NY City Forces Retirement of Police Officers wearing Hearing Aids

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NY City Forces Retirement of Police Officers wearing Hearing Aids

Tue, 06/28/2011

In an article published June 19, 2011, (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/20/nyregion/ny-enforces-ban-on-police-officers-using-hearing-aids.html ) the New York Times reported the New York City police department has banned the use of hearing aids on the job. Two officers who were forced to retire because they did wear hearing aids on the job have filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), saying that the policy is discriminatory toward people with hearing loss.

It appears that the NYC police department has a kind of “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy toward hearing aid wearers. According to the New York Times, Paul J. Browne, the department’s chief spokesman, said it was “not actively looking to see if people have hearing aids.” He does admit that the department has told officers to stop wearing the hearing aids once found. According to Dan Carione, one of the two officers who were forced to retire, the department is sending a message that if you step forward and make your use of hearing aids known, “it will end your career.”

Mr. Carione and his attorneys contacted HLAA soon after he learned the department’s policy last fall. HLAA has offered continuing support and information about hearing loss and employment issues as he works toward reinstatement.

In response to the article, Brenda Battat sent the following letter to the editor of the New York Times which was published June 28, 2011

To the Editor:

Re “Ban on Hearing Aids is Forcing Out Veteran New York City Police Officers” (news article, June 19):

Hearing Loss is a health issue that has long been misunderstood and stigmatized in our society. Banning the use of hearing aids that help police officers to function at their best is inconceivable and perpetuates the myths and stereotypes that are still prevalent about hearing loss today.

More important, it puts both the police officer and the public at risk when those who have admitted their hearing loss, sought treatment for it, and can function well with a hearing aid are forced to hide their hearing loss for fear of losing their jobs.

For more than twenty years the Americans with Disabilities Act has provided equal opportunity in the workplace. Banning young police officers from using the excellent hearing aids available today and forcing older police officers with hearing aids to retire is discriminating. As long as they can pass the hearing test with their hearing aids in they should be allowed to use them on the job.

Brenda Battat,
Bethesda, Md, June 21, 2011

The writer is the executive director of Hearing Loss Association of America, a national membership organization of and for people with hearing loss.

A letter was also sent to the New York Times in response to the article by David Gayle:

To the Editor:

Joseph Goldstein's insightful article misses two key points. First, he suggests that it is permissible for the NYPD to have a blanket exclusion of all new applicants for police officer positions who have a hearing loss. This is a discriminatory practice. Under the Americans With Disabilities Act, as applied by the U.S. Dept. of Justice, otherwise qualified applicants for local and state police offer jobs have the right to an individual assessment including taking hearing tests with hearing aids. Second, Mr. Goldstein seems to be unaware that the State of New York has issued written policy requiring such an individual assessment, which the NYPD willingly ignores. ("Medical and Physical Fitness Standards and Procedures for Police Officer Candidates." http://www.criminaljustice.state.ny.us/ops/docs/ .) This legal standard should apply equally to veteran officers such as Mr. Carione and Mr. Phillips.

David Gayle
Silver Spring, MD

Mr. Gayle is a retired attorney and serves a volunteer, part-time counsel to the Hearing Loss Association of America.