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Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Disability not a defense to charges of excessive absence from work


Disability not a defense to charges of excessive absence from work
New York City Office of Administrative Tribunals and Hearings Index No. 1410/16

New York City’s Department of Environmental Protection filed disciplinary charges against one of its employees, A.M., alleging that A.M. had been excessively absent since 2014. A.M., who had an absenteeism rate of over 50%, contended that as an individual “hired under the Civil Service Law §55-a Program” due to her diabetes,* §55-a “protected” her from such disciplinary charges and, in addition, presented numerous doctors’ notes to support her absences.

OATH Administrative Law Judge Kara J. Miller found that participation in a §55-a** program position was not a defense to excessive absenteeism and A.M.’s medical notes illustrated her habit of visiting different urgent care clinics every few days in order obtain doctor’s notes and avoid returning to work.

Judge Miller recommended termination of A.M. employment.

Excessive absenteeism as a basis for termination was an issue in Cicero v Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority, 264 AD2d 334.

The Authority terminated a toll collector, after finding him guilty of a number of charges including excessive absences. The Appellate Division rejected the toll collector’s argument that his absences were approved and medically justified and therefore excused for the purposes of maintaining any disciplinary action against him.

In Dickinson v New York State Unified Ct. Sys, 99 AD3d 569, the Appellate Division unanimously confirmed the termination of an employee found guilty of “certain disciplinary charges” that alleged both misconduct and incompetency due to excessive absenteeism and lateness. As to the penalty imposed, termination, the court said that it did not shock its sense of fairness as “[b]eing present at work is an essential job function” and an employee’s "disability ... may not be used to shield him [or her] from the adverse consequences of inadequate job performance."

* The Americans with Disabilities Act provides that the determination of whether impairment is a disability is to be made without regard to the ameliorative effects of mitigating measures; diabetes is deemed a disability even if insulin, medication, or diet controls a person's blood glucose levels. 

** §55-a of the Civil Service Law provides for the employment of persons with disabilities by municipalities in position in the competitive class having duties which can be performed by physically or mentally disabled persons who are found qualified to perform satisfactorily such duties. Upon such a determination, the position is jurisdictionally reclassified to non-competitive class.

The A.M. decision is posted on the Internet at:

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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