An applicant referred to anonymously in a court’s opinion as “Farhan Doe” sued the New York Police Department, alleging he had been turned down for employment because of his religious beliefs. In 2009, Doe applied for appointment as an NYPD cadet. A NYPD psychologist found that Doe was psychologically unsuitable for appointment due to a combination of factors including: (1) Depression because psychological testing suggested the presence of depressive feeling and social withdrawal; (2) bias because Doe answered in the affirmative to the question “Do you think that homosexuals should be locked up?” and stated that he believed that homosexual people were criminals and should be incarcerated to keep them from committing any more crimes; and (3) poor work history because Doe dropped out of high school, took two years to complete his GED, and had never even held a part-time job.
In 2010, Doe tried again. NYPD provides police officer candidates with a new and individual evaluation with a different psychologist for each exam. Doe fared no better this time, with the psychologist disqualifying Doe in part because Doe’s bias against homosexuals “serves as a significant liability should he be unable to perform his duties when working with homosexuals or if a fellow officer or supervisor would identify as homosexual.”
Doe appealed to New York’s Civil Service Commission. During the appeal, Doe no longer claimed that he believed homosexuals should be incarcerated, although he maintained that homosexuality was against his Islamic religious belief. Doe also contended that he had also made progress in life by successfully working part time as a pizza delivery person and getting married. The Commission wasn’t impressed enough, and turned Doe down again. He then sued, contending that he was the victim of religious discrimination.
A trial court rejected Doe’s lawsuit. The Court noted that “in determining whether a candidate is medically qualified to serve as a police officer, the appointing authority is entitled to rely upon the findings of its own medical personnel, even if those findings are contrary to those of professionals retained by the candidate, and the judicial function is exhausted once a rational basis for the conclusion is found. Bias against a protected group may be considered as a factor in determining whether an individual is psychologically suited for police work.
“Here, the Commission found that there was a rational basis to support the disqualification after an extensive appeal process in which copious documentation was submitted and Doe was examined by both private and NYPD mental health professionals. The disqualification did not rest on Doe’s religious belief that homosexuality is a sin but rather regarded Doe’s stated belief that homosexual behavior is grounds for arrest as a single factor to consider along with his depression, poor stress tolerance, limited education, and lack of relevant work experience. This Court finds that the Commission’s final determination was rational and did not violate Doe’s right to freedom of religious belief.
“This Court would look at this matter in a different light if the NYPD refused to hire Doe as a police officer due to his Islamic religious beliefs, for instance, because he was requesting breaks for prayer. However, there is no indication in the instant proceeding that Doe was found psychologically unsuitable for police officer work because he was a Muslim. While this Court cannot draw a bright line, it finds that personal beliefs or biases, which might lead to actions that put the public or fellow police officers at risk, may be considered by the NYPD as factors in determining whether an applicant is a suitable candidate for employment as a police officer.”
Doe v. New York City Police Department, 2013 WL 2169691 (N.Y. Sup. 2013).