to privacy under the Fourteenth Amendment. Cooksey's theory: "notions of substantive due process contained within the Fourteenth Amendment safeguard individuals from unwarranted governmental intrusions into their personal lives."

In sustaining the district court's dismissal of Cooksey's petition, the Circuit Court said that in this decision “We merely recognize that all mental health information is not created equal and should not be treated categorically under a privacy rights analysis. In this instance, the disclosure of Cooksey's treatment for stress does not meet the exacting standard mandated by Eighth Circuit case law.”

The court explained that "[n]ot every disclosure of personal information will implicate the constitutional right to privacy." As the Supreme Court cautioned in Paul v Davis, 424 U.S. 693, a decision addressing "unwarranted expansion" of the right to privacy: "The personal rights found in [the] guarantee of personal privacy must be limited to those which are `fundamental' or `implicit within the concept of ordered liberty'."

In Whalen v Roe, 429 US 589, the Supreme Court said that protection of the "individual interest in avoiding disclosure of personal matters," has been characterized as "the right to confidentiality."

The standard, according to the Eighth Circuit's ruling, is that to "violate the constitutional right of privacy the information disclosed must be either a shocking degradation or an egregious humiliation ... or a flagrant bre[a]ch of a pledge of confidentiality which was instrumental in obtaining the personal information."

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Paid Family Leave Webinars for Employers and HR Professionals -- Webinars are offered by the New York State Workers’ Compensation Board. Sign up for a free session to be held on Tuesday, February 9, 2021: 12:00 p.m. - 1:00 p.m. or Tuesday, March 2, 2021: 12:00 p.m. - 1:00 p.m. Submit your required registration form by clicking: Registration

Wild Thoughts by Julia Randall. A three-part series on wilderness ethics and management offers a comprehensive review of wilderness as a legal concept, an ecological condition and as a cultural phenomenon. Click on the following links to access Part I, What is Wilderness; Part II, For Whom Does Wilderness Exist?; and Part III, Wilderness and a Livable World. Ms. Randall's StoryMap can be found on the Adirondack Council’s website at:

Combating on the job misbehavior: An “app” (the #NotMe app) employers can make available to their personnel permitting the easy and timely submission of complaints of alleged supervisor or co-worker misconduct to personnel officers, human resource teams, compliance officers or designated individuals. Click on for information concerning this program.

Sexual Harassment is a form of unlawful discrimination: New York State's Internet guidelines addressing employer obligations to combat sexual harassment in the workplace is at:

The Steel Bar is the epic story of the rise and fall and rebirth of the Pittsburgh lawyer, from the earliest days of the Pittsburgh bar to the modern era, against the backdrop of American history." More at

Contaminants of Emergent Concern was discussed by Dr. Robert A. Michaels [] at the New York State Bar Association, Energy and Environmental Law Section on January 31, 2020. Dr. Michaels' remarks are posted for viewing/downloading at no charge at the following URL: Other articles addressing environmental issues by Dr. Michaels are posted on on the Internet at:

Ransomware continues assault against cities and businesses - take a look at the most recent attacks, how US and international cities have handled them, and advice for dealing with the aftermath. Keep reading.

Social Effects and Outcomes of Identity and ID Programs - Download this impact report that details research, use cases and tips for creating a successful municipal and government ID program to better transact with citizens by clicking here: Government ID Impact Report

New technology assists local governments to better serve its residents by using new technologies to save money, communicate with residents and allow taxpayers to make payment. Click here to download a report released on September 16, 2019 by New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli.

Governing Daily has posted a link to an item, How to Prevent Job Loss in the Public Sector, noting that when budgets get slashed and hiring comes to a halt, municipalities need a way protect their most valuable resources – people and finances. [Content provided by CentralSquare Technologies.] Click here to LEARN MORE

A CyberCemetery: The University of North Texas Libraries and the U.S. Government Printing Office, as part of the Federal Depository Library Program, created a partnership to provide permanent public access to the Internet sites and publications of defunct U.S.government agencies and commissions. Named the "CyberCemetery" by early users of the site, information about the collection is posted on the Internet at:; the latest additions to the collection are posted at:

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Subsequent court and administrative rulings, or additions or amendments to laws, rules and regulations may have modified or clarified or vacated or reversed or otherwise have had an impact on the decisions summarized here. Accordingly, these summaries should be Shepardized® or otherwise checked to make certain that the most recent information is being considered by the reader.



Consistent with the Declaration of Principles jointly adopted by a Committee of the American Bar Association and a Committee of Publishers and Associations, the material in New York Public Personnel Law is presented with the understanding that the publisher, editor, contributors or members of the staff are not providing legal advice to the reader and in the event legal or other expert assistance is needed, the reader is advised to seek such advice from a competent professional.