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Monday, March 23, 2015

An employer’s failure to make an individualized assessment of a disabled applicant’s particular abilities to perform the duties of the position required constitutes unlawful discrimination


An employer’s failure to make an individualized assessment of a disabled applicant’s particular abilities to perform the duties of the position required constitutes unlawful discrimination
Brentwood Union Free School Dist. v Kirkland, 2015 NY Slip Op 02121, Appellate Division, Second Department

In an appeal challenging a determination by the Commissioner of the New York State Division of Human Rights, made after a hearing before an administrative law judge who found that the Brentwood Union Free School District, unlawfully discriminated against the complainant, the Appellate Division explained that the scope of judicial review under the Human Rights Law is extremely narrow and is confined to the consideration of whether the determination of the New York State Division of Human Rights is supported by substantial evidence* in the record. Further, said the court "Courts may not weigh the evidence or reject the Division's determination where the evidence is conflicting and room for choice exists."

Here there was substantial evidence in the record to support a conclusion that Brentwood unlawfully discriminated against the complainant by denying him employment based solely on his membership in a class of persons with the same condition, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, instead of upon an individualized assessment of his particular abilities.

While Brentwood did offer some evidence at the hearing that the complainant's condition may have prevented him from performing the duties of the job in a reasonable manner, the decision points out that Brentwood did not have this information at the time it made its determination not to employ the complainant.

In any event, said the Appellate Division, “this evidence merely conflicted with other evidence in the record indicating that the complainant's disability did not render him incapable of performing the duties of the job in a reasonable manner" and “it is the function of the administrative agency, not the reviewing court, to weigh the evidence or assess the credibility of the witnesses.”

The Appellate Division confirmed the findings of the Division and its award of damages in the principal sums of $66,488 for back pay, and $5,000 in compensatory damages, with interest at the rate of 9% from June 14, 2012, for mental anguish and humiliation to the complainant.

* The Court said that substantial evidence "means such relevant proof as a reasonable mind may accept as adequate to support a conclusion or ultimate fact . . . . More than seeming or imaginary, it is less than a preponderance of the evidence, overwhelming evidence or evidence beyond a reasonable doubt"

The decision is posted on the Internet at: 
http://www.nycourts.gov/reporter/3dseries/2015/2015_02121.htm



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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