U.S. District Judge William Pauley III of the Southern District of New York delivered a mixed ruling over dueling summary judgment motions Tuesday, agreeing in part with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s police officers union’s argument that mandatory medical examinations were against federal law, while leaving in place a portion of the authority’s policy.
Pauley said he “recognizes the wisdom” of officers undergoing regular medical screenings “to ensure they can protect the public,” but privacy interests under the Americans with Disabilities Act meant that the Port Authority dictate that only those tests that represent a “business necessity” are permitted.
Accordingly, Pauley ruled in favor of the Port Authority Police Benevolent Association Inc., nixing compulsory annual medical examinations, as well as sick leave fitness-for-duty examinations. On both accounts, the authority failed to show a reasonable basis for why a blanket examination, regardless of officer rank or work duties, was necessary, Pauley said.
“Lumping all police officers together without regard to whether their assignments implicate public safety does not forge a class consistent with that business necessity,” he wrote.
However, the judge found the Port Authority’s on-the-job injury examinations pass muster, as “these examinations actually contribute to the Port Authority’s authorization of medical treatment by allowing it to ascertain the officer’s eligibility for workers’ compensation without being broader than necessary to diagnose the condition.”
A spokesman for the Port Authority declined to comment.
In his conclusion, Pauley took the opportunity to “express skepticism” with the union’s motivation for dismantling a portion of their members’ fought-for health care benefits: their collective bargaining agreement requires the Port Authority to pay the full premium costs of their health care insurance.
“This irony is particularly stark given the current health care debate in the United States and the worries of many Americans about whether their medical needs will be met,” Pauley said. “Until today, not only did Port Authority police officers have free medical care, they received a day’s pay for submitting to an annual medical examination. This court wonders how many Americans would welcome such a generous arrangement.”
Reached by phone, counsel for the union, Lenzo & Reis name attorney Christopher Lenzo, said he and the PAPBA were “pleased that Judge Pauley applied the law as it’s written and arrived at a result that may be, in some quarters, unpopular but which is the right results legally and from a public policy perspective.”