Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Disciplinary arbitration findings affect unemployment insurance claims
Edie v NYC Transit Authority, App. Div., 253 A.D.2d 952
As Santiago J. Edie learned, if an employee is found guilty of misconduct in a disciplinary arbitration, he or she will be disqualified for unemployment insurance benefits on the basis of that finding under the doctrine of collateral estoppel -- the decision in a prior action is conclusive if the same issue is subsequently presented to a second tribunal.
Edie, a New York City Transit Authority [NYCTA] conductor, applied for, and was granted, unemployment insurance benefits by a Workers’ Compensation Administrative Law Judge [ALJ]. Subsequently Edie was found guilty of cutting the electricity to one of a train’s doors while it was moving. For safety reasons, NYCTA’s policy was to cut the power to train doors only when the train was stopped. This misconduct, according to the arbitrator, warranted dismissal and Edie was terminated.*
The Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board, reversing its ALJ’s decision, ruled that Edie disqualified for benefits because he lost his employment due to his misconduct, giving collateral estoppel effect to the disciplinary arbitrator’s factual findings. Edie appealed.
The Appellate Division confirmed the Board’s ruling. It said that Edie had been given a “full and fair opportunity to litigate the misconduct issue at the arbitration hearing.” The fact that the ALJ’s decision was issued prior to the arbitrator’s decision did not prevent the Board overturning the ALJ’s determination.
It is the Board, not the ALJ, that is “the final factfinder in the administrative process” insofar as the adjudication of workers’ compensation claims is concerned.
* The Appellate Division’s decision comments that “significantly, at the time of this incident [Edie] was already on probation for violating a safety rule involving the operation of the doors.”
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