Involuntary leave under Civil Service Law Section 72
NYC Parks and Recreation v Matthews, OATH, 219/00
The New York City Department of Parks and Recreation wanted to place Rufus Matthews on leave pursuant to Section 72 of the Civil Service Law. Matthews objected.
The department claimed that Matthews, a park maintenance worker, was medically unfit to perform the duties and responsibilities of his position due to a heart condition.
Matthews, on the other hand, contended that he was fully able to perform the duties of his position notwithstanding his “heart condition.”
Pointing out that Section 72 places the “burden of proving mental or physical unfitness” upon the entity alleging it, OATH Administrative Law Judge [ALJ] Rosemarie Maldonado held that Parks and Recreation had failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that Matthews was “currently unfit” to competently perform his job duties as a city park maintenance worker.
Maldonado said that Matthews’s personal physician presented “compelling evidence” that [Matthews’] “cardiac rehabilitation was complete, and that physical exertion did not pose an unreasonable risk to his patient.”
In response to the department’s concern that Matthews “is endangering himself” by insisting that he be reinstated to full duty, the ALJ said while “commendably humanitarian,” the legal issue remains the impact of Matthew’s condition on his current ability to work.
Maldonado said that unless there is a clear showing of present impairment, the employer cannot place an individual on Section 72 leave “simply because there is some risk” that Matthews’ performance of his work might place him in some physical jeopardy.
According to the decision, where it is apparent at the time of the hearing that the employee’s condition is in check or otherwise under control, OATH has declined to find unfitness merely because of the existence of the potential for relapse or deterioration.