Matter of State Div. of Human Rights on Complaint of Granelle, 70 N.Y.2d 100, 103, 510 N.E.2d 799 (1987).
In this case, Mr. Granelle was disqualified from employment as a NYPD Police Officer because of an asymptomatic back condition known as spondylolisthesis. The State Division of Human Rights found in his favor, but the Appellate Division dismissed his complaint. But the Court of Appeals reversed and held for Mr. Granelle.
The Division conducted an investigation and had a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. During the hearing Mr. Granelle testified about his employment history, which consisted mostly of heavy lifting such as working in the construction industry, laborer, and as a truck driver. But he stated that he never had any back problems that interfered with his jobs. He also introduced evidence from his personal physician who testified that this condition if present in about 10% of the general population and that this condition would not limit Mr. Granelle. The City used the testimony of an appeals examiner that did not conduct an examination of Mr. Granelle but opined that there was a great likelihood of low back disability in the future, but gave no reliable statics regarding this. Mr. Granelle was examined by an independent orthopedist who reported that his strength was normal.
The standard of review for the Court of Appeals is “when a rational basis for the conclusion adopted by the Commissioner is found, the judicial function is exhausted and is limited to determining whether the Commissioner’s finding of employment discrimination in this case is supported by substantial evidence in the record.” The court found that Mr. Granelle indeed suffers from a disability within the law. Under the statute there is an ”individualized standard“ such that the employer must demonstrate that the disability is such as would ”prevent the complainant from performing in a reasonable manner the activities involved in the job or occupation sought“, failing which, the disability may not be the basis for rejecting the applicant. The court reasoned that the City failed to show evidence that Granelle isn’t able to presently perform the tasks needed. The City argued that there was a high possibility that he would be unable to perform the needed tasks in the future but there was no reliable statistics. Ultimately the court held, “employment may not be denied based on speculation and mere possibilities, especially when such determination is premised solely on the fact of an applicant’s inclusion in a class of persons with a particular disability rather than upon an individualized assessment of the specific individual.”
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