Inadequate Job Description Leads To Reversal Of Termination

Brian Lutz was a police officer employed by the Albany, New York Police Department. In December 2010, his driver’s license was temporarily revoked in connection with charges brought against him for driving while intoxicated. The Department advised Lutz that possession of a valid driver’s license was a minimum qualification for APD police officers and afforded him an opportunity to provide documentation regarding the status of his license. After Lutz acknowledged that his driver’s license had been “suspended pending prosecution and revoked for refusal to submit to a chemical test,” his employment was terminated for failure to meet the minimum qualifications for his position. Lutz challenged his termination through the court system.

An appeals court reversed the termination. The Court noted that the City conceded that though the Albany Fire Department’s job descriptions required possession of a driver’s license, the Police Department’s job descriptions did not. While the Department argued that the requirement that a police officer possess a valid driver’s license as a qualification of employment could be inferred from the job description, the Court found that “summary dismissal of an employee based merely upon an inference cannot be countenanced. 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.

“The record evidence establishes that almost one third of the police officers employed by the Department perform functions other than patrol. Moreover, of the 200 officers assigned to patrol, at least 33 are regularly assigned to patrol by means other than motor vehicle.

“In our view, both due process and fundamental fairness require that a qualification or requirement of employment be expressly stated in order for an employer to bypass the protections afforded by the Civil Service Law or a collective bargaining agreement and summarily terminate an employee. For these reasons, we conclude that the Department’s termination of Lutz without a hearing was both arbitrary and capricious and contrary to law.”

Lutz v. Krokoff, 2012 WL 5869902 (N.Y. A.D. 2012).