Possession of a valid license or permit to perform the duties of the position

Possession of a valid license or permit to perform the duties of the position
Lutz v Krokoff, 2012 NY Slip Op 07938, Appellate Division, Third Department

It is well settled that employment in certain positions or occupations in New York State requires the individual to posses a valid license or its equivalent. Examples of this include teaching in a public school, operating motor vehicle on public highways, practicing law or medicine and serving as a certified public account. In the event the individual no longer possesses the required license or permit, he or she can neither lawfully perform nor be permitted to perform the duties requiring the possession of a valid permit or license.*

When it learned that a police officer’s driver's license was temporarily revoked, the police department’s chief advised the officer that possession of a valid driver's license was a minimum qualification for employment by the department as a police officers and gave him an opportunity to provide documentation demonstrating that he possessed a valid driver’s license.**

When the officer could not produce evidence that he possessed a valid driver’s license his employment was terminated “for failure to meet the minimum qualifications for his position.”

The officer then initiated an Article 78 proceeding challenging his termination as arbitrary and capricious and affected by an error of law. Supreme Court dismissed the police officer’s petition, prompting his appeal to the Appellate Division.

The police department, conceding that possession of a valid driver's license was not specifically listed as a minimum qualification for appointment to the position of a police officer, nevertheless contended that such a license was an implied requirement in view of the fact that the job description for its police officers listed, among other things, the "[a]bility to operate an automobile."

The Appellate Division was not persuaded by this argument, ruling that “summary dismissal of an employee based merely upon an inference cannot be countenanced.” In contrast, said the court, “Where summary dismissal has been upheld for failure to maintain a minimum qualification of employment, the qualification at issue has been clearly and explicitly set forth.”

Further, the court observed that the record indicated that almost one third of the police officers employed by the department performed functions other than those requiring possession of a valid driver’s license and noted that the department’s “Standard Operating Procedures” stated that a police officer shall "[p]ossess a valid New York State driver[']s license, whenever required as a condition of employment" (emphasis supplied by the court).

In the court’s view, this “conditional language” suggested that that there were police officers in the department who were not required to possess a driver's license as a necessary condition of employment.

Noting that the civil service commission having jurisdiction had promulgated a class specification for another position, firefighter, that explicitly required the possession of a valid New York State driver's license at the time of employment and throughout the duration of the individual’s employment as a firefighter, the Appellate Division concluded that the police officer’s termination without a hearing was both arbitrary and capricious and contrary to law and reversed the lower court’s ruling

* See, for example, Meliti v Nyquist, 41 NY2d 183

** In the words of the Appellate Division, citing Carr v NYS Dept. of Transportation, 30 AD3d 1110, "an employee charged with failing to possess a minimum qualification of his or her position is only entitled to notice of the charge and the opportunity to contest it.”

The decision is posted on the Internet at: