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Monday, October 04, 2010

Designating employee as managerial or confidential

Designating employee as managerial or confidential
Lippman v PERB, App. Div., Third Dept., 263 AD2d 891

The designation of managerial and confidential employees within the meaning of the Taylor Law is important to both employers and unions. In the Lippman case the Appellate Division, Third Department, set out the criteria courts follow in reviewing determinations by the Public Employment Relations Board [PERB] concerning the designation of such personnel.

PERB denied a request by the Office of Court Administration to designate nine high-level, nonjudicial Unified Court System [UCS] employees as managerial or confidential pursuant to Civil Service Law Section 201(7).

Employees designated “managerial or confidential” are excluded from the definition of public employees and are generally not covered “by the myriad of rights and protections afforded to public employees under the Taylor Law.”

The nine individuals served in position with the Court of Appeals, the Law Reporting Bureau and the First and Second Appellate Divisions and were then in a negotiating unit represented by the Civil Service Employees Association, Local 1000.

The Appellate Division affirmed PERB’s determination denying the nine managerial or confidential status on the authority of Court of Appeals decision in Rosen v Public Employment Relations Board, 72 NY2d 42.

Although UCS contended that the incumbents should designated managerial “based upon their role in the policy-making process of the courts where they work,” PERB had found that the nine did not “formulate policy” nor did they have a major role in personnel administration as contemplated by Civil Service Law Section 201(7)(a).

PERB’s “long-standing definitions of policy formulation” includes both “a person who has the authority or responsibility to select among options and to put a proposed policy into effect,” and a person “who participates with regularity in the essential process which results in a policy proposal and the decision to put such a proposal into effect.”

UCS contended that “employees need not be the ultimate decision makers to be designated as managerial policy formulators, and that it is sufficient if they assist the ultimate decision makers.” PERB, said the court, has recognized that the “definition of a policymaker is, and must be, sufficiently broad to include those relatively few individuals who directly assist the ultimate decision makers in reaching the decisions necessary to the conduct of the business of government.”

However, every employee who advise the ultimate decision makers is not automatically a policy formulator to be designated as managerial and excluded from the Taylor Law’s protections. Rather, the employer must demonstrate that the particular employee participates in the essential processes by which the employer makes its decisions regarding the department’s mission and the means by which those policy objectives can best be achieved.

The court said that it would defer to the expert charged with administering the Taylor Law -- PERB -- in view of its expertise with respect to the fundamental policies underlying that law.*

As to the standard the Appellate Division used: “‘[s]o long as [PERB’s] interpretation is legally permissible and so long as there is no breach of constitutional rights and protections ... ‘“, the court said it would accept PERB’s construction if reasonable and not arbitrary or irrational, [Village of Lynbrook v PERB, 48 NY2d 398].

The Court said that “[t]he determination of who “directly assists” the ultimate decision makers necessarily involves drawing distinctions and lines among employees based, inter alia [among other things], upon the nature, timing and level of their involvement in the decision-making processes, and upon the practices and hierarchy of the employer.”

Based on the record before it, the Appellate Division concluded, PERB acted rationally in making such distinctions and determinations regarding these employees.

What about “supervisory employees working with or for managerial employees.” The decision notes that such personnel “are not automatically or presumably confidential employees within the meaning of Civil Service Law Section 201(7)(a)(ii).” “Indeed,” said the court, “knowledge of personnel or disciplinary matters is often inherent in supervisory positions and does not warrant a confidential designation where it is limited and does not encompass labor relations information significant to the basic mission of the employer.”

* In contrast, the Appellate Division pointed out that “where ... the question is one of pure statutory construction,” dependent only on accurate understanding of the legislative intent, judicial review is less restricted as “statutory construction is the function of the courts.”
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