Failure to produce a valid license required to perform the duties of the position bars individual’s employment

Failure to produce a valid license required to perform the duties of the position bars individual’s employment
NYC Department of Sanitation v Wright, OATH Index #1601/12

OATH Administrative Law Judge John B. Spooner found that the worker’s failure to possess a valid driver’s license barred him from continued employment as a sanitation worker. The Appointing Authority adopted Judge Spooner recommendation that the individual be terminated from his position.

The decision indicates that the worker “violated department rules by failing to have a valid driver’s license and not having the license reinstated after being notified of the need to do so.”

Where a valid license, permit or certification is required to lawfully perform the duties of the position, courts have ruled that an individual may be suspended without pay if he or she becomes unable to lawfully perform the duties of the position because of a lack of, or the loss of, the required license, certification or similar permit. “Summarily” in this context means without preferring disciplinary charges and providing a due process hearing once the individual has been given a reasonable opportunity to produce the required credential and has failed to do so.

Common examples of situations leading to a valid summary dismissal include the revocation of a truck driver’s permit to operate a motor vehicle on public roads, the loss of an attorney’s license to practice law and the expiration of a temporary permit to teach. All that appears to be necessary in such cases is for the appointing authority to make some reasonable inquiry to determine if the employee may lawfully perform the duties of the position.

Essentially courts have viewed employees who lack such a required credential as being “unqualified,” in contrast to being “incompetent,” to perform the duties of the position. As the Court of Appeals indicated in New York State Off. of Children & Family Servs. v Lanterman, 14 NY3d 275, termination from the position because the individual does not possess a valid required license or certification is not a disciplinary termination.

Other examples include Meliti v Nyquist, 53 AD2d 951, affirmed 41 NY2d 183 (immediate suspension of teachers was lawful because their teaching licenses had expired) and O’Keefe v Niagara Mohawk Power Corp, 714 FSupp 622, (traveling company demonstrator was not discriminated against when a private sector employer terminated the individual after his driver’s license was suspended).

In contrast, in Martin ex rel Lekkas, 86 AD2d 712, the issue focused on the employer's requiring Lekkas, an Assistant Clinical Physician, to have a valid license to practice medicine while serving as an administrator, a position that did not involve Lekkas’ practicing medicine. The appointing authority had terminated Lekkas from his position because he did not hold a valid New York State license to practice medicine. The Appellate Division ruled that only in the event the duties of the position require the incumbent to be licensed may the lack of such a license serve as grounds for termination.

The decision is posted on the Internet at: