TERMINATION AND OTHER CASES
A candidate for New York City Police Officer had received counseling at age 9 after he witnessed his childhood friend’s death when struck by an automobile. N.Y.P.D. psychologists found that the candidate suffered from post traumatic stress disorder and disqualified him from employment. Mr. Levine represented the candidate at a New York City Civil Service Commission appeal hearing, and introduced evidence showing that the old occurrence had no relationship to the applicant’s present life. The Commission then reversed the disqualification.
The New York City Police Department disqualified a Police Officer applicant on grounds he was too anxious in his responses to the psychological evaluation. A hearing was held before the New York City Civil Service Commission to appeal the job denial, and after successful cross-examination of the Police Department psychologist by Mr. Levine, the disqualification was reversed.
A Police Officer candidate had 10 driving summonses and 3 license suspensions. According to the N.Y.P.D., this suggested psychological problems, causing his disqualification. Mr. Levine argued at an appeal hearing that the summonses were unrelated to the candidate’s psychology. The New York City Civil Service Commission agreed, and reversed the disqualification.
After review by the N.Y.P.D. psychologist, a Police Officer candidate was found unsuitable due to his prior summons for public urination and certain answers given during psychological testing. Mr. Levine introduced evidence at an appeal hearing before the New York City Civil Service Commission demonstrating that the candidate’s psychological tests did not reveal any true mental problems, and that the urination offense was insignificant. The Commission reversed the disqualification.
The applicant for Police Officer employment, who had a prior marijuana arrest, was accused of having been argumentative and belligerent during his arrest, and having been reluctant to provide the details of the arrest when interviewed by the N.Y.P.D. psychologist. The arrest had been dismissed, and it was shown by Mr. Levine at a New York City Civil Service Commission appeal hearing that the candidate’s only resistance to Police occurred when he was brutalized by an Officer. The Civil Service Commission strongly criticized the N.Y.P.D. for improperly disqualifying the applicant on psychological grounds, and reversed the disqualification.
A Port Authority Police Officer applicant was denied employment on psychological grounds. When the decision was challenged by Mr. Levine, the Authority could not defend its case, as the medical records were destroyed on September 11, 2001. Mr. Levine used this procedural advantage to argue for new psychological testing, and the Court ordered that the candidate be re-examined and that a new decision be issued.
A New York City Police Officer candidate initially was found psychologically suitable for employment, but review by a second psychologist resulted in denial based on the candidate’s alleged defensiveness and lack of credibility. The case was argued before the New York City Civil Service Commission, where Mr. Levine established that the candidate was not unusually defensive and did not lack credibility. The Commission reversed the disqualification.
The N.Y.P.D. denied a Police Officer applicant due to his periods of unemployment, his failure to finish school, depression after his mother’s death, and weight gain. The Department contended that the candidate exhibited poor coping skills. Mr. Levine represented the client at an appeal hearing before the New York City Civil Service Commission. Evidence presented by Mr. Levine at the hearing demonstrated the candidate’s suitability for employment, and the Commission then reversed the N.Y.P.D. decision.
A candidate for New York City Police Officer was disqualified on grounds of poor judgment and poor impulse control relating to a prior arrest for assault, even though the old charge had been ruled false by another police department and the candidate had been exonerated. Mr. Levine presented the case before the New York City Civil Service Commission. The Commission, reversing the disqualification, chided the N.Y.P.D. for using psychological arguments as a cover for what should have been a character case.
Teenage school pranks leading to a high school suspension, prior job discipline for minor infractions such as lateness, several vehicle accidents and a Disorderly Conduct arrest after a bar fight, resulted in the psychological disqualification of a New York City Police Officer candidate. The client was represented by Mr. Levine before the New York City Civil Service Commission, and after presentation of mitigating evidence, the Commission reversed the disqualification.
A New York City Police Officer applicant had dropped out of school in the 9th grade after an altercation with a teacher; had failed to finish his college education; had not held continuous full-time employment; and had exhibited an immature attitude during his psychological interview. Mr. Levine argued to the New York City Civil Service Commission that the candidate was a hard worker with a good job history in the security field, and was a highly regarded Auxiliary Police Officer. Also argued was that the candidate was 15 years old at the time of the high school incident, after which he completed his G.E.D. requirement and then attended college as best he could while holding down several jobs. The Commission found the applicant suitable for employment, and reversed the disqualification.
A candidate was denied employment as a New York City Police Officer when an N.Y.P.D. psychologist indicated that the candidate lacked confidence, was soft-spoken and anxious, and suffered from poor stress tolerance. The applicant also had resigned from a job because of an argument with a customer. The New York City Civil Service Commission heard the appeal case. At the hearing, Mr. Levine demonstrated that the applicant had a good work history, had been an Auxiliary Police Officer for several years, had received his Associates Degree, and had submitted numerous letters from employers attesting to the applicant’s excellent work habits. Mr. Levine showed as well that the job resignation was a minor matter. The Commission then reversed the employment disqualification.
The New York City Police Officer candidate had failed two drug tests while in the United States Marine Corps. He also had attended 3 different colleges within 5 years. At the appeal hearing before the New York City Civil Service Commission, Mr. Levine presented evidence showing that the first military drug test had been thrown out because the chain of custody for the test sample had been compromised. A second positive test caused the applicant’s discharge from the military, however, upon cross-examination by Mr. Levine, the N.Y.P.D. substance use evaluator could not show any indication that the candidate was suffering from an alcohol or drug problem. Mr. Levine also showed that the candidate had attended the colleges which best fit into his changing schedule. The disqualification was reversed by the Commission.
A job candidate for New York City Police Officer was denied employment due to anxiety and poor stress tolerance. A few years earlier, he had been talking on the telephone with his wife who worked in the World Trade Center. The day was September 11, 2001. As the two were talking, the phone line went dead when the first airplane crashed into the tower, killing the candidate’s wife. Only the previous evening, she had told the candidate that she was pregnant. Some weeks later, the candidate left his job as an express deliveryman in Manhattan because he felt depressed and uncomfortable working in the City. He moved to Long Island to be near his relatives. Within a few years, he had remarried, built a house, and started a new family. Despite this amazing emotional recovery, the N.Y.P.D. asserted that the applicant’s actions after 9/11 demonstrated that he suffered from anxiety and poor stress tolerance. With competent psychological evidence, Mr. Levine proved to the New York City Civil Service Commission that the candidate’s reaction to his wife’s death not only was normal, but his subsequent remarriage and beginning of a new life after such a horrible tragedy was remarkable. Upon Mr. Levine’s presentation, the Commission rejected the N.Y.P.D. position and reversed the disqualification.
The New York City Police Officer applicant was claimed to suffer from depression, poor interpersonal skills and thought disturbance. The City also alleged that the candidate had unusual psychometric testing scores, and was nervous during his psychological interview. At a New York City Civil Service Commission hearing, Mr. Levine established that the applicant’s test scores were within normal limits, and that his interpersonal skills were excellent; the candidate was engaged to be married and had a four-year-old son. Mr. Levine also emphasized that the candidate had worked for 14 years as a Correction Officer. After hearing all evidence, the disqualification was reversed by the Commission.
Mr. Levine successfully had represented a New York City Police Officer candidate whose job disqualification was based upon his military disciplinary record involving some fights, a suspension from high school, and several of the candidate’s own statements, including that usually he did not feel cheerful and happy. The candidate had stated also that ordinarily he was not treated fairly, and that people would try to take advantage of him. However, at an appeal hearing, Mr. Levine convinced the New York City Civil Service Commission that the applicant was qualified for employment, and the Commission reversed the disqualification. The N.Y.P.D. then sued in State Supreme Court to overturn the Commission’s decision. Mr. Levine continued to represent the candidate in Court, and after review by both the Supreme Court and Appellate Division Court, the Commission ruling in favor of the candidate was affirmed.
A candidate for New York State Court Officer was disqualified after three agency psychologists found him unsuited for employment. An appeal psychologist disagreed, and found the candidate qualified. Mr. Levine filed suit against the New York State Office of Court Administration, and proved that the three agency psychologists had reached entirely different and inconsistent opinions about why the candidate was not suitable. Upon proof of this incoherent set of professional opinions, the Court remanded the matter to the agency for further review. Mr. Levine then successfully negotiated favorable settlement terms, which ultimately resulted in the candidate being hired as a Court Officer.
The applicant for employment as a New York City Police Officer was claimed to suffer from suicidal ideation. The candidate had stated at his psychological interview that, at age 15, when he was not getting along with his parents, he imagined that he "did not want to be here." The New York City Civil Service Commission held an appeal hearing. At the hearing, Mr. Levine offered expert psychological opinion evidence showing that
the candidate had been referring to his childhood feelings about not wanting to be in high school, where he felt isolated because of his racial minority status. The Commission agreed that the N.Y.P.D. psychologist had taken the candidate’s words out of context, and reversed the disqualification.
A New York City Correction Officer candidate was disqualified because of his arrest record for grand larceny (auto theft), criminal possession of a weapon, depositing a stolen check, and driving with a suspended license. Mr. Levine represented the applicant at a hearing before the New York City Civil Service Commission, where the past incidents were reviewed and explained. The grand larceny arrest occurred when the candidate only had been a passenger in a car which he did not know was stolen. The weapon case, brought about by a police seizure at a traffic checkpoint, involved a knife kept in the rear of the candidate’s vehicle. The knife routinely was used by the candidate for work purposes. The stolen check charge resulted from the candidate’s receiving a friend’s check, which the friend endorsed and asked the candidate to deposit in the candidate’s own bank account. The candidate had no knowledge that his friend had stolen the check. Lastly, the driving violation happened because the candidate was unaware that his license had been suspended. An earlier traffic ticket had been paid by the candidate, but apparently the payment had not been properly credited by the government, causing a suspension of the license. The Civil Service Commission reversed the disqualification after consideration of all the evidence.
Psychologists for the Nassau County Police Department disqualified a Police Officer applicant on grounds that she was not psychologically suited for police work. Mr. Levine, working closely with an expert in the field of law enforcement psychological disqualifications, established to the Nassau County Civil Service Commission that the opinions of the agency psychologists were incorrect. After further consideration, the Commission reversed the disqualification.
The applicant for employment as a New York City Police Officer had a felony arrest history including assault, burglary, grand larceny and other charges. After the candidate was disqualified by the N.Y.P.D., Mr. Levine filed an appeal with the New York City Civil Service Commission. At the appeal hearing, Mr. Levine submitted evidence to show that the candidate had a difficult family history, and eventually became a runaway from foster homes. However, in later years, the candidate became a productive citizen, earning a college degree and working as a School Safety Officer. The Commission reversed the N.Y.P.D. disqualification.
The New York City Police Department denied employment to a Police Officer candidate with a history of arrests and driving violations. The applicant’s arrests occurred when he was young, and while he was under the influence of his older brother who was a drug dealer. As the candidate matured, he changed his life, pursuing an education and building a good work history. Mr. Levine presented these facts at a hearing before the New York City Civil Service Commission. The Commission agreed that the candidate, for years already, had changed his life. The Commission found also that the driving offenses had occurred over many years time and were not egregious. The disqualification was reversed.
A candidate for New York City Police Officer was disqualified for failing to list two prior arrests on his employment application. The N.Y.P.D. believed that he had lied. An appeal hearing was held by the New York City Civil Service Commission, at which Mr. Levine argued that the candidate had good reasons for failing to list the arrests. Both arrests were wrongful, the candidate never was charged with any offenses, and he was released by police shortly after each arrest. As a result, the candidate believed honestly that he had nothing to disclose. Also, dismissed arrests or arrests not resulting in any charges commonly are treated as a legal nullity, leaving a person in the same legal position as if they never had been arrested. The Commission decided that the candidate had not intentionally omitted any facts, and reversed the disqualification.
Three prior arrest cases were used as the basis to disqualify a New York City Police Officer candidate. The various arrests involved charges of grand larceny, criminal possession of stolen property, petit larceny and assault. The disqualification case was appealed to the New York City Civil Service Commission, where Mr. Levine demonstrated that two of the arrest cases were groundless, and were dismissed. The third, involving stolen property, also was without merit, though the candidate plead guilty to a minor offense to avoid further legal costs. Mr. Levine also argued that the candidate’s excellent work record as a Traffic Enforcement Agent proved that he had good character. The Commission reversed the N.Y.P.D. disqualification.
A New York City Correction Officer candidate was claimed to have a heart condition, causing his disqualification from employment. Mr. Levine argued the appeal before the New York City Civil Service Commission, and presented expert opinion evidence in favor of the candidate. It was shown to the Commissioners that some of the medical testing used by the agency was not dependable, and that more reliable later tests confirmed that the candidate was in good health. The disqualification was reversed by the Commission.
TERMINATION AND OTHER CASES
A Substance Abuse Specialist was terminated from employment by the New York City Board of Education after allegations of using corporal punishment against students. The Board’s Investigator said 11 students and one teacher alleged that the Specialist had disciplined students by hitting them with a broomstick, punching them, forcing them to do as many as 100 push-ups and refusing to allow them to eat lunch for a week at a time. The Specialist, who claimed that the accusations were politically motivated, filed a grievance. At arbitration, Mr. Levine introduced evidence showing that the allegations were unfounded. The students who were questioned by Mr. Levine testified that they never saw the Specialist strike anyone, and two students said that the Specialist only was "playing around" when softly punching at students. It was shown also that physical exercise ordered by the Specialist was an accepted practice used at the school to help unruly students calm down. In addition, Mr. Levine proved that even though misbehaving students sometimes were barred from eating in the lunchroom, they would have their meals in another room instead. After presentation of all evidence, the arbitrator restored the Specialist to his position with full back pay and benefits.
The United States Postal Service terminated a Postal Clerk who was accused of assaulting another employee. The Clerk, in response, said that other workers, including her supervisor, were prejudiced and were lying about the incident. The termination occurred after a postal employee claimed that the Clerk had pulled the employee’s hair; a claim supported by the supervisor. However, at the arbitration hearing following termination, Mr. Levine demonstrated that the complaining employee had not told the whole truth, and that the supervisor was biased. Mr. Levine proved that the employee’s hair was pulled by the Clerk in self-defense after the employee punched the Clerk in the face. It was proven also that the supervisor had a rocky relationship with the Clerk ever since the Clerk had filed a government complaint against the supervisor over unlawful working conditions at the postal facility. That complaint had resulted in a fine against the Postal Service. The arbitrator discounted the supervisor’s testimony due to the poor relationship, and in addition found that the supervisor had failed to conduct a pre-disciplinary interview before serving termination papers on the Clerk. Taking into consideration the Clerk’s good work record, and the mitigating fact that the Clerk was not the initial aggressor, the arbitrator reduced the penalty from termination to a suspension.
A candidate for New York City Police Officer had his employment application placed on "review," a procedure used when the agency is not sure whether to hire or disqualify an applicant. However, the review committee took no action on the application, and the candidate would have lost all chance of employment when the Eligible List expired. Mr. Levine filed a lawsuit, arguing that the candidate had a right to a decision. The Court agreed, and ordered the N.Y.P.D. to issue a hiring decision. This protected the candidate’s right to appeal to the New York City Civil Service Commission if disqualified.
Allegations of illegal tenancy were made by the New York City Housing Authority against one of its employees. The employee was accused of living in a relative’s N.Y.C.H.A. apartment without authorization. The employee, who spent time at the apartment and received mail there, denied living on the premises. The Authority forced the case to trial, and presented evidence against the employee. However, Mr. Levine cross-examined the Authority’s witnesses, and proved that the employee’s visitation and receipt of mail at the apartment did not violate any N.Y.C.H.A. regulations. Upon a motion to dismiss made by Mr. Levine, the Trial Officer dismissed the case.
The New York State Department of Taxation and Finance terminated a probationary Tax Auditor Trainee on grounds of incompetence. An Article 78 proceeding was prepared by Mr. Levine, and it was demonstrated to the Department that the employee had not been given appropriate instruction from her Supervisor. It was shown also that the Supervisor had been unfair, mistreating the employee for unknown personal reasons. Upon the strength of the lawsuit, the agency settled the case and reinstated the employee.
Employees and supervisors had engaged in rat-baiting—trying to push someone to the emotional edge through taunting, threats or other harassment—against a fellow probationary New York City employee. The employee also was given poor performance evaluations, and eventually was terminated. Mr. Levine represented the employee in a lawsuit filed against the agency. The City sought immediate dismissal of the case, arguing that since the employee was probationary, he could be fired for any reason or no reason, and thus had no right to relief in Court. Mr. Levine countered that the employee was entitled to a trial because the acts of hostility directed at him demonstrated that his termination was based upon illegal bad faith reasons. The Court found that the incidents cited by Mr. Levine created sufficient issues of fact about whether the termination was in bad faith, and ordered that a trial be held.
The candidate for New York City Firefighter had filed an employment application from his residence in Westchester County. Later, the candidate moved into New York City and became entitled to a 5-point City residency credit, which would be deducted from his Eligible List score. However, he notified the Department of Citywide Administrative Services of his new residence after the deadline date for such notification. As a result, D.C.A.S. correctly denied the residency credit, thus placing the candidate much lower on the Eligible List. Although the legal time period for notification had long since passed, Mr. Levine took the case, and after negotiations with D.C.A.S., the City changed its position and agreed to issue the 5-point credit.
A New York City Police Officer suffered from emotional disturbance after longstanding harassment from other employees, and eventually lashed out at fellow Officers. The N.Y.P.D. placed the Officer on restricted duty and ordered his guns removed. However, even though the Officer’s disability resulted from the hostile work environment created by others, the Department refused to issue a disability retirement pension. Instead, the N.Y.P.D. filed disciplinary charges against the Officer, hoping that he would resign. Mr. Levine represented the Officer, and obtained the services of a colleague, a law enforcement psychological expert. Using this additional strength to support the Officer’s case, Mr. Levine settled the disciplinary matter, and the Department approved the disability pension.
The City of New York had denied a disability pension to a civil service employee who claimed that he had been injured while working. The employee had submitted medical proof substantiating his claim of injury, but could not get the City to approve the pension. Mr. Levine was retained by the employee, and found several mistakes in the employee’s application process. After correction of the errors, and presentation of further medical documentation with legal argument, the pension was granted.