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Gannon v. City of Boston (Lawyers Weekly No. 10-059-17)

NOTICE:  All slip opinions and orders are subject to formal revision and are superseded by the advance sheets and bound volumes of the Official Reports.  If you find a typographical error or other formal error, please notify the Reporter of Decisions, Supreme Judicial Court, John Adams Courthouse, 1 Pemberton Square, Suite 2500, Boston, MA, 02108-1750; (617) 557-1030; SJCReporter@sjc.state.ma.us   SJC-12136   SEAN GANNON  vs.  CITY OF BOSTON.       Suffolk.     December 8, 2016. – April 18, 2017.   Present:  Gants, C.J., Botsford, Lenk, Hines, Gaziano, Lowy, & Budd, JJ.[1]     Anti-Discrimination Law, Handicap, Employment, Burden of proof.  Employment, Discrimination.  Handicapped Persons.  Municipal Corporations, Police.  Public Employment, Police.  Practice, Civil, Summary judgment, Burden of proof.       Civil action commenced in the Superior Court Department on September 27, 2012.   The case was heard by Douglas H. Wilkins, J., on a motion for summary judgment, and a motion for reconsideration was considered by him.     Harold L. Lichten (Adelaide H. Pagano also present) for the plaintiff. Nicole I. Taub, Senior Special Assistant Corporation Counsel, for the defendant. Simone R. Liebman & Constance M. McGrane, for the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, amicus curiae, submitted a brief. Robert S. Mantell, for Massachusetts Employment Lawyers Association, amicus curiae, submitted a brief. GANTS, C.J.  The issue presented on appeal is whether a city is entitled to summary judgment on a handicap discrimination claim under G. L. c. 151B, § 4 (16), where the police department limits an officer to desk duty based on an informed, good faith belief that the officer can no longer safely patrol the streets because of his perceived handicap.  We conclude that summary judgment is not appropriate where there are facts in dispute as to whether the officer is a qualified handicapped person capable of performing the full duties of a patrol officer without posing an unacceptably significant risk of serious injury to himself or others.  The city at trial may present the evidence that caused the department to believe that the officer cannot safely assume the full duties of a police officer, but that determination rests with the fact finder based on the preponderance of the evidence, not with the department based on its informed, good faith belief.  Therefore, we vacate the motion judge’s entry of summary judgment in favor of the city of Boston (city) and remand the case for a trial.[2] Background.  The plaintiff, Sean Gannon (Gannon or plaintiff), began working for the Boston police department (department) in 1996.  For the first decade of his employment, Gannon was a patrol officer performing the full range of patrol officer duties.  Gannon is an avid practitioner of mixed martial arts (MMA) who has trained since his teenage […]

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Posted by Massachusetts Legal Resources - April 18, 2017 at 5:52 pm

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