NYPD Settles Claims of Hard-of-Hearing Officers

     MANHATTAN (CN) – New York City police officers will no longer need to surrender their badges because they have to wear a hearing aid, if a federal court settlement announced Tuesday becomes final.
     Daniel Carione, a 20-year police force veteran, brought the lawsuit four years ago after losing his job as deputy inspector because he had to wear a hearing aid due to loss he suffered in the line of duty.
     On the first day of his trial, Carione and the NYPD privately went to the robing room to discuss a possible settlement, the transcript shows.
     U.S. District Judge Katherine Failla spoke about the preliminary terms of the deal at a March 9 hearing.
     The agreement will allow Carione to get his job back as a deputy inspector – as well as all back pay, benefits, and seniority since his June 24, 2011, firing – if he passes a hearing test while wearing his aid.
     The transcript does not reveal what Carione will collect for cash damages, but it does state that he will collect $50,000 in miscellaneous income.
     Carione said in a statement that the settlement would “opens wide the door of opportunity to millions of [hard-of-hearing] 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,” he added
     The Hearing Loss Association of America, the American Association of Retired Persons, and Veterans of Foreign Wars noted in a friend-of-the-court brief that roughly one in seven U.S. citizens, or 48.1 million people, have hearing loss.
     “While the NYPD seeks to be veteran-friendly, its blanket ban on hearing aids has a disproportionate impact on veterans and especially those who served in combat,” the groups wrote in their brief.
     Ex-NYPD sergeant Jim Phillips, a co-plaintiff who is now an officer in the village of Brewster, N.Y., will get $213,000 in back pay and $150,000 in miscellaneous income, according to the transcript.
     Once an agreement is finalized, the NYPD must reevaluate its hearing requirements to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act and New York City Human Rights Law within six months, Failla said.
     The current blanket ban on officers wearing hearing aids must be replaced by a “case-by-case evaluation,” she added.
     “While the NYPD’s review of its hearing aid policy is underway incumbents will be permitted to be tested wearing hearing aids at the Center for Hearing Communication,” she continued. “They will not be forced to retire for failing to meet the hearing standards without their hearing aids and the city agrees to pay for this testing.”
     Stuart Seaborn, a lawyer for the nonprofit group Disability Rights Advocates, said in a statement that the settlement represented “a huge victory for the hearing loss community.”
     New York City Hall spokesperson Monica Klein told Courthouse News that “this administration continues to work each day to build an inclusive workforce throughout all our city’s departments.”

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