Herrera v. New York State
On June 10, 2020, Disability Rights Advocates filed a Charge of Discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against the State of New York and several of its agencies. The Charge challenges the State’s bright-line rule disqualifying anyone with binocular vision lower than 20/40 from being hired as a Mental Health Therapy Aide Trainee (MHTAT), a State Office of Mental Health position that supports people with mental illness.
The policy bears virtually no connection to the position’s duties, and excludes qualified candidates based on disability without considering if they can actually do the job, in violation of the American’s with Disabilities Act and the New York State Human Rights Law.
In Spring 2019, Matthew Herrera applied to be a Spanish Language MHTAT at a mental health clinic in New York City’s Washington Heights neighborhood, but after interviewing and receiving a preliminary offer, he took an eye test and was abruptly disqualified, simply because, at 20/60, his sight falls just below the State’s 20/40 standard. For over seven years, Mr. Herrera had already been doing very similar mental health and security-related work, so the MHTAT position had seemed like a great fit. Yet the State locked Mr. Herrera out of the opportunity without regard for his actual skills or experience, and without meaningfully evaluating his particular visual functioning.
A bright-line qualification standard that screens out a whole class of individuals with disabilities violates the law when, like this one, it is not properly related to the job or consistent with business necessity.
DRA aims to ensure that the State brings its hiring standards into line with the ADA and New York State Human Rights Law so every job applicant with a disability can have a fair shot at State employment.