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Friday, September 05, 2014

Circumstantial evidence used to establish employee’s misconduct


Circumstantial evidence used to establish employee’s misconduct
OATH Index Nos. 587/14 & 1545/14

A laboratory assistant was charged with committing errors in processing specimens. OATH Administrative Law Judge Astrid B. Gloade found that the hospital met its burden of proving that the laboratory assistant had [1] sent a patient's specimen for testing which was accompanied by the documentation for a different patient and that the laboratory assistant and [2] had entered the wrong code on a requisition form for the testing of a patient’s specimen, which resulted in the wrong test being performed on the specimen, based solely on circumstantial evidence.*

The ALJ noted that although there was no direct evidence that the laboratory assistant was responsible for the errors underlying the charges, “circumstantial evidence supports finding that [the laboratory assistant] made the error." Judge Gloade then explained that “In a disciplinary proceeding, where the burden of proof is by a preponderance of the credible evidence, misconduct may be established solely by circumstantial evidence" [citations omitted]. 

Further, said the ALJ, “[i]n order to establish a fact in issue by circumstantial evidence, the inference sought to be drawn must be based on proven facts. The inference must be reasonably taken from the proven collateral facts.” Although the charging party “need not disprove all other possible explanations or inferences in order to sustain its case, it must show that the inference drawn is the only one that is fair and reasonable.”

Judge Gloade recommended that the laboratory assistant be terminated in view of her prior disciplinary history and because her misconduct endangered the safety of others.

* The ALJ's decision notes that "Circumstantial evidence is defined as ‘evidence of a collateral fact, that is, of a fact other than a fact in issue, from which, either alone or with other collateral facts, the fact in issue may be inferred,’" citing Richardson on Evidence §4-301.
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Handbooks focusing on State and Municipal Public Personnel Law continue to be available for purchase via the links provided below:

The Discipline Book at http://thedisciplinebook.blogspot.com/

A Reasonable Penalty Under The Circumstances at http://nypplarchives.blogspot.com

The Disability Benefits E-book: at http://section207.blogspot.com/

Layoff, Preferred Lists at http://nylayoff.blogspot.com/

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