Daley v. Koch: Pre-ADA Case Applies Rehabilitation Act of 1973 to Determine Whether Employee Is Handicapped.

In Daley v. Koch, the Second Circuit granted the defendant summary judgment as it found that the plaintiff, who showed "poor judgment, irresponsible behavior and poor impulse control," was neither handicapped nor perceived as handicapped under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

In 1984, Daley passed the Civil Service Exam and his name was certified to the Police Department (NYPD) for potential employment. In February 1986, Daley took the written portion of the "psychological profile. In March 1986, Daley was interviewed by Dr. Adams of the Psychological Services Division (PSD). Daley told Adams he had never been referred to or sought help from a psychologist, psychiatrist, or social worker. He also informed Adams that since 1983, he had held four different jobs. On the basis of the test results and interview, Adams concluded that Daley showed "poor judgment, irresponsible behavior and poor impulse control," which rendered him "unsuitable to be a police officer." Daley was not diagnosed as having any particular psychological disease or disorder.

After reviewing Daley's file and Dr. Adams report, a coordinator at PSD agreed that Daley had "significant personality traits" that would prevent him from effectively functioning as a police officer. An independent consultant also reviewed Daley's file and agreed that he was unsuited for police work. In October 1986, Daley learned of his disqualification and appealed to the Civil Service Commission, which denied his appeal. Daley sued NYPD asserting violations of the Act. The defendants were granted summary judgment and Daley appealed.

The Second Circuit noted that the Act prohibits state programs receiving federal aid from discriminating against a handicapped person due to the handicap. To succeed under the Act, a plaintiff must be "an individual with a handicap" as defined by the Act. A handicapped person is one who: (1) has a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more of such person's major life activities, (2) has a record of such an impairment, or (3) is regarded as having such an impairment. Both parties agreed that Daley did not meet the first two elements. However, Daley contended that NYPD "regarded" him as having such an impairment.

The Second Circuit cited regulations stating a "mental impairment" is defined as "any mental or psychological disorder, such as mental retardation, organic brain syndrome, emotional or mental illness, and specific learning disabilities." Daley argued that due to a misconception concerning his personality traits, he could not work as a police officer and was substantially limited in the major life activity of working. Under the regulations, working is considered a major life activity. However, this does not include working the specific job of one's choice. The court noted that the job of police officer in New York City demands unique qualifications which Daley failed to meet. The court found that being declared unsuitable for the particular position of police officer was not a substantial limitation to the major life activity of working. The court also found that "refusing to hire someone for a single job does not in and of itself constitute perceiving the persons as a handicapped individual." The court held that "poor judgment, irresponsible behavior and poor impulse control" did not amount to a mental condition which Congress intended to be protected by the Act. The court also held that NYPD never considered Daley to be suffering from an impairment which substantially limited a major life activity and did not diagnose him as having any disorder. Thus, summary judgment was affirmed.

Daley v. Koch, 892 F.2d 212 (2d Cir. 1989).

NOTE: This case was decided under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The Regulations of the Americans with Disabilities Act provide that Rehabilitation Act cases may be used for guidance under the ADA.