Complaint for Wrongful Termination Based on Psychological Disability is Reinstated by New York Appellate Court

In its February 11, 2015 decision in Regan v. City of Geneva, the Appellate Court, Fourth Department, reinstated the complaint for disability discrimination of a former police officer who was suspended from his job after he was arrested for driving while intoxicated. Shortly after he was suspended, the plaintiff entered into a rehabilitation program for posttraumatic stress disorder. After he was released from that program, Mr. Regan was informed by Geneva’s Chief of Police that he was terminated.

The trial court dismissed Regan’s complaint because it found that it was “equally likely” that he was terminated because of his criminal charge, as opposed to his psychological condition. In reinstating Mr. Regan’s complaint, the Appellate Division held that “facts that equally support opposing inferences” must be resolved in favor of a plaintiff alleging discrimination, and thus concluded that the lower court had imposed too high a burden on disability discrimination plaintiffs. In so holding, the Appellate Division offered a legal standard that is highly favorable to employment discrimination plaintiffs in New York. To set forth an actionable claim for discrimination under the New York State Human Rights Law (Executive Law Sect. 290) a terminated employee only has to show that it was “equally” likely that his or her termination was discriminatory. By making that showing, an employee (or former employee) in New York State has established a strong enough case to enable a jury to decide whether or not he or she has been discrimination against.

The Plaintiff was represented by Bosman Law Firm.

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