November 21, 2018

Requiring an employee to undergo a medical examination to determine his or her fitness to properly perform his or her duties



Requiring an employee to undergo a medical examination to determine his or her fitness to properly perform his or her duties
Brown v Bratton, 2018 NY Slip Op 07541, Appellate Division, First Department

Subdivision 1 of §72 of the Civil Service Law, Leave for ordinary disability, provides, in pertinent part, that "[w]hen in the judgment of an appointing authority an employee is unable to perform the duties of his or her position by reason of a disability, other than a disability resulting from occupational injury or disease as defined in the workers' compensation law, the appointing authority may require such employee to undergo a medical examination to be conducted by a medical officer selected by the civil service department or municipal commission having jurisdiction. Written notice of the facts providing the basis for the judgment of the appointing authority that the employee is not fit to perform the duties of his or her position shall be provided to the employee and the civil service department or commission having jurisdiction prior to the conduct of the medical examination."

Supreme Court denied Lisa Brown's petition seeking to annul and vacate New York Police Department's [NYPD] decision to refer her for a fitness-for-duty evaluation that ultimately resulted in Brown's suspension without pay for 58 days for "disobeying orders to sign Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act [HIPAA] releases."

Brown alleged that NYPD had required her "to submit to a fitness-for-duty evaluation without complying with Civil Service Law §72." Supreme Court ruled that NYPD's actions were not arbitrary and capricious and Brown's allegations were not supported by substantial evidence.

The Appellate Division unanimously affirmed the Supreme Court's ruling.

The Appellate Division decided that Brown failed to show that §72 was implicated in the New York Police Department [NYPD] decision to refer her for a fitness-for-duty evaluation. Although noting that §72 clearly states that "its procedural protections are triggered when an employer has determined that an employee is unfit for duty, at which point the employee is entitled to written notice of the grounds for the determination and an opportunity to challenge those grounds at a hearing," the Appellate Division said that witnesses for the NYPD had testified that, at the time Brown was referred for evaluation, NYPD [1] had not reached this threshold determination and [2] that the purpose of the evaluation was to insure, Brown's "worrisome on-the-job conduct notwithstanding", that she remained fit for duty.

The Appellate Division said that NYPD could not have provided Brown with the written notice to which she claims she was entitled because "it had neither adjudged her unable to perform her duties nor placed her on leave."

In any event, §72.1 vests such decision making in "a medical officer selected by the civil service department or municipal commission having jurisdiction," and requires the appointing authority to provide "[w]ritten notice of the facts providing the basis for the judgment of the appointing authority that the employee is not fit to perform the duties of his or her position ... be provided to the employee and the civil service department or commission having jurisdiction prior to the conduct of the medical examination."

§72.1 further provides that "[i]f, upon such medical examination, such medical officer shall certify that such employee is not physically or mentally fit to perform the duties of his or her position, the appointing authority shall notify such employee that he or she may be placed on leave of absence. An employee placed on leave of absence pursuant to this section shall be given a written statement of the reasons therefor. Such notice shall contain the reason for the proposed leave and the proposed date on which such leave is to commence, shall be made in writing and served in person or by first class, registered or certified mail, return receipt requested, upon the employee. Such notice shall also inform the employee of his or her rights under this procedure. An employee shall be allowed ten working days from service of the notice to object to the imposition of the proposed leave of absence and to request a hearing."

In contrast, §72.5 provides that "if the appointing authority determines that there is probable cause to believe that the continued presence of the employee on the job represents a potential danger to persons or property or would severely interfere with operations, it may place such employee on involuntary leave of absence immediately."

As to suspending an employee "for disobeying orders to sign HIPAA releases," it would appear that such an offense would result were the employee to decline to sign a HIPAA release requested by the medical officer selected by the civil service department or municipal commission having jurisdiction to evaluate the employee.

The Appellate Division found that NYPD's orders "were tailored to receive information from the medical providers that [Brown] had identified and, moreover, were further limited by subsequent agreement."

NYPD, said the court, "showed that the disclosure they ordered [Brown] to provide was appropriate in light of public safety considerations in view [of Brown's position as a] Supervisor Police Communication Technician, insuring that emergency 911 calls were immediately and accurately routed to the appropriate emergency responders, implicated public safety issues, giving the NYPD an interest in the records sufficient to outweigh [Brown's] privacy rights," citing O'Connor v Pierson, 426 F3d 187.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:




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