June 11, 2019

Selection of a medical officer to examine an employee terminated from her position pursuant to §72.5 of the Civil Service Law to determine the individual's "fitness for reinstatement" to the position

An individual [Plaintiff] was placed on "ordinary disability leave" involuntarily by the appointing authority pursuant to Civil Service Law §72(5).* About two years later Plaintiff was terminated from her position by the appointing authority pursuant to Civil Service Law §73.**

When she sought to be reinstated to her position the Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) designated an outside entity, JurisSolutions, to provide a medical officer to examine Plaintiff to determine her fitness to return to duty. Following the medical examination, Plaintiff filed a CPLR Article 78 petition contending that the physicians that had conducted her fit-for-duty evaluation were unqualified.

The Appellate Division dismissed Plaintiff's cause of action, holding that DCAS did not improperly delegate its duty to select a medical officer to an outside entity, JurisSolutions.

Both Civil Service Law §72(1) and §73 essentially provide that "When 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 . . . 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."

The court, noting that neither §72(1) or §73 mandates any method that the "civil service department or municipal commission having jurisdiction" must use to select the medical officer, and nothing in the text prohibits DCAS from employing a procurement process to select the medical officer who will conduct the evaluation.

The Appellate Division then cited Lazzari v Town of Eastchester, 20 NY3d 214, a case involving a public employee on "worker's compensation leave" pursuant to §71 of the Civil Service Law, in which the Court of Appeals opined "Although Civil Service Law §71 does not indicate to whom the certification must be made, read in context, it is clear that the certification is made to the Department of Human Resources acting as a civil service commission, the body that arranges for the examination and to whom the results of such an examination are reported. Indeed, the purpose of section 71 is to involve a neutral agency and a physician, independent of both the employee and the employer, with appropriate oversight."

The Appellate Division, noting that "Although JurisSolutions provides the doctors, DCAS maintains complete control over the selection process," rejected Plaintiff's contention that the doctors that conducted her fit-for-duty evaluation were unqualified as not being supported by the record, and the hearing officer's determinations concerning the doctors' credibility should not be disturbed.

* Civil Service Law §72(5), in pertinent part, provides "Notwithstanding any other provisions of this section, 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."

** Civil Service Law §73 of the Civil Service Law provides, in pertinent part, "When an employee has been continuously absent from and unable to perform the duties of his position for one year or more by reason of a disability, other than a disability resulting from occupational injury or disease as defined in the workmen's compensation law, his employment status may be terminated and his position may be filled by a permanent appointment."

The decision is posted on the Internet at: