WESTBURY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A Bethpage man with hearing loss says he is the victim of discrimination by Nassau County.
He says he was disqualified from becoming a 911 operator, even though he has hearing aids to correct the problem, CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported Wednesday.
Robert Piscitello was born with moderate-to-severe hearing loss. But hearing aids in both of his ears are so good he actually composes music, teaches piano and performs in public.
They’re so good he’s worked as a telemarketer.
“When you talk to me, you would never know I have a hearing disability,” Piscitello said. “I hear exactly like normal.”
But not good enough for Nassau County. His application to work as a 911 dispatcher was denied for failure to meet the Civil Service Commission standard for audiology. He was not allowed to wear hearing aids and he flunked the hearing test.
“They say, ‘I’m sorry, your disqualified. You cant hear.’ But as you can see, I can hear with the hearing aids,” Piscitello said. “I’m distraught, to be honest.”
“This is a clear violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the ADA,” said Jonathan Bell, Piscitello’s attorney. “He needs a minor reasonable accommodation. With his hearing aid he would be able perform the essential functions of the job.”
Bell is now challenging the policy. He agrees that excellent hearing is needed for the vital public safety job, but why can’t it be achieved with an accommodation?
“There has been prior case law on this fact. These hearing aids are very dependable. They don’t break down. Technology has come a long way with hearing aids,” Bell said.
After court challenges, the NYPD now allows applicants to wear hearing aids and eyeglasses during tests to become a police officer.
But what about Nassau County?
“I believe it’s time for Nassau County and the Civil Service Commission to update their rules, their specs and get with the times. It’s 2019. Their specs are from the 1960s. It’s a shame. It’s an atrocity,” said Jerry Laricchiuta, president of the Civil Service Employees Association.
Piscitello said he is now fighting to overcome discrimination. The county will hear him in court. The lawsuit seeks a reversal on the county’s decision and payment for a violation of his civil rights.