January 21, 2021

Courts apply the substantial evidence standard when considering a challenge to the penalty imposed following a disciplinary action

A police detective [Plaintiff] was terminated from his position after being found guilty of possessing and ingesting methamphetamine. The Appellate Division found that there was substantial evidence in the record supporting the finding that Petitioner possessed and ingested methamphetamine.

Noting that "[T]hree samples of hair from [Plaintiff's] [leg] were subjected to repeated testing by independent laboratories and yielded positive results," the court opined that to the extent there were conflicting expert opinions as to the efficacy of drug testing using hair, as well as character witness testimony tending to show that petitioner did not use drugs, "courts may not weigh the evidence or reject the choice made" by the hearing officer to accept or reject particular testimony.

As to the penalty imposed, dismissal from his position, the Appellate Division said it found "no grounds" to vacate the penalty as "[t]he [appointing authority's] dismissal of a police officer for using illegal drugs is not so disproportionate to the offense as to be shocking to one's sense of fairness."

Rejecting Petitioner's contention that the employer "failed to apply the preponderance of the evidence standard," the Appellate Division observed that its review "is limited to a consideration of whether [the penalty imposed] was supported by substantial evidence upon the whole record," citing 300 Gramatan Ave. Assoc., 45 NY2d at 181.

Click here to access the text of the Appellate Division's decision

 

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