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A Rejected Police Officer Candidate’s Case is a Reminder that Employers Cannot Shield Themselves from Disability Discrimination Liability ‘by Contracting out Personnel Functions to Third Parties’

For some jobs, a psychological evaluation may be a mandatory part of the application process. While mental fitness may be an important requirement for some jobs, the law does not allow an employer to use this process – or an employer’s outsourcing of this assessment to outside psychologists – as a means to dodge liability for violations of discrimination law. If you think an employer has done that to you, you should get in touch with a knowledgeable New Jersey employment discrimination lawyer right away.

A recent disability discrimination case from federal court shows how that potentially can happen. C.G., a police officer and a former Marine, was attempting to join the police force in Pittsburgh. He passed the written exam with flying colors. After that, though, he had to complete a psychological examination process and, when two of the three psychologists recommended not hiring C.G., he didn’t get the job.

C.G. had engaged in misconduct as a juvenile but, as his complaint noted, the department had hired others who had engaged in similar youthful misbehavior. The difference, according to C.G., was that he had attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

C.G. sued the city for disability discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals, whose ruling directly control federal cases in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware, ruled for C.G. and concluded that he was entitled to go forward with his discrimination lawsuit.

What your employer believed, not your actual status, is what’s key

This ruling in favor of this job applicant is important for two key reasons. One, it is yet another reminder that, when you are pursuing a discrimination case, you do not have to be a member of a protected class, you simply have to prove that your employer believed you were a member of that protected class.

If your employer fired you because they thought you were pregnant, you can win a pregnancy discrimination case even if you were never pregnant. You can succeed in a sexual orientation discrimination claim — even if you were heterosexual — if your evidence showed that an employer refused to hire you because they thought you were gay. And, as C.G.’s case shows, you potentially can win a disability discrimination case, even if you had no recognized disability as long as you have adequate proof that your employer (or potential employer) thought you had a disability.

Additionally, C.G.’s success before the appeals courts highlights the fact that employers cannot duck liability for discrimination simply by outsourcing parts of the hiring process. In this case, C.G. had a potential claim that the psychologists regarded him as disabled and discriminated against him as a result of that perceived disability. That it was the psychologists, and not the employer itself, who engaged in this conduct did not shield the employer from liability. As the court put it, an “employer cannot evade its obligations under the ADA by contracting out personnel functions to third parties.” If the psychologists’ action amounted to disability discrimination under federal law, then the employer was, as a result of its reliance on the psychologists, liable for the harm that discrimination caused.

Disability discrimination can take many forms and appearances. In fact, it can occur even if are not disabled at all. If you’ve suffered that kind of harm in your job or during a hiring process, get in touch with the knowledgeable New Jersey disability discrimination attorneys at Phillips & Associates. Our attorneys have many decades of collective experience helping workers just like you to protect their rights. Contact us online or at (609) 436-9087 today to set up a free and confidential consultation.

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