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August 26, 2010

Disqualifying an applicant for employment based on psychological evaluations

Disqualifying an applicant for employment based on psychological evaluations
Coffey v Kampe, NYS Supreme Court, [Not selected for publication in the Official Reports]

The Coffey case concerns the disqualification of an individual who wanted to become a police officer because he did not pass the psychological evaluation portion of the Police Officer examination. Section 50 of the Civil Service Law allows a municipal civil service commission to disqualify an applicant if, after passing the required examination, he or she is found not to meet any of the announced requirements.

Coffey took the written test for Nassau County police officer. He scored highly on the written test and was ranked 70th among 70,000 candidates. He also passed a background investigation. But he was disqualified based on the results the third part of Nassau County’s screening process: a three-tiered psychological test battery.

Coffey’s objected, but his appeal was dismissed by the Commission. He sued, contending that his disqualification was arbitrary or capricious. The Commission replied that it had acted in accordance with all relevant rules, policies, and standards, which it had adopted in order to properly administer the provisions of Section 50 of the Civil Service Law.

According to the decision, the Commission found that Coffey failed the psychological screening process because he did not “score within an acceptable range on the objective psychological screening test, and failed in the personal psychological test and interviews.”

The Commission’s psychological screening process had been reviewed and approved by the Appellate Division [Keryc v Nassau County Civil Service Commission, et al, 143 AD2d 669].

New York State Supreme Court Justice O’Connell said, “Courts have also upheld determinations of disqualification, where, as here, the Commissioner of Civil Service found that an applicant was unqualified to serve in a law enforcement position for poor results on standardized Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) exam, among other reasons,” citing the Appellate Division’s decision in Conlon v Commissioner of County of Suffolk, 640 NYS2d 145.

Under the Commission’s rules, the applicant has the burden of establishing his or her qualifications for appointment as a police officer. In dismissing Coffey’s petition, Justice O’Connell said that “where, as here, [the individual] was not actually an employee, but an applicant for appointment, he [or she] must demonstrate that the Commission was arbitrary and capricious, or acted in manner without a rational basis in not making the appointment. The Court ruled that Coffey had not proved this to be the case.

In addition, Justice O’Connell found that Coffey had failed to disclose certain information to the county including five military disciplinary proceedings, two of which resulted in disciplinary actions.

The full text of the ruling is at:
http://nypublicpersonnellawarchives.blogspot.com/

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