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Friday, April 18, 2014

Terminated noncompetitive class employee having less than five years of service entitled to back pay and benefits under the terms of a collective bargaining agreement


Terminated noncompetitive class employee having less than five years of service entitled to back pay and benefits under the terms of a collective bargaining agreement
2014 NY Slip Op 02061, Appellate Division, Second Department

The Board of Education adopted the recommendation of a Civil Service Law §75 hearing officer finding the employee [Petitioner] guilty of misconduct and terminating her employment as a teacher's aid without back pay and employment benefits.

Petitioner initiated an Article 78 action challenging the Board’s decision in which she claimed, among other things, that she was entitled to certain back pay and employment benefits.

The Appellate Division held that Supreme Court had properly granted that branch of the Petitioner’s claim that sought an award of back pay and employment benefits.

The court explained that while Petitioner had less than the five years of continuous service which would ordinarily be required for her to be entitled to the protections of Civil Service Law §75,* the collective bargaining agreement between the School District and Petitioner's union extended the protections afforded by Civil Service Law §75 to noncompetitive class employees who had three years of service.

The court held that “as the Supreme Court determined,” once the arbitrator found that Petitioner satisfied the tenure requirements under the collective bargaining agreement, she was entitled to the protections of Civil Service Law §75, including back pay and benefits for any period of suspension in excess of 30 days, up to the date of the disciplinary determination by the appointing authority terminating her employment.

* See Civil Service Law §75[1][c]), which provides, in pertinent part, that an employee “holding a position in the non-competitive class … who since his [or her] last entry into service has completed at least five years of continuous service in the non-competitive class ….” is covered by the provisions of §75.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:
http://www.nycourts.gov/reporter/3dseries/2014/2014_02061.htm


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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Statute providing for a “presumption” that a disabling condition was incurred in the performance of duty to be read narrowly



Statute providing for a “presumption” that a disabling condition was incurred in the performance of duty to be read narrowly
Anonymous v Kelly, 2014 NY Slip Op 02141, Appellate Division, First Department

Rejection of Anonymous’ application for accidental disability retirement benefits was affirmed by Appellate Division, vacating a ruling by Supreme Court remanding the matter to the Retirement System’s Board of Trustees.

The court said that Supreme Court “incorrectly found that [Anonymous] was entitled to the presumption of General Municipal Law §207-p, thereby improperly shifting the burden of proof as to causation to the employer.

General Municipal Law §207-p provides, in pertinent part, that "any paid member of a . . . police department . . . who successfully passed a physical examination upon entry into the service of such department who contracts HIV [parenthetical omitted], tuberculosis or hepatitis, will be presumed to have contracted such disease as a natural or proximate result of an accidental injury received in the performance and discharge of his or her duties . . ., unless the contrary be provided by competent evidence."

Although Anonymous did not suffer from any of the three diseases named in the statute, Supreme Court found that his "illness was the type that the 207-p presumption was intended to cover."

However, said the Appellate Division, “the plain language of the statute makes it clear that the presumption is only applicable to the three named diseases.” Accordingly, said the court, it was Anonymous' burden to prove that his condition was caused by an accidental line-of-duty injury, not the employer’s burden to demonstrate that his condition was not caused by an accidental line-of-duty injury.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Official misconduct


Official misconduct
OATH Index Nos. 1679/13, 1680/13, 1681/13

Two job center directors and a deputy director were charged with improperly transferring cases from other job centers in order to increase their own center’s job placement statistics.

The employees admitted that they participated in the scheme but that they did so under pressure of meeting agency-wide goals. OATH Administrative Law Judge John B. Spooner found that the employees had violated agency rules.
Judge Spooner denied the employees’ motion to dismiss a portion of the charges as time-barred, finding respondents’ conduct fell within the crimes exception to the 18-month limitations period in §75 of the Civil Service Law, i.e, the employees had committed the crimes of official misconduct and computer tampering.

ALJ Spooner recommended dismissal of charges that respondents violated the Conflicts of Interest Law since there was no proof that they gained a private or personal advantage from the transfers.

As to the penalty to be imposed, the ALJ recommended termination of employees’ employment as their participation in the scheme for as long as three years “was an egregious violation of the trust placed in them as managers, as well as their fundamental responsibility as civil servants.”  

The decision is posted on the Internet at: 
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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Former Lt. Gov. Ravitch to Address Fiscal Challenges Facing Local Governments


Former Lt. Gov. Ravitch to Address Fiscal Challenges Facing Local Governments

Former New York State Lieutenant Governor Richard Ravitch will deliver a talk on “The Fiscal Challenges Facing Local Governments” for the 2014 Edwin L. Crawford Memorial Lecture on Municipal Law, to be held at Albany Law School on Tuesday, April 22, 2014, at 4:00 p.m.

The event, hosted by the law school’s Government Law Center (GLC), will also include a book signing for Ravitch’s new book, So Much to Do: A Full Life of Business, Politics, and Confronting Fiscal Crises.

Ravitch, an attorney who served as the state’s 75th lieutenant governor from 2009 to 2010, has served as chair of the New York State Urban Development Corporation, HRH Construction Corporation, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Bowery Savings Bank. He has also served as co-chair of the Task Force on the State Budget Crisis, which analyzed the fiscal sustainability of six states, including New York.

The lecture is free and open to the public.

To register, or for more information, contact agunn@albanylaw.edu or telephone 518-445-2329.

The GLC established the Edwin L. Crawford Memorial Lecture on Municipal Law in 1996 to honor the memory of Edwin L. Crawford, former executive director of the New York State Association of Counties. The program strives to educate and promote dialog on important and timely issues affecting local governments.

The Crawford Lecture was originally endowed with a generous grant from Saratoga Associates. This year’s program is also being co-sponsored by the New York State Association of Counties, the Association of Towns of the State of New York, and the New York State Conference of Mayors.
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Monday, April 14, 2014

Employee’s purported unresponsive answers to interrogatories used as a defense in disciplinary action


Employee’s purported unresponsive answers to interrogatories used as a defense in disciplinary action
OATH Index No. 876/14

The employer moved to preclude the employee from offering a defense to disciplinary charges based upon employee’s purported unresponsive answers to interrogatories.

OATH Administrative Law Judge Faye Lewis denied the employer’s motion explaining that interrogatories are an extraordinary discovery device, permissible only upon application for good cause shown.*

Under OATH’s rules of practice, the failure to comply with a discovery order may result in sanctions, including preclusion of evidence. Here, however, Judge Lewis found that the employee did not fail to comply with a discovery order. Rather, said the ALJ, the employee voluntarily answered the interrogatories, albeit not to employer’s satisfaction.

* Although Civil Service Law Section §75 does not provide for discovery in connection with a disciplinary hearing, Education Law §3020-a provides for demanding a “bill of particulars”. A contract disciplinary procedure negotiated pursuant to the Taylor Law may provide for “discovery.”

The decision is posted on the Internet at:
http://archive.citylaw.org/oath/11_Cases/14-876md.pdf
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Sunday, April 13, 2014

Nonresident attorney's right to practice law in New York State


Nonresident attorney's right to practice law in New York State
Schoenefeld v. State of New York, et al., USCA, 11-4283-cv

The U.S. District Court, Northern District of New York, held that Section 470 of the Judiciary Law, which requires nonresident attorneys to maintain an “office for the transaction of law business” within the state of New York in order to practice in New York courts, places an impermissible burden on Ms. Schoenefeld’s fundamental right to practice law and that the state “failed to establish either a substantial state interest advanced by [the statute], or a substantial relationship between the statute and that interest” [Schoenefeld v. New York, 907 F. Supp. 2d 252, (N.D.N.Y. 2011)].

The State appealed and the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Second Circuit, certified the following question to the State’s Court of Appeals:

Under New York Judiciary Law Section 470, which mandates that a nonresident attorney maintain an "office for the transaction of law business" within the state of New York, what are the minimum requirements necessary to satisfy that mandate?

The Circuit panel retained jurisdiction to decide the case “once we have the benefit of the views of the New York Court of Appeals or once that court declines to accept certification."

The Second Circuit Court’s ruling is posted on the Internet at:
http://www.ca2.uscourts.gov/decisions/isysquery/7ad54af4-96b8-488a-b70c-22bc07f8de82/7/doc/11-4283_opn.pdf#xml=http://www.ca2.uscourts.gov/decisions/isysquery/7ad54af4-96b8-488a-b70c-22bc07f8de82/7/hilite/
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Saturday, April 12, 2014

Perceived disability

Perceived disability
Widomski v. Orange County Community College*
Source: Justica Daily Summaries- Education

Plaintiff filed suit against OCCC, alleging claims of discrimination on the basis of a "perceived disability" and retaliation in violation of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), 42 U.S.C. 12101 et seq.

The district court concluded that plaintiff, who was enrolled in OCCC's medical Laboratory Technology program, failed to establish that OCCC perceived his shaking hands to substantially limit a major life activity, and granted the motion for summary judgment in favor of OCCC as to the ADA discrimination claim.

The district court also granted summary judgment in favor of OCCC on the retaliation claim because plaintiff had not presented any evidence that OCCC's good faith belief that plaintiff had falsified documents was a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for the disciplinary referral.

The court concluded that plaintiff failed to demonstrate that OCCC perceived him as having an impairment that substantially limited a major life activity; plaintiff failed to demonstrate that OCCC's explanation for its decision to bring disciplinary proceedings against him was pretext for retaliation; and plaintiff's remaining arguments were without merit.

Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court.


* USCA, 2nd Circuit. The decision is posted on the Internet at:
http://www.ca2.uscourts.gov/decisions/isysquery/5e9e16b6-b8c0-43c6-b8d8-4adfffde611b/6/doc/13-1367_opn.pdf#xml=http://www.ca2.uscourts.gov/decisions/isysquery/5e9e16b6-b8c0-43c6-b8d8-4adfffde611b/6/hilite/
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Friday, April 11, 2014

Video evidence considered by the administrative law judge presiding at a disciplinary hearing

Video evidence considered by the administrative law judge presiding at a disciplinary hearing
OATH Index No. 266/14

The employee, a maintainer at the Verrazano Bridge, duties include driving tow trucks and assisting disabled vehicles. He was charged with several acts of dangerous and insubordinate behavior, and making false statements.

OATH Administrative Law Judge Alessandra F. Zorgniotti credited a driver’s testimony that the employee tailgated her car, cursed her over a loudspeaker, and threw a water bottle into her vehicle, while he was en route to assist a disabled car.

Based on video footage, ALJ Zorgniotti also found that the employee intentionally caused a wrecker to make contact with a co-worker in order to intimidate him. Even though employee had no prior disciplinary record,

Judge Zorgniotti found that employee’s “reckless and unpredictable behavior renders him unreliable”, and recommended termination of employment.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:
http://archive.citylaw.org/oath/14_Cases/14-266.pdf

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Thursday, April 10, 2014

No private right of action flows from a mere statement of general policy applicable to all Civil Service employees

No private right of action flows from a mere statement of general policy applicable to all Civil Service employees
Matter of Subway Surface Supervisors Assn. v New York City Tr. Auth., 2014 NY Slip Op 02380, Court of Appeals

The Subway Surface Supervisors Association, representing employees working under the title Station Supervisor Level One (SS-I) commenced a special proceeding against the New York City Transit Authority (TA) alleging that its members were being paid a lower base salary than their claimed counterparts, Station Supervisor Level Two (SS-II), for the same type of work.

The sole allegation in the petition was that the TA violated Civil Service Law §61(2), prohibiting out-of-title work.

The TA moved to dismiss the petition on, among other grounds, failure to state a cause of action. In response, the Union abandoned its §61(2) claim and opposed the TA's motion on new, unpleaded theories, that the TA's conduct violated Civil Service Law §115 and the Equal Protection Clauses of the New York and United States Constitutions.

Supreme Court deemed the §61(2) claim abandoned and, despite the fact that the Union failed to move for leave to replead or to amend its petition to allege the new claims, concluded that the petition stated a "potential" §115 violation, but that "a factual dispute remained" concerning whether SS-Is and SS-IIs performed the same duties. It referred the disputed issue to a special referee for a hearing, but before that hearing could be held Supreme Court granted the TA leave to appeal to the Appellate Division.

A divided Appellate Division affirmed. The majority found that the petition alleged viable Civil Service Law §115 and equal protection claims. The dissenting Justices would have dismissed the petition for failure to state a cause of action because, in their view, §115 enunciated only a state policy and did not confer upon state courts jurisdiction to enforce that policy. The dissenters would have found the Union's Equal Protection Clause arguments to be without merit.

TA then obtained leave to appeal its ruling on the certified question whether the order of Supreme Court as affirmed by the Appellate Division was properly made.

The Court of Appeals held that the order of the Appellate Division should be reversed and “the motion to dismiss the petition granted, and the certified question answered in the negative.”

The court explained that courts of this State have routinely interpreted §115 and its predecessor, the nearly identically-worded former Civil Service Law §37* "a mere statement of general policy applicable to all Civil Service employees" and that is is clear that §115 is a preamble to Civil Service Law Article VIII, and no private right of action flows from it. In contrast, said the court, Article 14 of the Civil Service Law (the Taylor Law) provides the mechanism for represented employees to challenge alleged wage disparities between classifications.

As to the Union’s Equal Protection argument, the Court of Appeals said that the Union's equal protection claims must be dismissed because the Union freely negotiated and executed the collective bargaining agreement that contained lower wage rates for SS-Is and, to the extent an equal protection claim can be raised, it must be asserted by the employees subjected to the alleged discriminatory conduct.

N.B. Justice Rivera issued a concurring opinion commenting stating “I agree that petitioner Subway Surface Supervisors Association's (SSSA) claims under the Federal and State Equal Protection Clauses should be dismissed. However, I disagree with the reasons stated for dismissal of the Civil Service Law §115 claim, and would instead dismiss that claim because SSSA failed to plead its entitlement to relief based on proper §115 equal pay for equal work allegations [and I am writing separately] to present my analysis that §115 sets forth a clear legislative mandate to ensure pay equality for state employees, guaranteed in part by a cognizable private cause of action that allows parties to challenge pay discrimination.”

* See Civil Service Law of 1909, enacted as Chapter 15 of the Laws of 1909.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:
http://www.nycourts.gov/reporter/3dseries/2014/2014_02380.htm
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The Commissioner of Education to determine if two positions are sufficiently similar within the meaning of Education Law §2510 in the first instance

The Commissioner of Education to determine if two positions are sufficiently similar within the meaning of Education Law §2510 in the first instance
Matter of Alden Cent. Sch. Dist. (Alden Cent. Schools Administrators' Assn.), 2014 NY Slip Op 02185, Appellate Division, Fourth Department

The school district filed an Article 75 petition seeking to stay arbitration of a grievance challenging the level of the compensation paid to an individual represented by the union who had been laid off from her position of principal of an elementary school and thereafter appointed from the preferred list to serve as an assistant principal at a middle school at a lower salary. The union filed a cross-petition seeking to compel arbitration of the grievance, contending that the educator’s new position was “sufficiently ‘similar’ within the meaning of the Education Law §2510(3)(a) such that she is entitled to the same level of pay.”

Supreme Court denied the school district’s petition for a stay of arbitration. The Appellate Division, however, reversed the lower court’s ruling and granted the district’s petition to stay the arbitration of the grievance.

Noting that it is well settled that, in deciding an application to stay or compel arbitration under CPLR §7503 the court is concerned only with the threshold determination of arbitrability, and not with the merits of the underlying claim, the Appellate Division explained that in making the threshold determination of arbitrability, the court applies a two-part test.

A court first determines whether "there is any statutory, constitutional or public policy prohibition against arbitration of the grievance. If no prohibition exists, [the court then determines] whether the parties in fact agreed to arbitrate the particular dispute by examining their collective bargaining agreement."

In this instance the Appellate Division said that it agreed with the school district that the Commissioner of Education has primary jurisdiction over the parties' dispute, and that arbitration is therefore prohibited by public policy.

The court said that the Commissioner of Education has the specialized knowledge and expertise to resolve the factual issue of whether the former position and the new position are similar within the meaning of Education Law §2510(3)(a). Accordingly, concluded the Appellate Division “the Commissioner of Education should ‘resolve, in the first instance’ the issue of fact whether two positions are sufficiently similar under Education Law §2510.”

The decision is posted on the Internet at:
http://www.nycourts.gov/reporter/3dseries/2014/2014_02185.htm


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