The opinion of the court was delivered by: WEXLER
Plaintiff Alan M. Crane brings this action seeking reinstatement to the Suffolk County Civil Service List of those eligible for the position of "Deputy Sheriff I" and a declaration that his removal from the list violated his rights under the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, U.S. CONST. amend. XIV, § 1, and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, as amended, 29 U.S.C. §§ 621-634 ("ADEA"). Crane now moves for summary judgment. Defendants Suffolk County, Alan Schneider, Personnel Officer of the Suffolk County Department of Civil Service ("County Department"), and John P. Finnerty, Sheriff of Suffolk County, cross-move for dismissal of plaintiff's complaint. Defendant Karen S. Burstein, the President of the New York State Civil Service Commission and Head of the New York State Department of Civil Service, cross-moves for dismissal of the complaint or, in the alternative, for the awarding of summary judgment in favor of Burstein.
In the fall of 1982, Crane filed a Civil Service application with the County Department to take the open-competitive examination for the position of "Deputy Sheriff 1". The application form describes the position as follows: "Has responsibility for the serving of legal processes and the transporting and guarding of prisoners in court. Performs related work as required." Candidates for the position are required to pass four tests, namely, a written examination, a comprehensive medical evaluation, a psychological evaluation, and a physical fitness screening test, and must possess a high school or high school equivalency diploma. Candidates must be between the ages of twenty and thirty five at the time they take the written examination and "[t]he names of those candidates who have not been appointed by their computed 36th birthday shall be removed from the eligible list."
Crane, who was born on April 9, 1948, took the written examination on December 11, 1982. On December 2, 1983, he was officially notified that he had passed the examination and that his ranking on the list of candidates was number twenty four. Crane undertook his medical and psychological evaluations on February 14, 1984 and his physical fitness screening test on April 7, 1984. He passed all these tests and was informed that he was now eleventh on the list. Two days later, however, Crane turned thirty six and, in or about the second week of May, 1984, he was officially notified that his eligibility for a position as a deputy sheriff had expired upon his thirty sixth birthday.
Plaintiff first contends that his removal from the list of those eligible for a position as a deputy sheriff because of his age violates the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, U.S. CONST. amend. XIV, § 1.
§ 54 of the New York State Civil Service Law states:
Notwithstanding any provision of law to the contrary, except as herein provided, neither the state civil service department nor the state civil service commission, nor any municipal civil service commission shall prohibit, prevent, disqualify, or discriminate against, any person who is physically and mentally qualified, from participating in a civil service examination or from qualifying for a position in the classified civil service, or penalize any such person in a final rating by reason of his or her age; and any such rule, requirement, resolution, regulation or penalization shall be void. Nothing herein contained, however, shall prevent the adoption of reasonable minimum or maximum age requirements for open competitive examinations for positions such as policeman, fireman, prison guard, or other positions which require extraordinary physical effort, except where age limits for such positions are already prescribed by law. Minimum age requirements shall in no case prohibit an applicant who is within six months of the minimum age requirement from taking any competitive examination. Nothing herein contained shall be construed to prohibit the disqualification, on account of age, of any applicant for a position who has reached the mandatory requirement age applicable by law to such position.
Pursuant to § 54, Suffolk County adopted the age thirty six cutoff for eligibility for the position of deputy sheriff.
Statutory or regulatory classifications on the basis of age must be evaluated for purposes of equal protection challenges under the "rationality" standard, i.e., such classifications are constitutionally acceptable so long as they are rationally related to furthering a legitimate state interest. Vance v. Bradley, 440 U.S. 93, 99 S. Ct. 939, 59 L. Ed. 2d 171 (1979); Massachusetts Board of Retirement v. Murgia, 427 U.S. 307, 96 S. Ct. 2562, 49 L. Ed. 2d 520 (1976). The "rationality" standard is a "relatively relaxed" one which reflects judicial awareness that the drawing of lines that create distinctions is an unavoidable task for which the legislative and administrative branches of government are more suited than the courts and that such formation of categories should be viewed as presumptively valid. Massachusetts Board of Retirement, 427 U.S. at 314, 96 S. Ct. at 2567.
Defendants argue that the age limitation on deputy sheriffs is rationally related to the government's legitimate interest in employing healthy and vigorous individuals in jobs which entail strenuous activity and ensuring that candidates for deputy sheriff are physically able and capable of being trained for a position which requires extraordinary physical effort. Plaintiff does not dispute that the government's ...