Phillips, et al. v. City of New York, et al.NYPD blanket ban on hearing aids in the is overturned allowing officers with hearing impairments to continue their service to the force.
James Phillips and Daniel Carione filed this lawsuit in 2011 to challenge their termination from the New York City Police Department under a policy that discriminates against officers with hearing aids. Both individuals had exemplary service records – and both sustained hearing loss while performing their duties as police officers. Yet, the NYPD terminated their employment based on a blanket policy that prohibits officers from wearing their hearing aids on the job.
In November 2014, Disability Rights Advocates joined the Law Offices of Meenan and Associates in the lawsuit challenging the NYPD’s hearing aid policy. DRA joined the case because the policy excluded not only Mr. Phillips and Mr. Carione from police service, but also excluded many other current and potential police officers with hearing loss who use hearing aids. In particular, veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have a significant likelihood of developing hearing loss as a result of their service. Many of those veterans have both the requisite skills and desire to be exemplary law enforcement officers. The NYPD’s policy would exclude such individuals from careers in law enforcement.
The AARP, the Hearing Loss Association of America, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and Veterans United for Truth submitted an amicus curiae brief in February 2015 that supported Plaintiffs’ position in the case. These organizations recognized that the overwhelming majority of police and law enforcement departments allow officers to use hearing aids, leaving the NYPD as an outlier among police departments throughout the nation. The brief further stated: “Under a sound public-health policy, these officers would not be faced with the choice of losing their jobs or hiding their condition, but would instead receive preventative care and palliative support from the NYPD.”
The parties reached a settlement in March 2015, just as a jury trial was scheduled to begin. Under the agreement, the NYPD will review its policy on the use of hearing aids and consider evaluating officers with hearing aids on a case-by-case basis while wearing hearing aids. During the policy review, all officers who use hearing aids may undergo hearing testing while they wear their hearing aids, and will be able to keep their jobs if they meet the NYPD hearing standards.
The settlement also requires the NYPD to reinstate Daniel Carione as a Deputy Inspector. Mr. Carione stated: “The settlement provides an opportunity for me to return to the profession and the Department I so dearly love. But much more importantly it opens wide the door of opportunity to millions of hearing-disabled Americans. Most notable are our returning war veterans, a great many of which have received combat induced hearing loss requiring the use of hearing aids.”