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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Press Release #05-77

Appeals Court Upholds City's Right to Fire Staten Island Ferry Assistant Captain After Positive Test for Alcohol

The New York City Department of Transportation announced that the New York State Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Department, in a unanimous opinion, upheld the New York City Department of Transportation Commissioner's decision to dismiss an Assistant Captain of the Staten Island Ferry, who tested positive for alcohol while on the job.

Robert Sander had been employed at NYC DOT since 1982, and was an Assistant Captain on the Staten Island Ferry since December, 1995. His responsibilities included being able to safely pilot the ferry. In March 2004, Sander was suspended from his employment after failing a random alcohol breathalyzer test.

In a proceeding before the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings (OATH), Sander challenged the results of the random alcohol test and the fact that he was subject to such a test. The Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) recommended that the charges against Sander be dismissed. DOT Commissioner Iris Weinshall, in rejecting the ALJ's recommendation, dismissed Sander, arguing that the DOT must have the right to randomly test any employee who may be called upon to perform safety sensitive functions. This decision was brought before the Appellate Division, First Department, of the New York State Supreme Court. In upholding DOT Commissioner Weinshall's decision to test Sander, the court found that even though Sander was not actively performing his duties when tested, any employee who was ready, and immediately available to perform safety-sensitive responsibilities may be subject to random alcohol testing. The court also found that there was substantial evidence supporting the DOT Commissioner's finding of guilt based upon the test results.

"This is an important ruling for every New Yorker,"said Department of Transportation Commissioner Iris Weinshall. "The court's decision reaffirms DOT's commitment to public safety on the Staten Island Ferry. Any City employee whose irresponsible behavior puts lives at risk will be terminated."

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Contact: Kay Sarlin (212) 442-7033
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