An agency investigating a particular complaint on behalf of an employee may not, without prior notice to the employer, make broad findings of fact involving the employer's "over-all operations" and impose sanctions
MTA Bus Co. v New York State Div. of Human Rights, 2017 NY Slip Op 03903, Appellate Division, First Department
The New York State Division of Human Rights [SDHR] found that the MTA's policy of disqualifying all employees with bipolar disorder from working as a bus operator was an unlawful discriminatory act. The Division order MTA to pay a civil fine and penalty of $30,000. MTA appealed and the Appellate Division unanimously annulled the Division's decision and dismissed the complaint.
The Appellate Division noted that the record demonstrates, and the SDHR determined, that the "employee complainant" [Complainant], a bus operator, was placed on restricted duty for reasons unrelated to his alleged disability of bipolar disorder and ultimately terminated from his position. The record also indicated that Complainant had a "reckless driving record and that MTA dismissed him for his conduct in vandalizing three buses in passenger service." The court held that MTA "was justified" in terminating Complainant.
The court, however, said that rather than dismissing the complaint, SDHR proceeded to conclude that "[b]ecause MTA has a blanket policy disqualifying all employees with bipolar disorder from being appointed to, or remaining in, the Bus Operator position and passenger service, and because [MTA] does not individually assess the ability of those with bipolar disorder to perform the essential functions of the job, [MTA's] policy violates the Human Rights Law."
SDHR had not advised MTA that its policies with respect to the employment of individuals with a bipolar disorder were going to be reviewed. Such failure on the part of SDHR, said the court, denied MTA its right to due process.
The Appellate Division explained that although SDHR, its own motion, may investigate and file a complaint alleging discriminatory practices, it did not do in this instance. Rather, while investigating the bus operator's complaint, which was filed solely on his behalf and found that he had not been discriminated against, SDHR could not "and at the same time," make broad findings of fact and impose broad sanctions pertaining to MTA's "over-all operations."
The decision is posted on the Internet at: