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CHRO Ruling Holds that Learning and Mental Disabilities (Attention Deficit Disorder) Must be Accommodated on Promotion Test

Posted in CHRO & EEOC, Discrimination & Harassment, Human Resources (HR) Compliance, Litigation

A few weeks ago, I pondered the impact that the Connecticut Supreme Court’s decision in Curry v. Allan S. Goodman would havecourtesy morgue file: fireman (public domain) on cases involving learning and mental disabilities. Turns out, I didn’t need to wait long at all. A CHRO Hearing Officer has already used that decision to chime in and indicate that  must be accommodated.  (Big H/T: Overlawyered). 

In CHRO ex. rel. Lenotti v. City of Stamford, (download here) a firefighter claimed that the City’s refusal to give him additional time on a promotional exam violated the state’s disability discrimination laws.  The firefighter, who had Attention Deficit Order, claimed that state law required the the City’ to provide him with a reasonable accommodation.  A CHRO Hearing Officer agreed.

The city argued that a fire captain, the position Lenotti sought, must be able to read and process information quickly at a fire scene. But the CHRO Hearing Office concluded that the city never supported its position and never showed that it would be a "direct threat" to public safety if he were promoted under such conditions.

The case is a long read but there are a few quick bullet points of note:

  • Because Connecticut’s definition of a mental disorder is anything listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, there was not a real dispute that the firefighter’s ADD qualified as a "mental disorder".  Although some employers view such claims with proper skepticism, this decision demonstrates that broad application of state law to these types of claims.
  • The Hearing Officer seemed troubled that although the City claimed it was "implicit" that a fire captain must be able to read quickly, that requirement was not in the written job description. Thus, a takeaway from the case is that employers should be sure their written job descriptions contain sufficient details and match what the requirements of the position really are.
  • Lastly, the case reinforces what I said earlier: After the Curry case, we may start to see more and more disability discrimination cases being brought under state law. With the state laws being interpreted in a broad manner, like they are here, employers in the state ought to start paying attention.