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DUI/DWI Job Termination - NY Unemployment Benefits Granted

Can my DUI/DWI stop me from obtaining unemployment benefits?

Can my DUI/DWI stop me from obtaining unemployment benefits? This case has to do with employment and a Driving While Under the Influence/Driving While Intoxicated charge and conviction.

“Claimant was employed as the Sole Assessor of the City of Glens Falls for approximately seven years. Her duties entailed inspecting and valuing properties within the City for the purpose of formulating real property tax assessments. In 2016, she pleaded guilty to crimes arising from two separate off-duty incidents of driving while under the influence of alcohol, and her driver's license was suspended for 90 days.” This is not an uncommon situation and often times someone facing DUI/DWI will be so focused upon the charge itself, the client may forget about the collateral consequences (i.e. employment, school, etc.) or whether the client’s health and mental wellbeing, whether the client has a substance abuse issue, is an ongoing concern. Attorneys, too, are sometimes focused on more ending the criminal case and moving on rather than the rest of their client’s life, livelihood and overall wellbeing.

The case continued that “As a result [of pleading guilty], disciplinary charges were brought against her and a hearing was conducted to determine if she should be removed from her position. At its conclusion, the Hearing Officer, who was a City employee appointed by the Mayor to conduct the hearing, recommended that claimant be terminated. His recommendation was adopted by the City's Common Council.”

A Driving While Intoxicated or Driving Under the Influence allegation has serious consequences. For one, if you are accused of DWI or DUI you will likely lose your license at an arraignment and may, in certain circumstances, be able to apply for a hardship license and, eventually a conditional license pending the prosecution of the Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) or Driving Under the Influence (DUI) allegation.

The Court here, on appeal, noted that “The drunk driving incidents did not occur while claimant was working [however] possession of a valid driver's license was not listed among the qualifications necessary to hold the position of Sole Assessor and claimant testified that she was not advised that this was a requirement…Claimant was not incarcerated as a result of her convictions and she testified that she was ready and able to fulfill her job duties notwithstanding the suspension of her driver's license…”

One should note that, in certain circumstances, if one is considered to have a disability he or she may be entitled to a reasonable accommodation in a civil context. Although a having a substance abuse disorder is not going to be something that excuses a driving under the influence or driving while intoxicated act, a criminal act, it may be something that will impact one’s continued ability to work and may be something deserving of consideration if not accommodation.

The Court continued that “while claimant acknowledged that she occasionally did site visits, she testified that she could perform her duties while her license was temporarily suspended given that much of the data needed to compute the assessments had already been compiled and she could obtain a lot of the information online. The Board was free to, and did, credit such testimony over the contrary testimony of the City's witnesses…”

The attorney’s here successful argued that the claimant, the person who plead guilty to a driving under the influence/driving while intoxicated criminal act, could obtain her unemployment benefits. The Court held that “substantial evidence supports the Board's finding that claimant had not committed disqualifying misconduct and was entitled to receive benefits.”

Are you facing criminal charges or do you need representation because of a substance use or substance abuse related issue? Have you been charged with a crime or feel you are being discriminated against because of a disability? Call the Law Offices of Cory H. Morris: 631-450-2515 (NY) | 954-998-2918 (FL).

The Case is In the Matter of the Claim of Lauren Stack, Respondent. City of Glens Falls, Appellant. Commissioner of Labor, Respondent, 2018 NY Slip Op 06840 (165 AD3d 1362) (3rd Dep’t. 2018)

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