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January 24, 2011

Applying for reinstatement following a §73 termination from a §72 disability leave

Applying for reinstatement following a §73 termination from a §72 disability leave
Matter of Coleman v State of New York, Appellate Division, Third Department, 38 AD3d 1044

Coleman was involved in an off-duty automobile accident and was placed on disability leave pursuant to §72 of the Civil Service Law. After she had been continuously absent for more than one year, the Department terminated her in accordance with the provisions of §73 of the Civil Service Law.*

§73 provides that an individual terminated after being absent on leave pursuant to §72 may apply for reinstatement to his or her former position within one year after the termination the disability underlying being placed on §72 leave by applying to the civil service department or municipal commission having jurisdiction over the position “for a medical examination to be conducted by a medical officer selected for that purpose by such department or commission.”

When Coleman initially applied for reinstatement she was evaluated to determine is she was fit to perform the essential duties of a correction officer.

Ultimately, the New York State Department of Correctional Services disqualified Delores Coleman for employment as a correction officer based on the Department’s medical expert opinion that Coleman was not psychologically qualified for the position. Coleman appealed.

Although Coleman was initially approved for reinstatement, information subsequently provided by the Department resulted in a second evaluation that concluded that she was "poorly suited" for the position. According to the decision, Coleman’s responses to specific questions during a subsequent psychological interview raised significant concerns about her judgment and integrity and as a result, she was denied reinstatement to her former position of correction officer..

Coleman contended that: Corrections incorrectly utilized the standards required of a new correction officer outlined in Correction Law §8 in rejecting her request to be reinstated to her former position with the Department.

The Appellate Division rejected Coleman’s argument, noting that although prior to 2004, a correction officer seeking reinstatement was examined solely to determine whether the disability still existed, by January 2004, [the Department] changed the medical evaluation processing of correction officer reinstatements to mirror the processing of correction officer trainee candidates.**

Accordingly, said the court, Corrections had the statutory authority under Civil Service Law §73 to determine if Coleman was mentally fit to return to her position as a correction officer and its use of the psychological standards detailed in Correction Law §8 for that purpose was entirely proper, It then dismissed her appeal.

* Section 73 of the Civil Service Law provides for the removal of a tenured employee in the classified service if he or she has been continuously absent from work for one year or more because of a non-work related injury or illness. Termination pursuant to Section 73 is at the discretion of the appointing authority. [Termination following a cumulative period absence of one year or more due to a work-connected injury or illness is controlled by §71 of the Civil Service Law. Again, termination of an individual placed on a §71 leave of absence is at the discretion of the appointing authority.]

** Correction Law Section 8 (2) provides that all applicants for the position of correction officer must undergo a psychological evaluation to determine if they are "suffering from psychotic disorders, serious character disorders, or other disorders which could hinder performance on the job [and] may be deemed ineligible for appointment."

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