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June 4, 2012

Administrative Law Judge holds that intent is a pre-requisite for a finding of misconduct

Administrative Law Judge holds that intent is a pre-requisite for a finding of misconduct
OATH Index No. 802/12

A sanitation worker was charged with committing misconduct for being absent without leave (“AWOL”).

The worker, however, established that he was absent on the days charged because voices told him he would be killed if he attended in the course of the disciplinary hearing. The worker also submitted medical records documenting a history of his mental disability.*

Because intent is a pre-requisite for a finding of misconduct, OATH Administrative Law Judge Faye Lewis recommended dismissal of the charges.

In the words of Judge Lewis, “Where respondent’s disability caused him to have a sincere belief that he would be killed if he went to work, he cannot be blamed for not doing so. Respondent lacked the intent that is a prerequisite under section 75 of the Civil Service Law for a finding of misconduct. Therefore, his absence without authorization did not constitute misconduct.”

The ALJ also noted that the agency is not precluded from seeking to place the employee on disability leave [see Civil Service Law §72.

* In an administrative disciplinary action the accused “may defend against the charges by showing that he [or she] lacked the requisite intent to commit the charged misconduct because he was mentally incapacitated. Such a defense is in the nature of an affirmative defense which respondent bears the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence.” Health & Hospitals Corp. (Lincoln Medical & Mental Health Ctr.) v. Bruce, OATH Index No. 138/10

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