TO RESEARCH NYPPL POSTINGS type in your key word in the box at the upper left and tap enter.

The New York City Metropolitan Transportation Authority is seeking applicants for the position of Deputy General Counsel – Employment.
For more information, go to http://publicpersonnellaw.blogspot.com/2014/07/the-new-york-city-metropolitan.html
Are you an author looking for a publisher? If so, click on http://www.abuzzpress.com for details.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

New York State's University Police, Park Police, EnCon Officers and Forest Rangers approve new collective bargaining agreement

New York State's University Police, Park Police, EnCon Officers and Forest Rangers approve new collective bargaining agreement
Source: Office of the Governor

On January 31, 2010 Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and Manuel M. Vilar, President of the Police Benevolent Association of New York State, announced the ratification of a contract agreement between the state and the labor union representing New York State's University Police, Park Police, EnCon Officers and Forest Rangers. The union reports more than 95% of their members voted to ratify the contract.

The ratified contract resolves outstanding wage and contractual issues dating back to 2005, ensures protections against layoffs, and offers health benefits commensurate with other state bargaining units. The contract provides for zero percent wage increases for 2011-2013, a 2% increase in 2014, 9 days of deficit reduction leave, and adjustments to the health insurance premium.

The Agency Law Enforcement Services Unit (ALES) is composed of University police, Park Police, EnCon Officers and Forest Rangers. They have not had a contract since 2005 and were in arbitration for the years 2005-2007.

Key provision of the contract agreement include:

    · Zero percent wage increases for 2011-2013, a 2% increase in 2014. 
    · A $1,000 retention bonus paid out $775 in the third year and $225 in the fourth year. 
    · Deficit Reduction Leave of five days this fiscal year and four days next fiscal year. 
    · Retroactive payments that are scheduled to be paid in two installments -- one this fiscal year and one next fiscal year before the end of the calendar year. 
    · Health insurance premium share increase by 6% for both individual and families, making the share 16% for individuals and 31% for family premiums. 
    · Random drug testing and drug testing for probationary employees in addition to reasonable suspicion testing. 
    · A labor/management committee to review all leave taken by officers, including annual, personal, sick, workers compensation, and the manner of such use. Recommendations will be made to the President of the Union and the GOER Director for implementation. 
    · A health plan opt out so officers can opt out through a spouse/partner to a non-State health plan. Under the opt out, participants would receive $1,000 individual/$3,000 family . 
    · Officers will receive broad layoff protection. Workforce reductions due to management decisions to close or restructure facilities authorized by legislation, SAGE recommendations or material or unanticipated changes in the state's fiscal circumstances are not covered by this limitation.

The provisions in a “memorandum of understanding” that are limited to applying to “employees” do not apply to a “retired employee”

The provisions in a “memorandum of understanding” that are limited to applying to “employees” do not apply to a “retired employee”
Derosa v Dyster, 2011 NY Slip Op 09363, Appellate Division, Fourth Department

Patricia Derosa, a retired employee the City of Niagara Falls, sued the City in an effort to compel it to provide her with “either post-employment health insurance coverage or opt-out payments in lieu of such coverage, contending that she was entitled to such benefits pursuant to the terms of a Memorandum of Understanding [MOU] between the City and the Union.

The Appellate Division ruled that Derosa, as a retired employee, was not eligible to elect the “opting out” provision, explaining that the MOU gave qualified employees a choice of either participating in the health care plan or opting out of that plan. However, said the court, although the MOU permitted retirees to participate in the health care plan upon retirement under the same terms and conditions as employees, it did not contain a similar "opt-out provision" for retirees.

Pointing out that the opt-out paragraph set out in the MOU specifically stated that qualified employees could elect to opt-out of the health care plan, the Appellate Division held that Derosa, as a retiree, and thus no longer an employee, was entitled to enroll in the health care plan at no cost to her but could not elect to "opt-out."

The decision is posted on the Internet at:


Monday, January 30, 2012

Agency or insurance carrier must provide substantial evidence to rebut presumptions set out in Volunteer Firefighters’ Benefit Law as to cause of death

Agency or insurance carrier must provide substantial evidence to rebut presumptions set out in Volunteer Firefighters’ Benefit Law as to cause of death
Machajewski v Town of Cambria, 89 AD3d 1175

Gerald A. Machajewski, a volunteer firefighter for the Town of Cambria, Niagara County, collapsed while responding to a call and died shortly thereafter.

It was determined that Machajewski suffered an acute coronary artery thrombosis, and the Workers' Compensation Board, applying the rebuttable presumptions contained in Volunteer Firefighters' Benefit Law §§44 and 61*, ultimately approved a claim for workers' compensation death benefits by Machajewski’s widow.

When the Town’s and its workers' compensation carrier’s appealed the Board’s determination, the Appellate Division said that there is no dispute that a heart or coronary artery condition caused Machajewski's death and thus his widow would entitled to death benefits if that condition "resulted from the duties and activities in which [decedent] was engaged" (Volunteer Firefighters' Benefit Law §61[1]).

As the record indicated that Machajewski had never been diagnosed with a heart condition and had been examined by his physician just weeks before his death and was found to be in good health, the Appellate Division ruled that “Inasmuch as that ‘evidence permits reasonable inferences to sustain the finding of the [B]oard that the death was due to unusual strain and effort’ attendant to [Machajewski’s] duties, the Town was obliged to provide substantial evidence to the contrary in order to defeat his widow’s application.

The court held that “the Board properly determined that claimant's demonstration of entitlement to death benefits had not been rebutted.”

* Presumptions regarding death or disability due to disease or malfunction of his or her heart or coronary arteries suffered by a volunteer firefighter alleged to have resulted from the performance of the duties and activities in which the volunteer fireman was engaged

The decision is posted on the Internet at:
http://www.nycourts.gov/reporter/3dseries/2011/2011_07765.htm

Friday, January 27, 2012

A party's demand to arbitrate a grievance must survive a two-prong test: is the subject of the dispute arbitrable and, if so, did the parties agree to do so

A party's demand to arbitrate a grievance must survive a two-prong test: is the subject of the dispute arbitrable and, if so, did the parties agree to do so
Arbitration between the Town Of Saugerties and the Town of Saugerties Policeman's Benevolent Assn., 2012 NY Slip Op 00458, Appellate Division, Third Department
 
The Town of Saugerties challenged the Supreme Court's denial of its CPLR 7503 petition to stay the arbitration of a grievance filed by the Town of Saugerties Policeman's Benevolent Association [PBA] concerning an order that required a police officer to work in excess of an eight-hour tour.

The Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) stated, among other things, that the Town "agrees to comply with the requirements of §971 of the Unconsolidated Laws of New York."*

Courts, said the Appellate Division, determine arbitrability according to a two-prong test:

1. May the parties arbitrate the dispute and, if so,

2. Whether the parties in fact agreed to do so.

The Town contended that demand to arbitrate fails both tests as the resolution of the dispute:

1. Requires the application or interpretation of the terms of a statute and public policy will not permit an arbitrator to apply or interpret a statute, and

2. The parties did not agree to arbitrate the application or interpretation of the statute at issue here.

The Appellate Davison decided that neither of the Town’s arguments had merit, explaining that the CBA incorporates §971 by reference, making the language of the statute a substantive provision of the CBA.

Further, said the court, the Town had identified any public policy that would preclude the arbitrator from interpreting such language set out in the CBA.

In addition, the court noted that the CBA defines disputes as "[a]ny grievance arising concerning the interpretation or application of the terms of this contract or the rights claimed thereunder and/or working conditions."

As the dispute underlying the PBA’s grievance concerns overtime, which is clearly a working condition, clearly one that the parties intended to arbitrate the Appellate Division concluded that Supreme Court correctly granted the PBA’s cross motion to compel arbitration and dismissed the Town’s petition.

* §971 of the Unconsolidated Law, in relevant part, provides that police officers shall not be assigned to tours of duty exceeding eight consecutive hours of each consecutive 24 hours, with certain exceptions. See, also,  Police Asso. of the City of Mt. Vernon v City of Mt. Vernon, 279 A.D.2d 561, posted on the Internet at: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/ny-supreme-court/1055483.html

The decision is posted on the Internet at:


Enforcing disciplinary settlement agreements

Enforcing disciplinary settlement agreements
Lyons v Whitehead, 2 AD3d 638

The Appellate Division's decision in the Lyons case demonstrates the importance of making certain that the terms and conditions of a disciplinary settlement agreement clearly indicate the expectations of the parties.

An employee at the Letchworth Developmental Disabilities Service, and the Director of Letchworth, had entered into a disciplinary settlement agreement that provided that the employee would participate in a treatment program to treat her abuse of prescription drugs. The settlement required the employee to follow the program's attendance requirement, and to complete the program.

The agreement also provided that the employee would be placed on "general probation status" for one year, and that her employment could be terminated for a violation of her probation without any further hearing "except for time and attendance infractions".

The employee failed to attend a scheduled "medication course." The Director viewed this as a breach of the Settlement Agreement and terminated the employee's employment. Acting on behalf of the employee, the Civil Service Employee's Association, Inc., sued. They asked for a court order reinstating the employee to her position. CSEA argued that the employee’s failure to attend the medication course was a "time and attendance infraction" and thus she could not be summarily terminated under the terms of the Settlement Agreement.

Although the Supreme Court directed that the employee be restored to her employment, the Appellate Division reversed and remanded the case to the lower court to determine whether the employee’s failure to attend the "medication course" was a "time and attendance infraction" under the Settlement Agreement.

The Appellate Division ruled that "[b]ecause the Settlement Agreement is a contract between the parties, it must be construed according to ordinary contract law." Accordingly, the court must "determine the intention of the parties as derived from the language employed in the contract", and it "should strive to give a fair and reasonable meaning to the language used," citing Abiele Construction v New York City School Construction Authority, 91 NY2d 1.

It is clear that the appellant could terminate the employee's employment for a violation of her probation, "except for time and attendance infractions." Was employee’s absence from the "medication course" a breech of the Settlement Agreement?

The Director maintained that attending the medication course "was part of the treatment program" that the employee agreed to attend as part of the Settlement Agreement. CSEA, on the other hand, argued that it was "a mandatory course for all employees working at [the employee’s]salary grade and title for recertification to perform the duties of dispensing medication to patients" and thus her absence was a "time and attendance" problem excluded under the Settlement Agreement.

The court decided that the nature of the medication course could not be determined from the record and therefore it could not decide whether or not the employee’s failure to attend it was a "time and attendance infraction" or a breach of the disciplinary settlement agreement.

Thus, said the court, "the matter must be remitted to the Supreme Court, for a hearing on the question of whether the medication course was the same as the treatment program, and if not, whether the employee's  absence falls within the category of "time and attendance infractions." The Appellate Division said that the lower court "had to make a new determination" based on its answer to these questions.

The basic idea underlying the Lyons decision is that the court must interpret and apply the terms set out in a disciplinary settlement agreement precisely. The decision in Taylor v Cass, 
122 A.D.2d 885, illustrates this point.

A former County employee, won reinstatement with full retroactive salary and contract benefits after a court found that he was improperly dismissed while serving a six-month disciplinary probation.

The disciplinary settlement provided that the County could terminate the employee without any hearing if, in the opinion of the employee’s superior, the employee’s job performance was "adversely affected by his intoxication on the job during the next six months."

The employee, while serving this six-month disciplinary probationary period, was terminated without a hearing after what his supervisor described as the employee’s "failing to give a fair day's work" and "sleeping during scheduled working hours".

The employee challenged his dismissal and won reinstatement with back pay. Why? The Appellate Division decided that the employee’s dismissal was improper because he was not summarily terminated for the sole reason specified in the disciplinary settlement agreement: intoxication while on the job.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The advancement of two equally plausible and reasonable interpretations of the CBA provision at issue bars a court from granting a motion for summary judgment

The advancement of two equally plausible and reasonable interpretations of the CBA provision at issue bars a court from granting a motion for summary judgment
Williams v Village of Endicott, 2012 NY Slip Op 00276, Appellate Division, Third Department

The collective bargaining agreement (CBA) in effect between the Village of Endicott and the collective bargaining representative for police officers provided that at the time the plaintiff police officers retired from the Village’s police department in 1998, the Village  "shall keep in full force and effect medical coverage and hospital coverage for each member of the bargaining unit, with benefits to be of a value at least equivalent to those presently in force[,] subject to the following conditions:

All unit members retiring during the terms of this agreement agree that subsequent to their retirement, and in consideration of [defendant's] agreement to continue their health insurance coverage, they will continue to pay a contribution toward their annual health insurance premium and such contribution shall be a sum of $500.00 per annum for family coverage, and a sum of $200.00 per annum for individual coverage."*

When Williams became eligible for Medicare Part B coverage in 2007, he was informed that the health insurance provided by Village would not cover services that would be covered under Medicare Part B, even if he failed to enroll in the program.**

As a result, Williams enrolled in Medicare Part B*** and was charged a separate premium by Medicare, which was deducted from his Social Security benefits. When Village refused [William's] request for reimbursement, Williams sued, seeking a summary judgment that the CBA required the Village to cover the costs associated with his Medicare Part B coverage. The Village also moved for summary judgment dismissing Williams' petition. Supreme Court denied both motions and both Williams and the Village appealed.

The Appellate Division said that "In determining the obligations of parties to a contract, courts will first look to the express contract language used to give effect to the intention of the parties, and where the language of a contract is clear and unambiguous, the court will construe and discern that intent from the document itself as a matter of law." Further, the court said that “Whether a contract is ambiguous is a question of law to be resolved by the court.”

Although the Appellate Division found that there was “an ambiguity as to whether Medicare Part B coverage is a component of the ‘medical coverage and hospital coverage’ that [the Village] agreed to provide to retirees under the CBA,” it also said that “On the other hand, the operative language could be read to require defendant to continue to provide and pay for a defined level of health insurance benefits — i.e, those in place at the time of retirement — without resort to any particular insurance plan or provider, subject to [William’s] $500/$200 annual contribution.”

Concluding that the parties have advanced two equally plausible and reasonable interpretations of the CBA provision in question, thereby evidencing an ambiguity that requires consideration of evidence outside the four corners of the CBA relevant to the parties' intent.”

As the scant extrinsic evidence contained in the record did not dispositively establish the scope of health insurance coverage contemplated by the parties, the Appellate Division ruled that the matter was not amenable to summary disposition.

* The court noted that the interpretation of this provision was previously before it when the Village attempted to increase the annual contributions that retirees were required to pay towards their health insurance premium (Hudock v Village of Endicott, 28 AD3d 923 [2006]). In Hudock the Appellate Division found that "the language of the CBA unambiguously provides that for all times subsequent to the retirement of [the] plaintiffs and other officers who retired while the 1996-1999 CBA was in effect, those retirees are only required to pay defendant a contribution of $500 or $200 toward their annual medical insurance 'in consideration of [Village's] agreement to continue their health insurance coverage.'"

** See §167-a of the Civil Service Law with respect to the reimbursement of Medicare premiums by the State as the employer for its retired employees and NYSHIP participating employers on behalf of their retirees. A brief history of the events leading to the enactment of §167-a is posted on the Internet at: http://publicpersonnellaw.blogspot.com/2010/05/reduction-of-medicare-premiums.html

*** Enrollment in Medicare is not required by law but if Williams refused to do so, the Village’s insurance carrier would not pay any benefits otherwise payable by Medicare, in effect forcing Williams and similarly situated retirees to enroll in Medicare or forfeit most of their health insurance benefits.

The Williams decision is posted on the Internet at:
http://www.courts.state.ny.us/reporter/3dseries/2012/2012_00276.htm

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Finding there is a qualified privilege with respect to statements made after a whistle-blowing event defeats an employee's claim of slander

Finding there is a qualified privilege with respect to statements made after a whistle-blowing event defeats an employee's claim of slander
Cusimano v United Health Servs. Hosps., Inc., 2012 NY Slip Op 00271, Appellate Division, Third Department

Following a report from a member of the staff that a physician was storing pharmaceutical drug samples in the physician's office in violation of the employer’s policy, the office of the physician was searched and 114 sample packets, totaling 798 tablets, of the drug Provigil, a controlled substance, was found in an unlocked filing cabinet in the physician’s office. This constituted a violation of the employer’s policy barring the storage of Provigil in the offices of its physicians.

When the search was completed, the employees performing the search confiscated the Provigil. They then allegedly reported their findings to other medical office assistants working at the facility and commented that the physician “would likely be arrested and dismissed.

The physician filed a lawsuit against the employer and certain of its employees alleging slander per se, the intentional infliction of emotional distress, prima facie tort and trespass. Supreme Court dismissed the physician’s complaint and the physician appealed.

The Appellate Division said that Supreme Court properly determined that the statements of the employees to co-workers were protected by a qualified privilege, noting that "A qualified privilege arises when a person makes a good-faith, bona fide communication upon a subject in which he or she has an interest, or a legal, moral or societal interest to speak, and the communication is made to a person with a corresponding interest.”

Significantly, the court said that such common interest “may include statements to fellow employees on a subject concerning the employer.”

In this instance the employees’ statements to which the physician objected “were made solely to their co-employees,” all of whom were collectively responsible for the functioning and proper operation of the facility.

As all the employees involved had a common interest in knowing whether pharmaceuticals were being stored in violation of the employer’s policy and the implications with respect to physicians storing such items in their  offices, the Appellate Division found that the employees being sued “demonstrated that the statements were protected by a qualified privilege.”

This, said the court, shifted the burden to prove that the employees "acted out of personal spite or ill will, with reckless disregard for the statements' truth or falsity, or with a high degree of belief that their statements were probably false" to the physician.

Although the physician said that certain of the employees involved “harbored ill will” as a result of certain events that transpired in the days prior to the search, the Court noted that "spite or ill will refers not to [a] defendant's general feelings about [a] plaintiff, but to the speaker's motivation for making the defamatory statements [, and] a triable issue is raised only if a jury could reasonably conclude that malice was the one and only cause for the publication" of the offending statement.

The employees conducting the search did based upon first-hand information from another worker that she observed pharmaceutical samples being delivered to physician’s office Their statements to other employees following the discovery of the samples of Provigil in the physician’s office were “made in furtherance of the common interest” and thus were protected by the privilege.”

The decision states that even if the individuals disliked the physician or possessed some ill will towards the physician, the physician failed to make an evidentiary showing that the employees involved "were motivated by malice alone in making the statements" nor was there any representation that the employees involved “knew that their statements describing Provigil as a narcotic* were false or that they acted with reckless disregard as to whether [such statements] were false.”

Indeed, said the Appellate Division,  “the proof established that the terms ‘narcotic’ and ‘controlled substance’ are often used interchangeably throughout the medical community, and that the [employees] neither knew nor understood the difference.

Accordingly, said the court, the physician failed to demonstrate a triable issue regarding the existence of constitutional or common-law malice sufficient to defeat the qualified privilege and the privileged nature of these statements likewise precludes liability against the employer under the theory of respondeat superior.

The Supreme Court’s ruling was affirmed by the Appellate Division.

* Although all narcotics are controlled substances, not all controlled substances are narcotics.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:
http://www.courts.state.ny.us/reporter/3dseries/2012/2012_00271.htm

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Police may not use GPS device to track suspects without a court order - is a court order required to acquire and use GPS evidence in an administrative disciplinary action?

Police may not use GPS device to track suspects without a court order - is a court order required to acquire and use GPS evidence in an administrative disciplinary action?
United States v. Jones, Certiorari To The United States Court of Appeals for The District of Columbia Circuit. No. 10–1259

The U.S. Supreme Court has unanimously ruled that “The Government’s attachment of the GPS device to the vehicle, and its use of that device to monitor the vehicle’s movements, constitutes a search under the Fourth Amendment.”

The Court said that the government violated the Fourth Amendment, which protects individuals from unreasonable searches, when it afixed a global positioning [GPS] device to Antoine Jones’s car and tracked his movements continuously for a month. The Court rejected the argument advanced by the Government that Jones had no “reason­able expectation of privacy.”

Justice Scalia delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Kennedy, Thomas, and Sotomayor, joined. Justices Sotomayor filed a concurring opinion, as did Justice Alito, in which Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, and Kagan joined.

Earlier New York’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, ruled that the warrantless installation of a GPS device to track an individual suspected of criminal activity was barred by New York State’s Constitution [see People v Weaver, 12 NY3d 433,].

The Weaver Court noted that Article 1, §12, of New York State’s Constitution, in addition to tracking the language of the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, provides: "The right of the people to be secure against unreasonable interception of telephone and telegraph communications shall not be violated, and ex parte orders or warrants shall issue only upon oath or affirmation that there is reasonable ground to believe that evidence of crime may be thus obtained, and identifying the particular means of communication, and particularly describing the person or persons whose communications are to be intercepted and the purpose thereof."

The Court of Appeals reasoned that:

1. The residual privacy expectation Weaver retained in his vehicle, while perhaps small, was at least adequate to support his claim of a violation of his constitutional right to be free of unreasonable searches and seizures.

2. The massive invasion of privacy entailed by the prolonged use of the GPS device was inconsistent with even the slightest reasonable expectation of privacy.

The court ruled that the warrantless use of a tracking device is inconsistent with the protections guaranteed by the New York State Constitution noting that technological advances have produced many valuable tools for law enforcement and, as the years go by, the technology available to aid in the detection of criminal conduct will only become more and more sophisticated. “Without judicial oversight, the use of these powerful devices presents a significant and, to our minds, unacceptable risk of abuse. Under our State Constitution, in the absence of exigent circumstances, the installation and use of a GPS device to monitor an individual's whereabouts requires a warrant supported by probable cause.”

A number administrative disciplinary actions taken against employees were initiated as a result of information obtained using global positioning equipment installed in the employer’s vehicle or in the employee's employer-issued cell phone.

The decisions in Jones and in Weaver case may have an impact on the future use of such GPS equipment, or the evidence obtained from such devices, in administrative disciplinary hearings.

Among the unresolved questions:

1. Will a court order be required to obtain GPS evidence for use in an administrative disciplinary action if the administrative charges and specifications would also serve as a basis for filing a criminal complaint against the employee?

2. Will a court order be required to obtain GPS evidence for use in an administrative disciplinary action if the administrative charges and specifications could not be a basis for filing a criminal complaint against the employee?

For the present, however, the following appears to control with respect to the use of GPS evidence in an administrative disciplinary action.

1. PERB has considered the issue the employer installing global positioning equipment in agency vehicles in the context of collective bargaining. In Civil Service Employees Association, Inc., Local 1000 and County Of Nassau, U-26816, PERB’s Administrative Law Judge dismissed a charge alleging that the County violated the Taylor Law by unilaterally deciding to utilize global positioning system (GPS) technology.

The ALJ said that PERB has long held that the determination of the type of equipment to be utilized by an employer does not give rise to a bargaining obligation and, accordingly, a balancing of interests test was not appropriate. Further, the ALJ found that CSEA’s arguments that employees' privacy rights were affected, that they had to participate in record keeping, and that there was an interference with off duty time were either inapplicable or had no factual basis. [See, also, Civil Service Employees Association, Inc., Local 1000, and County of Nassau (Department Of Public Works), U-27544, 6/26/08]

2. In Cunningham v New York State Dept. of Labor, 88 AD3d 1347 the court held that evidence obtained using a global positioning device [GPS] was permitted in administrative disciplinary hearing.

Michael A. Cunningham, an employee of the New York State Department of Labor, was served with disciplinary charges alleging that he had reported false information about hours he had worked on many days and that he had submitted false vouchers related to travel with his vehicle. The disciplinary hearing officer found Cunningham guilty of certain charges and recommend that Cunningham be dismissed from his position. The Commissioner of Labor accepted the hearing officer's findings and recommended penalty and terminated Cunningham from service.

The Appellate Division noted that in a case decided after Office of the Inspector General [OIG] had concluded its investigation of Cunningham, a majority in the Court of Appeals held that, within the context of a criminal investigation, "[u]nder our State Constitution, in the absence of exigent circumstances, the installation and use of a GPS device to monitor an individual's whereabouts requires a warrant supported by probable cause.”

Concluding that although the GPS evidence gathered in the course of the OIG investigation would have likely been excluded from a criminal trial under Weaver, the Appellate Division said that the standard for using or excluding evidence at administrative proceedings is not controlled by criminal law, citing McCormick, Evidence §173 [6th ed] [supp], in which it was observed that “most courts do not apply the exclusionary rule to various administrative proceedings including employee disciplinary matters”.

The court said that the test applied in a search conducted by a public employer investigating work-related misconduct of one of its employees is whether the search was reasonable “under all the circumstances, both as to the inception and scope of the intrusion.”

Similarly, said the court, when the search was “conducted by an entity other than the administrative body” seeking to use the evidence in a disciplinary proceeding, the rule is applied by "balancing the deterrent effect of exclusion against its detrimental impact on the process of determining the truth." As in this instance the investigation was refer to the OIG. Under such facts, said the court, “the reasonableness test appears applicable.”

The Appellate Division decided that in order to establish a pattern of serious misconduct such as repeatedly submitting false time records in contrast to a mere isolated incident, it was necessary to obtain pertinent and credible information over a period of time. Here the court ruled that “obtaining such information for one month using a GPS device was not unreasonable in the context of a noncriminal proceeding involving a high-level state employee with a history of discipline problems who had recently thwarted efforts to follow him in his nonworking-related ventures during work hours.”

Under the circumstances the Appellate Division concluded that neither OIG nor Department of Labor had acted unreasonably.

3. In Halpin v Klein, 62 AD3d 403, the employee was found guilty of disciplinary charges involving absence from work based on records generated by global positioning equipment. Halpin's guilt was established using data from the GPS installed in his Department-issued cell phone.

The Weaver decision is posted on the Internet at:

The Cunningham decision is posted on the Internet at:

The Halpin decision is posted on the Internet at: http://www.courts.state.ny.us/reporter/3dseries/2009/2009_03593.htm

The Jones decision is posted on the Internet at:

Monday, January 23, 2012

Videotape admitted as evidence in a disciplinary hearing alleging fighting on the job

Videotape admitted as evidence in a disciplinary hearing alleging fighting on the job
NYC Dept. of Homeless Services v Murray, OATH Index #2149/11

A dispute at the entrance of a homeless shelter led to disciplinary charges being filed against a New York City Department of Homeless Services employee.

The employee, a special officer who was stationed at the shelter’s security screening checkpoint, got into a physical altercation with her partner, another special officer, in view of clients.

A videotape showed that the officer and her partner exchanging words. The officer threw latex gloves at her partner, who threw a punch at her. The Officer than charged her partner, and had to be restrained by a third officer.

OATH Administrative Law Judge Kevin F. Casey found that the officer’s use of offensive language in front of clients and co-workers was misconduct. He also found the fight to be misconduct because it could have been avoided, but that the provocation did mitigate the penalty he would have otherwise recommended.

Noting that “[f]ighting with a colleague at the workplace is misconduct, even if there is provocation.” ALJ Casey said that “workplace fight between colleagues is misconduct by both employees regardless of who starts the fight, as long as both parties demonstrated a willingness to participate.”

As to a participants claim of “self-defense, self-defense can justify participation in a fight only if the employee had no reasonable means to avoid the altercation said the ALJ.

Judge Casey, sustaining two of the charges filed against the officer, recommended a 30-day suspension without pay as the penalty to be imposed.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

Friday, January 20, 2012

The arbitrator does not have the power to modify an arbitration award that has been judicially confirmed

The arbitrator does not have the power to modify an arbitration award that has been judicially confirmed
Kalyanaram v New York Inst. of Tech., 2012 NY Slip Op 00309, Appellate Division, First Department

The Appellate Division rejected a party to the arbitration assertion that disputes concerning the performance of the remedy provisions of the arbitration award should be determined by the arbitrator as being without merit in this instance.

The court explained that “Since a final arbitration award has been rendered finally resolving the dispute between the parties, and the award has been judicially confirmed (79 AD3d 418 [2010], lv denied 17 NY3d 712 [2011]), a judgment enforceable by the courts has been entered (see CPLR 7514),” the arbitrator is functus officio, “without power to amend or modify the final award.”

Functus officio means "having performed his office." Where, as here, there has been a final judicial determination concerning the matter, the arbitrator no longer has jurisdiction.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

Application seeking the removal of a school official must give the official notice of the application being filed


Application seeking the removal of a school official must give the official notice of the application being filed
Application of Donald B. Oglesby regarding an election, and application for the removal of Superintendent Lisa Wiles, board members Karin Osterhoudt and Phillip Mattracion, and teachers Denise Moore, James Pidel and Ann Beukelman, Commissioner of Education Decision #16,311

The Commissioner viewed Donald B. Oglesby’s applications as challenging an election to select members of the school board and to remove the school superintendent and certain board members and teachers from their respective positions.

As to the application for removal of the school officials and teachers, the Commissioner said that it must be denied because the notice of petition is defective.  

Commissioner’s regulations require that the notice accompanying a removal application specifically advise a school officer that an application is being made for his or her removal from office (8 NYCRR §277.1[b]).  In this case, Oglesby failed to give such notice and, instead, used the notice prescribed under §275.11(a) for appeals brought pursuant to Education Law §310.  

The Commissioner explained that “A notice of petition which fails to contain the language required by the Commissioner’s regulation is fatally defective and does not secure jurisdiction over the intended respondent.”

Further, the Commissioner rejected Oglesby’s application to remove certain teachers from their positions, indicating that tenured teachers are school district employees, not school officers, and are thus not subject to removal under Education Law §306.

Other technical and substantive issues addressed by the Commissioner in considering Oglesby’s application included:

Verification of the application: §275.5 of the Commissioner’s regulations requires that all pleadings in an appeal to the Commissioner be verified; Oglesby’s reply was not verified in violation of §275.5 and not considered by the Commissioner.

The Commissioner declining to consider material submitted in unsworn documents from Oglesby, noting that additional affidavits, exhibits and other supporting papers may only be submitted with the prior permission of the Commissioner.

The failure of Oglesby to serve the named individuals in his application with copies of tape recordings or video tapes that were “were alleged to be attached as exhibits to the petition” as otherwise required by §275.8(a) of the Commissioner’s regulations -- a “copy of the petition, together with all of petitioner’s affidavits, exhibits, and other supporting papers . . . shall be personally served upon each named respondent . . . .” 

As to newspaper articles submitted by Oglesby, the Commissioner said that “It is well settled that newspaper articles do not constitute evidence of the truth of the statements contained therein.”

The Commissioner rejected school districts claim that certain of the act complained of were untimely. The Commissioner held that it would be “unreasonable and detrimental to the efficient resolution of a petitioner’s claims to require that petitioner institute separate appeals with respect to acts comprising a series of events closely related to the election” complaint. In such circumstances, even though the appeal involves acts occurring more than 30 days from the date the appeal is commenced, I have declined to dismiss the appeal as untimely provided the appeal is commenced within 30 days of the election [citations omitted].

Finally, the Commissioner said that to the extent that Oglesby raised claims that do not arise under the Education Law, such as defamation and slander, he lacked lack jurisdiction over such claims.

The Commissioner’s decision is posted on the Internet at:

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Pre-existent non-work-related condition not an absolute bar to eligibility for General Municipal Law §207-c disability benefits

Pre-existent non-work-related condition not an absolute bar to eligibility for General Municipal Law §207-c disability benefits
Matter of Brunner v Bertoni, 2012 NY Slip Op 00167, Appellate Division, Third Department

A police officer sustained serious injuries in an off-duty motorcycle accident. Upon his return to work with the Village of Endicott Police Department, he undertook mandatory firearms training that involved repeatedly firing his sidearm with his left hand. He could not complete the training due to pain in his left thumb and, as a result, stopped working for eight months until learning how to shoot his weapon with his right hand.

The police officer had applied for benefits pursuant to General Municipal Law §207-c. His application was ultimately denied by the Mayor and the officer filed an Article 78 petition seeking a court order directing the Village to provide him with §207-c benefits.

The Appellate Division sustained the Supreme Court’s dismissal of the petition explaining that although "[p]reexisting non-work-related conditions [would] not bar recovery . . . [if the police officer’s] job duties were a direct cause of the disability," substantial evidence in the record amply supported the Mayor’s finding that “they were not a direct cause” in this instance.

General Municipal Law §207-c provides eligible law enforcement personnel with benefits, including full wages, in the event they are injured in the performance of their duties. Such individuals, however, must "prove a direct causal relationship between job duties and the resulting illness or injury" in order to be entitled to such benefits.

The decision is posted on the Internet at: 

=======================

General Municipal Law§§ 207-a and 207-c - a 1098 page e-book focusing on administering General Municipal Law Sections 207-a/207-c and providing benefits thereunder is available from the Public Employment Law Press. Click on http://section207.blogspot.com/ for additional information about this electronic reference manual.

========================

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Redesigned New York State’s organization chart proposes to consolidate the Department of Civil Service and the Governor’s Office of Employee Relations into a single unit

Redesigned New York State’s organization chart proposes to consolidate the Department of Civil Service and the Governor’s Office of Employee Relations into a single unit
Source: Office of the Governor

In his 2012-2013 Executive Budget and Reform Plan, Governor Cuomo stated that in  2011-12 the State started the process of merging and consolidating State agencies to achieve efficiencies and reduce redundancies.

The Governor indicated that “This process continues ... with consolidations, ... resulting in better, streamlined services." 

Among the proposed mergers set out in the 2012-2013 proposed budget: merging the Department of Civil Service and the Governor’s Office of Employee Relations "to provide the State with a single entity responsible for a strategic approach to workforce management, including recruiting, training, promoting, and developing a best in class workforce for the people.”

The Governor's 2012-2013 Executive Budget and Reform Plan is posted on the Internet at:

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Civil Service Commission’s decision concerning the fitness of a candidate for appointment final unless found irrational or arbitrary

Civil Service Commission’s decision concerning the fitness of a candidate for appointment final unless found irrational or arbitrary
Rogan v Nassau County Civ. Serv. Commn, 2012 NY Slip Op 00217, Appellate Division, Second Department

A candidate in Nassau County”s Police Officer Examination No. 7000 failed to attain a passing score on the physical fitness screening test.

The candidate sue, contending that the Commission acted irrationally or arbitrarily and capriciously in relying upon a proctor's assessment that the candidate failed to complete the number of sit-ups required to pass the physical fitness screening test promulgated by the State’s Municipal Police Training Council.

Supreme Court denied his petition and the Appellate Division affirmed the lower court’s ruling.

The Appellate Division, noting that “An appointing authority* has wide discretion in determining the fitness of candidates,” explained that such discretion is particularly broad in the hiring of law enforcement officers, to whom high standards may be applied.”

A court, said the Appellate Division, “may not substitute its judgment for that of the agency responsible for making the determination and, as long as the administrative determination is not irrational or arbitrary and capricious, [it] may not annul it.”

* Although this decision may give the reader the impression that the Commission was the appointing authority with respect to police officers, a Civil Service Commission is the agency responsible for determining the eligibility of candidates seeking appointment to positions in the competitive class of the classified service by examination and then certifying those found eligible and qualified to the appointing authority for selection for appointment to the position. [People v Gaffney, 201 NY 535]

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

Monday, January 16, 2012

Will the next NYSERS retirement tier be based on defined contributions?

Will the next NYSERS retirement tier be based on defined contributions?
A NYPPL comment*

It is expected that there will be yet another “membership tier” grafted onto the New York State Employees’ Retirement System [ERS] and possibly the New York State Teachers’ Retirement System [TRS]. The question to be resolved is whether the next “Tier” will be a modification of the existing model – i.e., a defined benefit plan -- or whether the legislation will go in a new direction and provide that this new tier will be a Defined Contribution Plan [DCP].

The key elements of a viable DCP plan would provide that:

1. All new members would join a DCP;
2. Employer and employee contributions would be negotiated through collective bargaining;
3. Employees would “vest” immediately;
4. Current members of a public retirement system would be permitted to elect to become members of the appropriate DCP; and
5. ERS and TRS, respectively, would administer their DCP plans by essentially expand the existing “employee contribution” operations of the Systems, with, perhaps, a variable annuity option made available to interested members.

Since 1965 the State University’s Optional Retirement Plan, a retirement plan based on defined contributions rather than defined benefits, has been available to certain employees of the State University of New York, the Statutory Contract Colleges at Cornell and Alfred Universities, and the community colleges.** Further, since 1968 the City University of the City of New York has offered certain of its employees the opportunity to elect to participate in an optional DCP retirement program as well.***

The model for such legislation may well be the State University’s DCP, which is set out in Education Law §390, et seq. The State Education Department Optional Retirement Program is set out in §180 of the Education Law.

* GOVERNOR CUOMO'S 2012-13 EXECUTIVE BUDGET, presented on January 17, 2012, included the following proposal:

Enact pension reform: Next to Medicaid, pension costs are the most significant burden on local governments. The Governor called for a new tier in the State pension system that will save the State and local governments outside of New York City $83 billion and New York City $30 billion over the next 30 years. The new pension plan would have progressive contribution rates between 4% and 6% with shared risk/reward for employees and employers to account for market volatility. It includes a voluntary option for Defined Contribution following the TIAA-CREF model. Employees taking this Defined Contribution will vest in this system after one year. This option will be portable. No current employees will be affected by the Governor's pension reform plan. 

** Since 1968 the State Department of Education has offered its DCP Optional Retirement Program to eligible employees.

*** See Article 125-A of the Education Law

Friday, January 13, 2012

Scheduling a disciplinary hearing after charges have been served on the employee a “discretionary act”

Scheduling a disciplinary hearing after charges have been served on the employee a “discretionary act”
Clark v Schriro, 2012 NY Slip Op 00118, Appellate Division, First Department

Jesse Clark filed a CPLR Article 78 petition “in the nature of mandamus” seeking to compel the New York City Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings [OATH] to hold a disciplinary hearing on charges that had been filed against him by the NYC Department of Correction. Supreme Court dismissed Clark’s petition and the Appellate Division affirmed the lower court’s decision.

In the words of the Appellate Division, “Supreme Court properly found that since respondents were not required to provide [Clark] with a hearing within a specifically prescribed period, but only within a "reasonable time" (New York City Charter §1046[c]), their failure to do so for more than a year after charging [Clark] with misconduct did not constitute failure to fulfill a nondiscretionary duty or perform a purely ministerial act.”

Should an employee be suspended from his or her position without pay upon his or her being served with disciplinary charges, however, typically the individual must be restored to the payroll after a specified period of time if such action is mandated by law [see, for example, Civil Service Law §75.3] or as required by a collective bargaining agreement.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:


An appointing authority’s rejection of the disciplinary hearing officer’s recommendation must be supported by substantial evidence in the record

An appointing authority’s rejection of the disciplinary hearing officer’s recommendation must be supported by substantial evidence in the record 
Rauschmeier v Village of Johnson City, 2012 NY Slip Op 00158, Appellate Division, Third Department

The Village of Johnson City filed disciplinary charges against an employee pursuant to Civil Service Law §75. Following a disciplinary hearing, the Hearing Officer recommended that employee be found not guilty of the charges filed against him and that he be reinstated to his position with full back pay, benefits and seniority.

The Mayor of the Village, with support of the Village Board of Trustees, rejected the Hearing Officer's recommendation, found the employee guilty of misconduct and dismissed the employee from service.

Contending that the Mayor lacked the legal authority to review and reject the Hearing Officer's recommendation, the employee sued, seeking, among other things, an annulment of the penalty imposed by the Mayor. 

Although Supreme Court rejected the employee’s claim that the Mayor lacked the legal authority to review and reject the Hearing Officer's recommendation, a determination sustained by the Appellate Division,* another issue, whether the Mayor’s decision to reject the Hearing Officer's recommendation was supported by substantial evidence, was referred to, and considered by, the Appellate Division.

Addressing the Mayor’s decision to reject the Hearing Officer's recommendation, the Appellate Division said that its review of such a determination was limited to whether it is supported by substantial evidence.

When, however, the appointing authority, rejects a disciplinary recommendation made by a hearing officer after a hearing, the appointing authority must set forth in its decision "findings of fact based on competent proof contained in the record and then employ those findings to arrive at conclusions that are supported by substantial evidence."

The Appellate Division said that the Mayor, in rejecting the Hearing Officer's recommendation, referred to testimony of certain witnesses given at the hearing, but did not specify what in their testimony supported his conclusion.

More is required said the court, “especially since the other evidence introduced at the hearing – all of which is uncontradicted and not in dispute — supports the Hearing Officer's determination.”

Accordingly, the Appellate Division ruled that the Mayor’s “conclusion to the contrary was not supported by substantial evidence,” and thus his determination must be annulled and the employee reinstated to his position with full back pay and benefits.

* The Appellate Division also rejected the employee’s contention that the Mayor acted beyond his legal authority, pointing out that Civil Service Law §75(2) provides that an employee disciplinary proceeding shall be conducted "by the officer or body having the power to remove the person against whom such charges are preferred, or by a deputy or other person designated by such officer or body in writing for that purpose" and where such a designation is made, the person so designated is to make a record of the hearing  and a recommendation as to the penalty to be imposed in the event the individual is found guilty of one or more charges. The record of the hearing and the recommendation is then to "be referred to [the appointing authority] for review and decision."


Thursday, January 12, 2012

The “dual employers” of a volunteer firefighter injured when fighting a fire are both liable for the payment of workers’ compensation benefits

The “dual employers” of a volunteer firefighter injured when fighting a fire are both liable for the payment of workers’ compensation benefits
Levy v Plainview Fire Dept., 89 AD3d 1331

Danny Levy, a member of the Plainview Fire Department, submitted a volunteer firefighters' claim for benefits based upon injuries allegedly sustained while assisting the City of New York Fire Department at the World Trade Center disaster in September 2001.

The Workers' Compensation Board awarded claimant benefits, finding dual liability between the Plainview Fire Department and the self-insured employer, the City of New York, on the ground that Levy's activities at ground zero were directed and controlled by both entities. Rejecting the City’s appeal, the Appellate Division affirmed the Board’s ruling.

The court noted that the General Municipal Law §209-i 1) provides that "Whenever a volunteer [firefighter] is within this state, but outside the area regularly served by the fire company or fire department of which [the volunteer] is a member and has knowledge of a fire or other emergency at or near the place where [the volunteer] is for the time being, such volunteer . . . may report to the officer in command of the paid or volunteer fire company or paid or volunteer fire department, or in command of one of the paid or volunteer fire companies or one of the paid or volunteer fire departments, engaged in the handling of any such fire or other emergency and, on an individual basis, offer his [or her] services to assist such fire company or fire department. After [the volunteer's] services are so accepted, the volunteer . . . shall then be entitled to all powers, rights, privileges and immunities granted by law to volunteer [firefighers] during the time such services are rendered, in the same manner and to the same extent as if [the volunteer] were a volunteer member of the fire company or fire department which he [or she] is assisting, including benefits under the volunteer [firefighters'] benefit law."

The Appellate Division said that the record establishes that Levy initially volunteered on his own at ground zero on September 11, 2001. Thereafter, on September 12, 2001, claimant reported to the Plainview fire house where the fire chief requested volunteers to assist in the rescue and recovery efforts at ground zero. Levy testified that over the course of the next two weeks, he reported to the City's headquarters with other Plainview firefighters who volunteered and that their activities were then directed and controlled by the City.

Accordingly, the court held that substantial evidence supported the Board's factual conclusions regarding Levy’s dual employment.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

Retirement System reduces former DOCS employee’s pension after determining that he had falsified his time and attendance records

Retirement System reduces former DOCS employee’s pension after determining that he had falsified his time and attendance records
Source: Office of the State Comptroller

State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli’s office announced that the New York State Employees’ Retirement System is recalculating the pension of a former director at the state Department of Correctional Services (DOCS) after an investigation by his office found that he took Fridays off for 17 years at taxpayer expense.

Howard Dean, 66, of Locke, N.Y., pleaded guilty last year to second degree grand larceny and is awaiting sentencing by Oneida County Judge Barry Donalty. On Tuesday, Judge Donalty postponed Dean’s sentencing to May 10. The case is being prosecuted by Oneida County District Attorney Scott D. McNamara.

Meanwhile, the Comptroller’s office has cut Dean’s annual state retirement benefit by nearly $4,000 and is seeking recovery of $13,500 in pension payments made since his 2008 retirement, based on his admission that he was paid for 17 years of Fridays that he did not work.

“This recalculation and the prosecution sends a key message to any abuser entrusted with public funds: we will find you, we will hold you accountable and we will make you pay,” DiNapoli said. “My office will not tolerate abuses of the state pension system. When a person commits fraud which boosts their pension benefits, we will aggressively seek to cut their payments to account for their theft to the full extent of the law.”

DiNapoli is pushing proposed legislation to elevate official misconduct to a felony and force public officials to pay penalties of up to twice the amount gained by their crimes.

An investigation and audit by DiNapoli and the State’s Inspector General’s office found that Dean defrauded the state of nearly $500,000 in unearned salary and improper perks while serving as director of the DOCS Food Production Center in Rome, N.Y.

Dean freely admitted to auditors that he did not work Fridays for 17 years and the investigation concluded that he had the support of senior management in many of his improprieties. Since then, DOCS has indicated that it has improved internal controls and trained staff to identify fraud and abuse.

The State Comptroller encourages the public to help fight fraud and abuse. New Yorkers can report allegations of fraud, corruption or abuse of taxpayer money by calling the toll-free Fraud Hotline at 1-888-672-4555, by filing a complaint by mail complaint by writing to: Office of the State Comptroller, Investigations Unit, 14th Floor, 110 State St., Albany, NY 12236 or online by e-mail at investigations@osc.state.ny.us .

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

If a CBA sets out a broad arbitration clause, arbitrability of a grievance depends on the relationship of the subject matter of the dispute to the general subject matter of the CBA

If a CBA sets out a broad arbitration clause, arbitrability of a grievance depends on the  relationship of the subject matter of the dispute to the general subject matter of the CBA
Matter of Haessig (Oswego City School Dist.), 2011 NY Slip Op 09723, Appellate Division, Fourth Department

In this CPLR Article 75 action the president of the Oswego Classroom Teachers Association, Brian Haessig, sought a court order to compel the arbitration of a grievance filed after the school district assigned an additional instructional class to teachers for the 2010-2011 school year. The school district, on the other hand, asked for a stay of arbitration on the ground that the grievance was not arbitrable.

The Appellate Division affirmed Supreme Court’s granting Haessig’s petition while denying the school district’s cross-motion to stay the arbitration.

Citing Board of Educ. of Watertown City School Dist. [Watertown Educ. Assn.], 93 NY2d 132, the Appellate Division explained that when, as was here the case, the collective bargaining agreement [CBA] contains a broad arbitration clause, the court’s determination of arbitrability is limited to "whether there is a reasonable relationship between the subject matter of the dispute and the general subject matter of the CBA.”

In addition, the Appellate Division said that notwithstanding the CBA provision that "the term grievance' shall not apply to any matter as to which (1) the method of review is prescribed by law, or rules or regulation having the force or effect of law…”the fact that the Commissioner of Education has promulgated regulations pertaining to teacher class loads (see 8 NYCRR 100.2 [i]),” such a provision “does not exclude that subject from the scope of arbitration under the CBA,” explaining that “although Education Law §310 permits any aggrieved party to appeal by petition to the Commissioner of Education, that statute does not mandate a particular method of review and does not preclude submission of disputes concerning teacher class loads to arbitration.”

In addition to rejecting other arguments raised by the school district in support of its position, the court noted that Association “did not abandon its right to arbitrate the [instant] grievance by filing a notice of claim with the Public Employment Relations Board concerning an improper practice charge.”

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

Reopening an appeal decided by the Commissioner of Education


Reopening an appeal decided by the Commissioner of Education

Application to reopen the Appeal of Michael P. Thomas, Commissioner of Education Decision #16,322

8 NYCRR §276.8 [of the Commissioner’s regulations] address the procedures for submitting an application to reopen a prior decision by the Commissioner. The rule provides that such an application is considered solely to the discretion of the Commissioner and such applications will not be granted in the absence of a showing that the original decision was rendered under a misapprehension of fact or that there is new and material evidence that was not available at the time the decision was made. 

Significantly, a reopening “may not be used to augment previously undeveloped factual assertions and arguments, to advance new legal arguments or to merely reargue issues presented in a prior appeal.”

The appeal that Thomas sought to have reopened had been dismissed as untimely. 

In his application for reopening, Thomas alleged that the Commissioner Steiner did not rule on his request for an order compelling the employer to cease certain actions. The Commissioner, however, said that as his appeal was found to be untimely, it was unnecessary address Thomas’ request in this regard.

Thomas, said the Commissioner, failed to demonstrated that the decision in his underlying appeal was rendered under a misapprehension of fact, nor has he presented any new and material evidence that was not available at the time the decision was made but was attempting to reargue the original application. However, the Commissioner explained, “It is well settled that mere reargument of issues presented in a prior appeal is not a basis for reopening,” citing a number of earlier decisions including Application of Gillen, 50 Ed Dept Rep, Decision No. 16,112, and denied Thomas’ application to reopen the underlying appeal.

The Thomas decision is posted on the Internet at:

The Gillen decision is posted on the Internet at:
http://www.counsel.nysed.gov/Decisions/volume50/d16112.htm


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Workers’ Compensation Benefits for injuries sustained in voluntary off-duty athletic event available if found to be a “work-connected”

Workers’ Compensation Benefits for injuries sustained in voluntary off-duty athletic event available if found to be a “work-connected”
Nichols v Hale Cr. ASACTC, 2012 NY Slip Op 00078, Appellate Division, Third Department

James A. Nichols, the Superintendent of Hale Creek Correctional Facility in Fulton County, was injured while coaching an employee volleyball team preparing to compete in the "Department of Correction Olympics."

Corrections and its insurer, the State Insurance Fund [SIF], controverted Nichols’ claim, arguing that he had not suffered the injury in the course of his employment.

The Workers’ Compensation Board ruled in Nichols favor and SIF appealed.

The Appellate Division affirmed the Board’s ruling. Although Workers' Compensation Law §10(1) provides that an injury is not compensable when it is sustained during voluntary participation in an off-duty athletic activity that does not constitute part of an employee's work-related duties, in this instance the record indicated that Nichols “was given specific direction to improve staff morale, and his encouragement of employee participation in the Olympics and his active role in coaching the volleyball team were in furtherance of that edict.”

In addition, testimony by Nichols supervisor that “there is an expectation that superintendents be involved with as many facility-related events as possible,” said the court.

Accordingly, said the court, “we decline to disturb the Board's factual determination that [Nichols’] injury arose out of and in the course of his employment.”

In contrast, in Koch v Rockland Sheriff’s Department, 289 A.D.2d 865, Motion for leave to appeal denied, 98 N.Y.2d 601, the Appellate Division sustained the Workers' Compensation Board rejected Koch’s application for benefits after determining that the injury "was not job related.

Koch, said the Board, suffered his injury while participating in a union-sponsored softball game between employees of the Sheriff's Department's correction division and employees of its patrol division.

Where, as here, said the Appellate Division, an employee is injured in a voluntary athletic activity that is not part of the employee's work-related duties, §10.1 of the Workers’ Compensation Law bars an award of workers' compensation benefits unless one of three conditions is met.

The three exceptions: The employer (a) requires the employee to participate in such activity, (b) compensates the employee for participating in such activity or (c) otherwise sponsors the activity.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:
http://www.courts.state.ny.us/reporter/3dseries/2012/2012_00078.htm

Declining to avail one’s self of an administrative remedy triggers the running of the statute of limitations to challenge the administrative decision

Declining to avail one’s self of an administrative remedy triggers the running of the statute of limitations to challenge the administrative decision
Goldstein v Teachers' Retirement Sys. of the City of New York, 89 AD3d 501

The New York City Department of Education advised Leslie Goldstein that the New York City Teachers’ Retirement System had improperly included prior employment in calculating his service credit with the New York City Department of Education.

Although Goldstein was offered an administrative remedy that would have allowed him to obtain the service credit he wished, he declined that remedy. The Appellate Division ruled that the four-month Statute of Limitations to challenge the calculation of his service credit commenced running on the date he declined the administrative remedy offered.

The Appellate Division noted that when the Retirement System ascertained that Goldstein actually had less service credit that it preliminary evaluation indicated, it was required by Education Law §525 to correct the error.

Further, said the court, “The doctrine of estoppel may not be applied to prevent [the Retirement System] from doing so,” citing E.F.S. Ventures Corp. v Foster, 71 NY2d 359, 369 and Matter of Scheurer v New York City Employees' Retirement Sys., 223 AD2d 379

The decision is posted on the Internet at:
http://www.courts.state.ny.us/reporter/3dseries/2011/2011_07925.htm

Monday, January 09, 2012

Resignation in anticipation of being served with disciplinary charges

Resignation in anticipation of being served with disciplinary charges
Claim of Cohen (Town of Brookhaven--Commissioner of Labor), 2012 NY Slip Op 00068, Appellate Division, Third Department

The decision explores the eligibility of an individual who resigned from his position when threatened with disciplinary action.

Citing Matter of Jimenez [New York County Dist. Attorney's Off. —Commissioner of Labor], 20 AD3d 843, the Appellate Division said that "A claimant 'who voluntarily leaves his or her position in the face of disciplinary charges may qualify for unemployment benefits if the actions did not amount to misconduct."

In this instance Brookhaven was preparing to file Civil Service Law §75 disciplinary charges against the employee unless some type of negotiated resolution was agreed upon or the employee resigned from the position.*

The employee resigned and applied for unemployment insurance benefits claiming that he felt he had no option but to leave his employment since disciplinary charges were imminent, that he did not believe he could prevail at a hearing and that he could lose his medical benefits.

The Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board ruled that employee was entitled to receive benefits provided that he did not engage in disqualifying misconduct and remanded the matter to the Unemployment Insurance Administrative Law Judge for “a further hearing on the misconduct issue.”** 

The Appellate Division sustained the Board's determination. Although the employer never actually filed before the employee resigned, the court ruled that “under the circumstances presented,” this does not establish that [the employee] voluntarily left his employment without good cause and thus was ineligible for unemployment insurance benefits."

* In some instances an employee threatened with disciplinary action unless he or she resigns does, in fact resign only to subsequently attempt to rescind his or her resignation claiming that it was coerced. In Rychlick v Coughlin, 63 NY2d 643, the Court of Appeals sustained the appointing authority’s refusal to allow Rychlick to withdraw his resignation that Rychlick claimed had been obtained under duress -- the threat of disciplinary action unless he resigned -- ruling that threatening to do what one had the legal right to do -- file disciplinary charges against an employee -- does not constitute unlawful duress.

** 4 NYCRR 5.3, which applies to officers and employees of the State as an employer, provides that in the event charges of incompetency or misconduct have been or are about to be filed against an employee, the appointing authority may elect to disregard a resignation filed by such employee and to prosecute such charges and, in the event that such employee is found guilty of such charges and dismissed from the service, his termination shall be recorded as a dismissal rather than as a resignation. Many local civil service commissions have adopted a similar rule with respect to public employees under their respective jurisdictions.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

Employee who was arrested and was absent from work for 10 months because he failed to “make bail” terminated for absenteeism

Employee who was arrested and was absent from work for 10 months because he failed to “make bail” terminated for absenteeism
Dep’t of Transportation v. Pierrteeisme (in PDF), OATH Index No. 2112/11 (Oct. 3, 2011), adopted, Comm’r Dec. (Oct. 24, 2011)

A New York City assistant highway repairer was arrested. Unable to make bail, he was absent from work for 10 months.  

The New York City Department of Transportation filed disciplinary charges against the individual, alleging excessive absenteeism and absence without authorization, as well as conduct prejudicial to good order based on the arrest. 

OATH Administrative Law Judge Faye Lewis sustained the absenteeism charges on an incompetence theory, finding that his lengthy absence, with no showing he would return soon, rendered him incompetent to perform the duties of his position. 

Judge Lewis, however, recommended dismissal of the “conduct prejudicial to good order based on the arrest” charge, noting that an arrest, without any evidence of the underlying misconduct, amounts to an accusation only. 

As to the penalty to be imposed based on the employee’s being found guilty of the absenteeism, Judge Lewis recommended the individual be terminated from employment.

Friday, January 06, 2012

Concerning Practice and Procedure before the NYC Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings

Concerning Practice and Procedure before the NYC Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings
Health and Hospitals Corp. v Chime, OATH Index #2969/09


OATH Administrative Law Judge Tynia D. Richard denied a request made by a former City hospital employee to reopen her disciplinary case and vacate a stipulation of settlement that she entered into in 2009

The settlement, the terms of which were confirmed on the record by the individual, included her agreement to resign from her position.

Although represented by counsel at the time of settlement, the employee claimed she was coerced into the agreement.

ALJ Richard found that the stipulation concluded the matter and that OATH no longer had jurisdiction. Moreover, Judge Richard said that OATH must receive a designation from appointing authority to hear the matter, and the hospital did not consent to reopen the case.

As OATH is not a “court” under state law with general jurisdiction to hear matters brought by individuals, the Law Judge noted that “A challenge to the validity of an executed stipulation is a contract claim more appropriately asserted in state court.”



Electronic books [e-books] focusing on New York State and Municipal Public Personnel Law:

The Discipline Book, - a concise guide to disciplinary actions involving public employees in New York State. A 1900+ page e-book. For more information click on http://booklocker.com/books/5215.html

The Layoff, Preferred List and Reinstatement Manual - a 645 page e-book reviewing the relevant laws, rules and regulations, and selected court and administrative decisions. For more information click on http://booklocker.com/books/5216.html

A Reasonable Disciplinary Penalty Under the Circumstances - A 600+ page guide to penalties imposed on public employees in New York State found guilty of selected acts of misconduct. For more information, click on http://booklocker.com/books/7401.html

General Municipal Law§§ 207-a and 207-c - Disability Leave for fire, police and other public sector personnel - a 1098 page e-book focusing on administering General Municipal Law Sections 207-a/207-c and providing benefits thereunder. For more information click on http://booklocker.com/books/3916.html

Caution:

Subsequent court and administrative rulings, or changes to laws, rules and regulations may have modified or clarified or vacated or reversed the decisions summarized here. Accordingly, these summaries should be Shepardized® or otherwise checked to make certain that the most recent information is being considered by the reader.

THE MATERIAL ON THIS WEBSITE IS FOR INFORMATION ONLY. CHANGES IN LAWS, RULES, REGULATIONS AND NEW COURT AND ADMINISTRATIVE DECISIONS MAY AFFECT THE ACCURACY OF THE INFORMATION PROVIDED IN THIS LAWBLOG. THE MATERIAL PRESENTED IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE AND THE USE OF ANY MATERIAL POSTED ON THIS WEBSITE DOES NOT CREATE AN ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP.

Consistent with the Declaration of Principles jointly adopted by a Committee of the American Bar Association and a Committee of Publishers and Associations, the material in this blog is presented with the understanding that the publisher is not providing legal advice to the reader and in the event legal or other expert assistance is needed, the reader should seek such advice from a competent professional.

Items published in NYPPL may not be used for commercial purposes without prior written permission to copy and distribute such material. Send your request via e-mail to publications@nycap.rr.com

Readers may share material posted in NYPPL with others provided attribution to NYPPL is given.

Copyright© 1987 - 2014 by the Public Employment Law Press.



___________________



N.B. From time to time a political ad or endorsement may appear in the sidebar of this Blog. NYPPL does not have any control over such posting.

_____________________

.