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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
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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Refusal to accept assignments ruled misconduct

Refusal to accept assignments ruled misconduct
NYC Transit Authority v Alday, OATH Index #475/12

The New York City Transit Authority charged a civil engineer with insubordination after he had repeatedly refused to accept work reassignments given to him by his supervisor despite his subsequently complying with the supervisor’s directive after being order to do so by a higher level superior.

Rejecting the employee’s defense that he wanted to make sure it was "the official management decision” as he did not believe his temporary supervisor had the authority to “reassign people just like that,” OATH Administrative Law Judge Tynia D. Richard held that employee’s repeated refusals to accept the reassignments given to him by his temporary supervisor constituted misconduct.

Dismissing two other charges of alleged misconduct filed against the employee, Judge Richard, in consideration of the individual's “nearly clean record of discipline and 28-year tenure with the City,” recommended the Department imposed the penalty of a reprimand rather than the 15-day suspension without pay proposed by the Transit Authority.

The ALJ explained that the lesser penalty was being recommended as two of the three charges of alleged misconduct had been dismissed as the agency had “failed to prove” them.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:
http://archive.citylaw.org/oath/12_Cases/12-475.pdf

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Children permitted to testify as witnesses in a disciplinary arbitration

Children permitted to testify as witnesses in a disciplinary arbitration
Stergiou v New York City Dept. of Educ., 2012 NY Slip Op 50291(U), Supreme Court, New York County, Justice Shlomo S. Hagler

One of the issues in this Article 75 of the Civil Practice Law appeal from an adverse disciplinary arbitration award was the arbitrator’s permitting 8-year old third grade students to testify in a disciplinary hearing “because she believed that they were competent witnesses.” The arbitrator excluded the accused teacher from the hearing room while the students were testifying but permitted the teacher’s attorney to cross-examine them.

Justice Hagler, noting that under Education Law §3020-a the parties are subject to compulsory arbitration, said that the arbitration award must satisfy the tests set out in Article 75 and, in addition, also satisfy further judicial scrutiny in that it "must have evidentiary support and cannot be arbitrary and capricious."

Addressing the teachers argument that the arbitrator permitted incompetent witnesses to testify and failed to let her “confront the witnesses,” Justice Hagler said that the “courts are the gate-keepers in ensuring that only competent witnesses may testify under oath” and children may testify “after a preliminary examination gauging the capacity and intelligence of the child, the appreciation of the difference between right and wrong, and the obligations of taking an oath.”

The court then quoted United States Supreme Court Justice Brewer’s statement in Wheeler v United States, 159 US 523, that "The decision of this question rests primarily with the trial judge [or hearing officer], who sees the proposed [child] witness, notices his manner, his apparent possession or lack of intelligence, as well as his understanding of the obligations of an oath."

Justice Hagler found that the arbitrator conducted an adequate voir dire or preliminary examination into each witnesses’ competency and was able to gauge their level of understanding, ability to tell the truth and to take an oath. In addition, said the court, the arbitrator’s “line of inquiry was satisfactory” and the teacher’s counsel “did not seek any voir dire whatsoever into the minor witnesses competency.”

Further, Justice Hagler held that “Even assuming arguendo that the [arbitrator] did not have a proper foundation for children's testimony, the [she] was not bound by the strict rules of evidence and was permitted to elicit such testimony that she believed would be just and proper under the circumstances.”

As to the teacher’s claim that she was denied her due process rights to hear the testimony or confront the eight (8) year old witnesses, the court said that she “did not have an absolute right to do so in the context of an arbitration/administrative disciplinary hearing,” citing Matter of Abdur-Raheem v Mann, 85 NY2d 113.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

Monday, February 27, 2012

Hearing officer recommends correction officer found to have fraternized with an inmate be dismissed

Hearing officer recommends correction officer found to have fraternized with an inmate be dismissed
NYC Department of Corrections v Tillery, OATH Index #467/12

OATH Administrative Law Judge John B. Spooner sustained charges that a correction officer engaged in undue familiarity with an ex-inmate and made false statements about the relationship.

Judge Spooner found the officer’s testimony that the two had never met before the ex-inmate had completed his sentence lacked credibility, considering that the officer had worked in the same dormitory where the inmate was incarcerated for three months under her supervision.

Noting that respondent’s false statements were nearly as troubling as the misconduct itself, the ALJ recommended termination of the officer’s employment.

Other decisions addressing workplace fraternization issues include: Vega v Dept. of Correctional Services, 588 NYS2d 202; Laspisa v Mahoney, 603 NYS2d 536; State of New York v Wal-Mart Stores, 207 A.D.2d 150; and DeCintio v Westchester County Medical Center, 821 F2d 111

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

Friday, February 24, 2012

Public employer’s agreement to defend and indemnify officers and employees being sued in a civil action may be rescinded for failure to cooperate

Public employer’s agreement to defend and indemnify officers and employees being sued in a civil action may be rescinded for failure to cooperate
Lancaster v Incorporated Vil. of Freeport, 2012 NY Slip Op 01465, Appellate Division, Second Department

The Board of Trustees of the Incorporated Village of Freeport revoked its earlier resolution adopted in accordance with §18 of the Public Officers Law providing a defense and indemnification in certain civil actions for certain officers or employees of the Village. *

§18, in pertinent part, provides for the defense and indemnification of officers and employees of public entities being sued for an act or omission related to the performance of official duties.

Subdivision 5 of §18 requires the officer or employee to meet the following requirements in order to meet the following conditions with respect to the public entity’s “duty to defend or indemnify and save harmless” the individual being sued:

 (i) delivery by the employee to the chief legal officer of the public entity or to its chief administrative officer of a written request to provide for his defense together with the original or a copy of any summons, complaint, process, notice, demand or pleading within ten days after he is served with such document, and

 (ii) the full cooperation of the employee in the defense of such action or proceeding and in defense of any action or proceeding against the public entity based upon the same act or omission, and in the prosecution of any appeal.

In response to the officers and employees challenging the action of the Board rescinding its earlier resolution to defend and indemnify them, the Appellate Division sustained Supreme Court’s dismissal of their petition.

The Appellate Division explained that such action on the part of the Board was neither arbitrary and capricious nor an abuse of discretion as the conduct of such officers and employees “after their cooperation in the defense of those actions was diligently sought, was one of willful and avowed obstruction.”

* §17 of the Public Officers Law provides similar protections to officers and employees of the State as the employer.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:
http://www.courts.state.ny.us/reporter/3dseries/2012/2012_01465.htm

Hearing officer recommends that employee found guilty of excessive absence be terminated from her position

Hearing officer recommends that employee found guilty of excessive absence be terminated from her position
NYC Department of Corrections v E.G., OATH Index #214/11

The Department of Correction sought to terminate a correction officer, E.G., pursuant to §73 of the Civil Service Law after she had been absent from work for more than a year due to a non-work related disability.*

In the alternative, the Department simultaneously filed disciplinary charges against E,G. pursuant to §75 of the Civil Service Law alleging that she medically incompetent to perform the duties of her position as she had ben absent on sick leave for 313 days during an 18-month period.

E.G., on the other hand, asserted that she was fit to return to work.

After weighing the testimony of three experts and the Department of Correction, OATH Administrative Law Judge Ingrid A. Addison found E.G. unfit to return to work due to her “non-job related disability.”

The ALJ also found that E.G.’s absence from work involved an excessive use of sick leave and that such conduct provided an independent basis for disciplinary action pursuant to Civil Service Law §75. 

Judge Addison ruled that E.G. was “medically incompetent to perform the duties of her position and recommended that the Appointing Authority terminate E.G.’s employment pursuant to Civil Service §75.

The ALJ also found that as E.G. “is not rehabilitated," such dismissal from her position "is not violative of her human rights protections," citing McEniry v. Landi, 84 NY2d 554.

* §73 permits the appointing authority, as a matter of discretion, to terminate an employee who has been continuously absent for one year or longer, regardless of whether such absence was self-imposed by the employee or flowing from the employee's having been involuntarily placed on a leave of absence by the appointing authority pursuant to §72 of the Civil Service Law [see §72.4]. In contrast to termination pursuant to §75, termination pursuant to §73 is not pejorative and the individual may apply for reinstatement to his or her former position "within one year after the termination of such disability."

The decision is posted on the Internet at:
http://archive.citylaw.org/oath/11_Cases/11-2141.pdf

Former welfare fraud investigator convicted of stealing almost $5,000 from the Comptroller's Office of Unclaimed Funds

Former welfare fraud investigator convicted of stealing almost $5,000 from the Comptroller's Office of Unclaimed Funds
Source: Office of the State Comptroller

After an investigation initiated by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli, a former investigator with the State Welfare Inspector General’s Office pleaded guilty to illegally obtaining unclaimed funds being held by the Comptroller’s Office of Unclaimed Funds.

The Office of Unclaimed Funds holds such monies until they are claimed by the rightful owners. DiNapoli’s investigation found that investigator had submitted 15 forged abandoned property claims to the Office of Unclaimed Funds.

The case was prosecuted by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office and the former investigator, who resigned from his $62,597 position with the State, was sentenced to perform community service and ordered to pay restitution.

The Comptroller maintains a site on the Internet where interested individuals, organizations or businesses may search for funds deposited with the Office of Unclaimed Funds at https://ouf.osc.state.ny.us/ouf/. Such moneys typically are sent to the Office from forgotten or unknown bank accounts, investment or brokerage accounts or insurance policies in accordance with the provisions of the Abandoned Property Law. In some cases a business or governmental agency is the owner of the money. For example, the Comptroller recently delivered $4,844.72 in unclaimed funds to the City of Syracuse.

“Fraud is fraud, but it is particularly egregious when it is committed by a public servant charged with investigating fraud,” DiNapoli said.

DiNapoli encourages the public to help fight against fraud and abuse by report allegations of fraud, corruption and abuse of taxpayer money. Persons wishing to assist the Comptroller in this may use the Comptroller’s toll-free fraud hotline at 1-888-672-4555; file a complaint online at investigations@osc.state.ny.us; or mail a complaint to: Office of the State Comptroller Investigations Unit, 110 State Street, 14th floor, Albany, NY 12236.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Terminated probationer has the burden of proof in challenging his or her dismissal

Terminated probationer has the burden of proof in challenging his or her dismissal
Lane v City of New York, 2012 NY Slip Op 01257, Appellate Division, Second Department

In affirming Supreme Court’s dismissal of a dismissed probationary employee’s petition seeking reinstatement to his former position, the Appellate Division set out the following guidelines that courts consider in adjudicating such an action.

1.The employment of a probationary employee may be terminated without a hearing and without a statement of reasons in the absence of the former probationary employee demonstrating that his or her termination was made in bad faith, for a constitutionally impermissible or an illegal purpose, or in violation of statutory or decisional law.

2. Judicial review of the discharge of a probationary employee is limited to whether the determination was made in bad faith or for the other improper or impermissible reasons set forth above and the burden of proof is on the individual.

3. The individual’s speculation that his or her dismissal was made in bad faith is insufficient to warrant a hearing.

The Commissioner of Education indicated the same standard would apply had he considered the appeal submitted by a probationary teacher challenging her termination by the school board [see Decisions of the Commissioner Education, Decision No. 16,329, http://publicpersonnellaw.blogspot.com/2012/02/probationer-has-burden-of-establishing.html].

The Lane decision is posted on the Internet at:
http://www.courts.state.ny.us/reporter/3dseries/2012/2012_01257.htm

Employee's inability to provide the necessary urine sample for a drug test because of a medical condition trumps allegations of misconduct

Employee's inability to provide the necessary urine sample for a drug test because of a medical condition trumps allegations of misconduct
NYC Department of Sanitation v E.L., OATH Index #2107/11

The Department of Sanitation charged a sanitation worker, E.L., with failure to complete a federally mandated drug test in violation of Rule 2.5 of the Department’s Code of Conduct. 

E.L. had appeared for the test and was cooperative but was unable to provide the required amount of urine in the three hours he was given. He subsequently submitted a note from his urologist, explaining that E.L. had urological conditions that could have prevented him from urinating. Later E.L. was diagnosed as having prostate cancer. 

The Medical Review Officer (MRO), who had no specialized knowledge in urology, ruled that the note submitted by E.L.’s physician were insufficient to excuse for E.L.’s failure to provide a sufficient sample.  In addition, the MRO refused to consider E.L.’s prostate cancer as that condition was not diagnosed within the five-day time period the regulations gave test subjects for providing a note. 

As a result, the MRO marked respondent as having refused to take the drug test and the Department initiated disciplinary action against E.L. 

OATH Administrative Law Judge Kara J. Miller found that both the test collector and the MRO failed to follow federal drug testing procedures, and these procedural errors mandated cancellation of E.L.’s test. 

In addition Judge Miller ruled that even absent the necessity for cancellation, the charges against E.L. should be dismissed as his actions were not willful and the evidence established that he was physically unable to provide the required amount of urine when asked to the urine sample requested and dismissed the charges the Department had filed against E.L.  

The decision is posted on the Internet at:
http://archive.citylaw.org/oath/11_Cases/11-2107.pdf

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Commissioner’s holding office for a specified term may only be removed during such term for cause

Commissioner’s holding office for a specified term may only be removed during such term for cause
Sedacca v Kelly, 2012 NY Slip Op 01319, Court of Appeals

The Court of Appeals has ruled that the Nassau County Executive did not have the authority to terminate Commissioners of the Nassau County Assessment Review Commission (ARC), in the absence of cause, prior to the expiration of their fixed, statutory terms. 

The ARC consists of nine commissioners appointed by the County Executive subject to approval by the County Legislature and have staggered five-year terms and that no more than six of the commissioners can be enrolled voters of the same political party.

The outgoing Nassau County Executive had appointed six ARC Commissioners. The counsel to the then-newly elected County Executive sent letters to each of the nine commissioners informing them that they were being removed from office pursuant to §203 of the Nassau County Charter. The letter stated that the commissioners had an opportunity to be heard, if they so desired. 

The Court of Appeals noted that the Nassau County Charter vests the County Executive with authority to appoint members of county boards and commissions, subject to approval of the County Legislature, citing Nassau County Charter § 203 [1]). Concomitantly, said the court, "[t]he County Executive may at any time remove any person so appointed; provided that in the case of members of boards and commissions appointed for definite terms, no removal shall be made until the person to be removed has been serv[ed] with a notice of the reasons for such removal and given an opportunity to be heard, publicly if he or she desires, thereon by the County Executive. The decision of the County Executive shall be final." 

Nassau County argued that, according to the plain language of the County Charter, the County Executive was within his authority to terminate Commissioners notwithstanding the absence of any wrongdoing on their part and regardless of the statutory term of office “in order to appoint individuals of his choosing.”

The Court of Appeals said that, in its view, the County’s argument “is inconsistent with the salutary purpose of the legislation at issue.” The court explained that “Although Real Property Tax Law §523-b does not set forth any procedure for the removal of commissioners, the statute demonstrates the legislative intent to protect the ARC from political influence. It is evident that the fixed, staggered terms of office along with the requirement that all of the commissioners must not be members of a single political party, are designed to promote stability of membership and political diversity. Notably, the five-year term of office exceeds the length of the County Executive's own. This design may frustrate the most recent expression of the electorate's mandate, but it is meant precisely to avoid a wholesale change of membership of the ARC upon the installation of each successive administration.”

As Nassau County’s Charter makes clear that when members of a commission appointed for a fixed term are removed, the "reasons for such removal" must be provided. "Reasons," in this context said the Court of Appeals, can reasonably be read as a synonym for "cause." Thus §203 permits removal of commissioners serving fixed terms for cause, but not otherwise. The court ruled that "the Real Property Tax Law §523-b and County Charter §203 are not incompatible, and read them together "to accomplish the clear legislative intent."

Although the Court of Appeals said that the commissioners, as County employees, are not protected by §36 of Public Officers Law,* it then noted that “it is instructive that a finding of some type of misconduct would be required to remove members of the similarly situated Board of Assessment Review (see 4 Ops Counsel SBEA No. 27 [1974])”**.

The court then observed that “Removing the Commissioners without cause under County Charter §203 would frustrate the legislative intent by nullifying the requirements of the RPTL and rendering the staggered statutory terms of office in RPTL 523-b superfluous. \”

Thus, said the court, under the circumstances the commissioners are not essentially at-will employees, subject to termination for any reason whatsoever.

As to the several commissioners’ claim that that they were entitled to attorneys' fees they incurred in the course of this litigation, the Court of Appeals disagreed, holding that although the County is required to "provide for the defense" of an employee involved in a civil action arising out of an act or omission that occurred during the scope of his or her employment, in this instance the “employees commenced the action.” Accordingly, there is no obligation on the part of the County to pay for their "defense."

* §36 of the Public Officers Law provides for the removal of public officers "for any misconduct, maladministration, malfeasance or malversation in office."

** Office of Real Property Tax Services, New York State Department of Taxation and Finance. Opinions of Counsel are posted on the Internet at: http://www.tax.ny.gov/pubs_and_bulls/orpts/legal_opinions/index.htm

The decision is posted on the Internet at:
http://www.publicpersonnellaw.blogspot.com/

Filing a complaint about a school teacher with the school district may not be protected by an “absolute privilege”

Filing a complaint about a school teacher with the school district may not be protected by an “absolute privilege”
Posner v Lewis, 2012 NY Slip Op 01323, Court of Appeals

In this tort action, the Court of Appeal said that it must decide whether defendants' course of conduct in instigating complaints to school authorities against Posner, a nontenured teacher, is entitled to an absolute privilege under Brandt v Winchell (3 NY2d 628]) that would warrant dismissal of Posner's causes of action for prima facie tort and tortious interference with prospective contractual rights.

The Court’s conclusion: Assuming the truth of the allegations in the complaint, as we must at this early stage of the litigation, we conclude that defendants' conduct is not immunized by Brandt.

In Brandt the court recognized an "immunity from civil suit" for truthful communications resulting in "the exposure of those guilty of offenses against the public" (3 NY2d at 635).

The Posner decision is posted on the Internet at:

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A probationer has the burden of establishing that he or she was terminated for a constitutionally impermissible reason or in violation of a statute or decisional law

A probationer has the burden of establishing that he or she was terminated for a constitutionally impermissible reason or in violation of a statute or decisional law
Appeal of Lindsey Stephenson, Decisions of the Commissioner Education, Decision No. 16,329

Lindsey Stephenson, a probationary educator, was notified that her position was being abolished, effective June 30, 2010, and that she would be placed on a preferred eligible list. 

Subsequently, and as the result of an investigation following a report concerning an alleged incident involving students, the principal submitted a letter to the superintendent recommending that Stephenson be terminated. 

On the basis of the principal’s recommendation, superintendent notified Lindsey that he would recommend that the board terminate her from her position. 

Lindsey requested, and received a written statement of the reasons for the superintendent’s recommendation to terminate her services as a probationary teacher pursuant to Education Law §3031. Ultimately the school board voted to terminate Lindsey’s employment and to remove her from the preferred eligible list. 

Although the Commissioner dismissed Lindsey’s appeal for a number of other technical reasons, his decision notes that “it is well settled that a school employee who elects to submit an issue for resolution through a contractual grievance procedure may not bring an appeal to the Commissioner of Education for review of the same matter.”

Here the record indicated that Lindsey brought a grievance in which she alleged that the district violated the parties’ collective bargaining agreement and as relief “sought rescission of her termination and placement on the preferred eligibility list.” Her grievance was denied. Lindsey than filed a second grievance, alleging that the district violated certain provisions of the parties’ collective bargaining agreement. This grievance was also denied.

The Commissioner then said the “Even if the petition was not dismissed on procedural grounds, it would be dismissed on the merits.  Generally, a board of education has the unfettered right to terminate a probationary teacher or administrator’s employment for any reason unless the employee establishes that he or she was terminated for a constitutionally impermissible reason or in violation of a statute or decisional law.”

Noting that Lindsey disagreed with School Board’s decision to terminate her services, the Commissioner found that she had not establish that Board had terminated her employment for a constitutionally impermissible reason or in violation of a statutory proscription or decisional law.  Nor, said the Commissioner, the record did not support Lindsey’s assertions that Board had acted in bad faith

Finding that “On the record before me, there is no basis for overturning [the Board’s] decision to terminate [Lindsey’s] probationary appointment,” the Commissioner dismissed Lindsey’s appeal.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Selected reports and information published by New York State's Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli

Selected reports and information published by New York State's Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli
[Issued during the week of February 13 - 19, 2012]

For details, click on the text highlighted in color below.

DiNapoli Makes Property Tax Cap Information Available

Local governments and school districts are required to report the information used in calculating their tax cap for the coming fiscal year prior to adopting a budget. An estimated 4,000 local governments and school districts may be required to report this information annually. Over 2,000 local governments have already submitted their tax cap reports and that information is now available on Open Book New York, which will be updated nightly. Please note, the tax cap information found on Open Book New York reflects the data as submitted by local governments; it has not been edited or certified by the Comptroller’s Office.


DiNapoli: Village Officials Used LDC to Avoid State Procurement Laws

The village of Cornwall–on–Hudson skirted state procurement laws by using the Cornwall–on–Hudson Local Development Corporation to construct a new public works garage that was built on unsuitable land, failed to meet building codes and cost $929,000, according to an audit released Wednesday by New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli.


DiNapoli: Pension Fund Gains in Third Quarter of FY 2011

The New York State Common Retirement Fund (Fund) was valued at $140.3 billion after Fund investments posted an estimated 4.83 percent rate of return for the third quarter ending December 31, 2011, according to New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli.


DiNapoli’s Office Releases Municipal Audits

New York State Comptroller” office completed the following audits in the last two weeks:

The Town of Warren; and;
The Westport Fire District.

Friday, February 17, 2012

The failure of the appointing authority to designate the §75 hearing officer in writing is a fatal jurisdictional defect

The failure of the appointing authority to designate the §75 hearing officer in writing is a fatal jurisdictional defect
Gardner v Coxsackie-Athens Cent. School Dist. Bd. of Educ., 2012 NY Slip Op 01156

A Civil Service Law §75 hearing officer found in A. Dennis Gardner guilty charges alleging that he had engaged in “inappropriate behavior” and he was terminated from his head custodian position by the Coxsackie-Athens Board of Education.

Gardner appealed claiming that the decision and the penalty imposed had to be annulled as the hearing officer had not been designated to serve as the hearing officer in writing as mandated by §75.2 of the Civil Service Law. The Appellate Division agreed and annulled the school board’s determination.

Noting that Civil Service Law §75(2) mandates that an employee disciplinary proceeding "shall be held by the officer or body having the power to remove the person against whom such charges are preferred, or by a . . . person designated by such officer or body in writing,” the Appellate Division said that “in the absence of a written designation” the removing body or hearing officer has no jurisdiction to discipline an employee and “any disposition flowing from such a proceeding will be void.”

Although in cases as Perryman v Village of Saranac Lake, 64 AD3d 830 where there was evidence that the designation of hearing officer was reflected in minutes of board meeting and Stafford v Mohonasen CSD, 61 AD3 1259, (Leave to Appeal denied, 13 NY3d 704) where the “designation of hearing officer memorialized in letter referencing appointment of hearing officer at board meeting,” in this instance the Appellate Division said that Coxsackie-Athens “provided no evidence that it ever designated the Hearing Officer in writing as required by Civil Service Law §75(2).”

The court rejected Coxsackie-Athens argument that Gardner “had notice of the Hearing Officer's identity because its attorney copied [Gardner] on an e-mail to the Hearing Officer establishing the time and date of the hearing.”

The e-mail, said the court, “did not reference any official designation of the Hearing Officer” by Coxsackie-Athens and, citing Perez v New York State Dept. of Labor, 244 AD2d 844, ruled that the school district’s reliance on such a writing was insufficient to meet the specific requirement of Civil Service Law §75(2).

In addition, the Appellate Division pointed out that this “jurisdictional defect” could not be waived by Gardner’s failure to object to the defect.

The Appellate Division said that the Hearing Officer's determination and school district’s adoption thereof must be annulled and that Gardner was to be restored to his former position, with back pay and benefits.

Addressing the school district’s claim that Gardner’s Article 78 petition was untimely, the Appellate Division said that Supreme Court’s holding that the four-month statute of limitations to commence an CPLR Article 78 proceeding was extended for 30 days upon filing a notice of claim under Education Law §3813(1) was correct and, therefore, Gardner’s Article 78 petition was timely.

New York courts have distinguished between proceedings “which on the one hand seek only enforcement of private rights and duties and those on the other in which it is sought to vindicate a public interest; the provisions of subdivision 1 of section 3813 are applicable as to the former but not as to the latter” (see Union Free School Dist. No. 6 of Towns of Islip & Smithtown v New York State Div. of Human Rights Appeal Bd., 35 NY2d 371, 380, rearg denied 36 NY2d 807).
_____________________

The 2012 edition of the Discipline Book is now available
To learn more about this concise guide to disciplinary actions involving public employees in New York State click on http://thedisciplinebook.blogspot.com/
_____________________

The decision is posted on the Internet at:
http://www.courts.state.ny.us/reporter/3dseries/2012/2012_01156.htm

Tenure by estoppel

Tenure by estoppel

Andrews v Board of Educ. of the City School Dist. of the City of New York, 2012 NY Slip Op 00845, Appellate Division, First Department

Education Law §§2573(1)(a) and 3012(2) requires that a probationary employee whose employment will not be continued be given the 60-day written notice that he or she was not recommended for tenure.

Although Dana Andrews was not given the required written notice and claimed to have taught for one day after the expiration of her probationary term, the Appellate Division ruled that Andrews had not acquired tenure by estoppel.

The court said that the record shows that the New York City Department of Education [DOE] “did not, ‘with full knowledge and consent,’ permit her to continue to teach after her probationary term expired.” According to the decision, it was undisputed that Andrews was informed in May 2009 that her employment would be discontinued, “and when she reported for duty on September 8, 2009, she was told immediately that she had been terminated, and was given no further assignments.”

Explaining that Andrews was not paid for working on September 8, 2009 and the DOE’s actions "speak loudly against any supposition that [DOE] meant to perpetuate [Andrews's] employment" the Appellate Division affirmed Supreme Court’s denial of her petition seeking a court order declaring that she had attained tenure by estoppel.

Tenure by estoppel "results when a school board fails to take the action required by law to grant or deny tenure and, with full knowledge and consent, permits a teacher to continue to teach beyond the expiration of the probationary term," [Lindsey v Board of Education of Mt. Morris Central School District, 72 AD2d 18].

However, in Tucker v Board of Education, 189 AD2d 704, the Appellate Division held that Tucker was entitled to pay corresponding to the number of days for which she was not provided the statutory 60 days of notice.

The Court of Appeals affirmed the Appellate Division’s determination [see 82 N.Y.2d 274]. The court noted that while the law does not specially provide for a remedy in the event the notice requirement is not met, the courts and the Commissioner of Education have consistently held that in cases involving intentional delay or as a result of oversight, teachers are to be awarded one day of pay for each day that the notice was late.

The Court of Appeals explained that the purpose of the statute's 60-day notice requirement is to afford probationary teachers a reasonable period of time, before the end of their probationary period, to make plans for the upcoming school year and is a rule founded on reasons of practicality and fairness to probationary teachers. It said that there was nothing in the statute or its legislative history indicating that there should be an exception to law's broader purpose of providing probationary teachers with minimal notice of tenure denials to enable them to seek other employment.

The Andrews decision is posted on the Internet at:
http://www.courts.state.ny.us/reporter/3dseries/2012/2012_00845.htm

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Refusal to work that results in the loss of employment does not constitute disqualifying misconduct if the employee’s refusal is attributable to a substantiated health problems

Refusal to work that results in the loss of employment does not constitute disqualifying misconduct if the employee’s refusal is attributable to a substantiated health problems
Matter of Lewis (County of Livingston--Commissioner of Labor), 2012 NY Slip Op 00876, Appellate Division, Third Department

After Cindy L. Lewis, a certified nursing assistant employed by a county-owned nursing home, refused to work mandated overtime* shifts on two occasions Lewis County terminated her employment was terminated. Ultimately the Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board ruled that Lewis was entitled to unemployment insurance benefits.

Lewis County appealed but the Appellate Division sustained the Board’s determination.
The court explained that whether an employee's failure to work the required hours rises to the level of disqualifying misconduct is a factual issue for the Board to resolve and its determination will not be disturbed when supported by substantial evidence.

The critical factors were that Lewis’ doctor issued notes that indicated that she was medically restricted with regard to the amount of overtime she could work during the relevant period, and the record indicated that the employer had been notified of those restrictions.

Noting that it has been held that the loss of employment attributable to substantiated health problems will not constitute disqualifying misconduct, the Appellate Division said that it declined to disturb the Board's decision.

* An agreement between the employer and Lewis’ union provided that the employer could mandate that staff work overtime, a procedure known as "mandation."

The decision is posted on the Internet at:
http://www.courts.state.ny.us/reporter/3dseries/2012/2012_00876.htm

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The statute of limitations for filing a lawsuit is not tolled by a dismissed probationer’s pursuing his or her opportunity to seek an administrative review of the determination

The statute of limitations for filing a lawsuit is not tolled by a dismissed probationer’s pursuing his or her opportunity to seek an administrative review of the determination
Kahn v New York City Dept. of Educ., 2012 NY Slip Op 01098, Court of Appeals [Decided with Nash, v New York City Dept. of Educ.]

In Kahn v New York City Department of Education 79 AD3d 52, the Appellate Division held that the statute of limitations for initiating a lawsuit is not tolled by the individual’s pursuing his or her opportunity to seek an administrative review of the determination.

Leslie Kahn, a probationary social worker, was given an unsatisfactory evaluation and was not given a “Certification of Completion of Probation.” She was then terminated from her position and advised that she was entitled to an administrative review under the relevant collective bargaining agreement. Kahn filed an "administrative appeal." An administrative hearing was held. The denial of a “Certification of Completion of Probation” was affirmed and Kahn initiated a lawsuit challenging that determination.

The court said that a petition to challenge the termination of probationary employment on substantive grounds must be brought within four months of the effective date of termination, citing CPLR §217[1]. Significantly, the decisions points out that the controlling statute of limitations is not extended by the individual’s pursuit of administrative remedies.

To avoid such a result, where there is an administrative appeal available, it seems that the aggrieved party should make certain to both file a timely administrative appeal and a timely Article 78 petition. 

In this instance the
Department of Education was obligated by its collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with the United Federation of Teachers and its own bylaws to afford probationary employees the opportunity for reconsideration of a decision to discontinue their employment. However, the Court of Appeals decided that such reviews "stem solely from the [CBA]" and constitute ‘an optional procedure under which a teacher may ask [DOE] to reconsider and reverse [its] initial decision, . . . which is final and which, when made, in all respects terminates the employment of a probationer under Education Law §2573(1)(a)’ … they are not administrative remedies that [Kahn was] required to exhaust before litigating the termination of [her] probationary employment.”

As DOE’s decisions to discontinue the employment of Kahn and Nash were "final and binding" within the meaning of CPLR §217 (1) as of the dates when Kahn's and Nash's probationary service ended, January 25, 2008 and July 15, 2005, respectively, the fact that they awaited the outcome of the internal reviews provided for under the CBA and DOE's bylaws before commencing suit proved fatal to their filing a timely petition challenging those decisions. As they had, respectively, filed their respective petitions more than four months after the dates when their probationary service ended, such challengers were held time-barred.

The court explained that "The law is well established that a decision to terminate the employment of a probationary [employee] is final and binding on the date the termination becomes effective, and this is true even in circumstances where administrative review is available," citing Triana v Board of Education, 47 AD3 554.

In addition, the Court of Appeals said that the Appellate Division noted although Kahn’s notice of termination was procedurally defective because she was not given the 60 days' prior notice required by Education Law §2573(1)(a), "that defect [did] not invalidate the discontinuance [of her employment] or render the statute of limitations inapplicable; at best, it would have entitled [Kahn] to additional back pay had she served a notice of claim and sought money damages."

As to Nash, the Appellate Division [see 82 AD3d 470] held that to the extent that Nash disputed the loss of her job at DOE, her claim was time-barred under CPLR §217(1) because "a petition to challenge the termination of probationary employment must be brought within four months of the effective date of termination, during which time the termination is deemed to become final and binding, and a petitioner's pursuit of administrative remedies does not toll the four-month statute of limitations."  

The Court of Appeals affirmed the Appellate Divisions’ rulings in both Kahn and Nash.

The lesson here is that should an aggrieved individual await the final “administrative determination” rather then file an otherwise timely petition seeking judicial review, he or she may find that his or her subsequent filing of such a petition is untimely.

The decision in Kahn, decided with Nash, is posted on the Internet at:
http://www.courts.state.ny.us/reporter/3dseries/2012/2012_01098.htm

Employer did not breach a “contract of employment” when it restored a probationary employee to the employee's former position

Employer did not breach a “contract of employment” when it restored a probationary employee to the employee's former position
Miller v Theodore-Tassy, 2012 NY Slip Op 00940, Appellate Division, Second Department

Margaret Theodore-Tassy’s motion for summary judgment dismissing Nancy Miller’s complaint insofar as asserted against her for alleged “tortious interference with contract“ was denied by Supreme Court. Theodre-Tassy appealed and the Appellate Division reversed Supreme Court’s ruling.

Miller was serving as a probationary assistant principal at a New York City elementary school. Following an alleged incident at the school Miller was discontinued as a probationary assistant principal, and reinstated to her teaching position. The New York City Department of Education [DOE]  then preferred charges against Miller pursuant to Education Law §3020-a. Ultimately Miller was found guilty of certain of the charges and the hearing officer imposed a $10,000 fine.

As to the law involved, the Appellate Division said that “To prevail on a cause of action alleging tortious interference with contract, a plaintiff must establish ‘the existence of a valid contract between the plaintiff and a third party, defendant's knowledge of that contract, defendant's intentional procurement of the third-party's breach of the contract without justification, actual breach of the contract, and damages resulting therefrom.’"

Here, said the Appellate Division, Theordre-Tassy made a prima facie showing of her entitlement to judgment as a matter of law by submitting evidence demonstrating that DOE did not breach a contract of employment with Miller when it discontinued Miller from her probationary assistant principal position. Further, noted the court, Miller failed to raise a triable issue of fact as to whether the DOE breached an employment contract with her.

It is well settled that "A probationary employee may be discharged without a hearing and without a statement of reasons in the absence of any demonstration that the dismissal was in bad faith, for a constitutionally impermissible or an illegal purpose, or in violation of statutory or decisional law" [see Barry v City of New York, 21 AD3d 551]. 

The decision is posted on the Internet at:
http://www.courts.state.ny.us/reporter/3dseries/2012/2012_00940.htm

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Third Circuit finds lower level public sector supervisor responsible for FMLA violations

Third Circuit finds lower level public sector supervisor responsible for FMLA violations
Copyright © 2011. All rights reserved by Carl C. Bosland, Esq. Reproduced with permission. Mr. Bosland is the author of A Federal Sector Guide to the Family and Medical Leave Act & Related Litigation.

The Third Circuit in Haybarger v. Lawrence, No. 10-3916 (3d Cir. Jan. 31, 2012) held that individual supervisor in the public sector, like their private sector counterparts, could be individually liable for violations of the FMLA separate from, and in addition to, the employer.

Debra Haybarger was employed as an office manager for the Lawrence County Adult Probation and Parole agency, a department in the County Court system.  She reported to William Mancino, the Department Director.  Haybarger suffered from Type II diabetes, heart disease, and kidney problems, which forced her to miss work frequently for medical attention.  Notwithstanding her known medical condition, Mancino repeatedly noted in her annual performance evaluations that she needed to cut down on her absences due to illness.  He also repeatedly questioned why she needed to visit the doctor so often.  Mancino disciplined Haybarger and placed her on probation for six months for conduct demonstrating a lack of leadership.   After securing proper authorization, Mancino subsequently fired Haybarger when, in his opinion, her performance did not improve.

Haybarger sued Lawrence County, the Probation Department, and Mancino for violation of the FMLA.   The federal district court dismissed Haybarger's FMLA claim against Mancino in his individual capacity on the merits after finding that Mancino did not have sufficient authority and control over Haybarger to be considered an "employer" subject to liability within the meaning of the FMLA.  Haybarger appealed the decision of the district court to the Third Circuit.  

To determine whether the district court erred in holding that Mancino was not Haybarger's "employer" for FMLA purposes, the Third Circuit, in a case of first impression, opined that it first had to consider whether the FMLA permits individual liability against supervisors in public agencies.   Because liability for FMLA violations is limited to an "employer" as defined by the Act, the Court began its analysis with the FMLA definition of "employer"in 29 U.S.C. Sec. 2611(4)(A)(i)-(iii):

In general.  The term "employer"

(i) means any person engaged in commerce or in any industry or activity affecting commerce who employs 50 or more employees for each working day during each of 20 or more calendar workweeks in the current or preceding calendar year;

(ii)  includes--

(I) any person who acts, directly or indirectly, in the interest of an employer to any of the employees of such employer; and

(II) any successor in interest of an employer;

(III) includes any "public agency"  as defined in section 3(x) of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (29 U.S.C. 203(x)).*

The Court also noted that individual supervisor liability for FMLA violations is codified in the U.S. Department of Labor FMLA implementing regulations, 29 CFR 825.104(a), (d).  As additional support, the Court referenced the fact that the FMLA definition of "employer" is materially identical to the FLSA definition, and that the Third Circuit has found individual liability for FLSA violations, including liability for lower level supervisors.

The Third Circuit found not reason to distinguish between public agencies and private sector employers under the FMLA insofar as individual liability is concerned.  After recognizing a split in the Circuits on the issue, the Third Circuit joined the Fifth and Eighth Circuit to find individual public sector liability for FMLA violations.  In so doing, the Third Circuit rejected decisions of the Sixth and Eleventh Circuit finding no individual public sector supervisor liability for FMLA violations.  The split in the circuits rest on highly technical interpretations of the structure of the FMLA's "employer" definition.   The Third Circuit found that, because the definition of "employer" includes "public agencies," and Congress provided that an "employer" may include individuals, "it plainly follows that an individual supervisor at a public agency may be subject to liability."   

The Court went on to find that Mancino was Haybarger's "employer" under the FMLA.  Here again, the FMLA defines an "employer" as "any person who acts, directly or indirectly, in the interest of an employer to any of the employee's of such employer."  Citing FLSA case law as support, the Court opined this meant that an individual is subject to FMLA liability when he or she exercises "supervisory authority over the complaining employee and was responsible in whole or part for the alleged violation while acting in the employer's interest.  Applying the "economic reality" test, whether a person functions as an employer depends on the totality of the circumstances rather than on "technical concepts of the employment relationship," including: (1) whether the individual had the power to hire and fire the employee; (2) supervised and controlled employee work schedules or conditions of employment; (3) determined the rate and method of payment; and (4) maintained employment records.

Here, the Court found that Mancino exercised sufficient control over Haybarger's employment on behalf of Lawrence County to be her employer.  The fact that Mancino lacked final authority to terminate Haybarger did not alter the situation where, as here, he served has her immediate supervisor, he conducted performance reviews, issued discipline, and recommended her ultimate termination. 

Mr. Bosland Comment:     In the private sector, courts have consistently found that individual managers and supervisor acting on behalf of their employer may be individually liable for violating an employee's FMLA rights.  The federal circuit courts have split on the issue in the public sector based on highly technical textual and contextual interpretations of the FMLA's definition of "employer."  The split in the circuits on the issue will likely be resolved one day by clarification by Congress or a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court. 

Where it applies, an individual supervisor may be liable even though they are not a very high level official or have final authority over the employee, provided they exercised some control over the employee and was at least partially responsible for the violation.  To be liable, it is not required that the manager or supervisor intend to violate the employee's FMLA rights.  A manager or supervisor may be personally liable for even inadvertent FMLA violations.   

Supervisors and managers with FMLA responsibilities would be well-advised to ask their employers to provide them with periodic FMLA training to ensure legal compliance.  Employee's should also inquire whether the employer's insurance policies cover the considerable legal costs of defending an FMLA lawsuit, including the cost of any settlement or adverse judgment.  If not, you should either demand coverage (in writing), secure it on your own, or rethink your continued employment as a manager or supervisor with that organization.  The legal defense of an FMLA lawsuit alone could cost in excess of $100,000 dollars, let alone the increased costs of any settlement or adverse judgment.  Such costs would bankrupt most supervisors. 

To avoid FMLA lawsuits and retain good managers and supervisors, FMLA-covered employers should provide periodic FMLA training and secure insurance to cover the defense and resolution of FMLA claims filed against individual supervisors.   
  
* NYPPL comments: In Seminole Tribe of Florida v. Florida, 517 U.S. 44 (1996) [64 LW 4167], the Supreme Court observed that Congress cannot nullify the Eleventh Amendment by adopting laws pursuant to the Indian Commerce Clause. The Supreme Court then said that the Indian Commerce Clause was indistinguishable from the Interstate Commerce Clause. The Supreme Court indicated it was overruling its decision in Pennsylvania v Union Gas, 491 US 1, an "Interstate Commerce Clause case," on the grounds that it had been "wrongly decided." As the FMLA, as was the FLSA, was enacted under color of the Interstate Commerce Clause [29 USC 216(b)], presumably its provisions are not controlling absent the State’s "waiving its immunity" and thereby consenting to its being sued by its employees in a federal court. 

The opinion of the Third Circuit is available at the following link:  http://www.ca3.uscourts.gov/opinarch/103916p.pdf

The Third Circuit covers New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. 

Commissioner of Education does not have jurisdiction to consider classified service employee’s claims of alleged out-of-title work assignments

Commissioner of Education does not have jurisdiction to consider classified service employee’s claim of alleged out-of-title work assignments
Appeal of Robert Troeller from action of the New York City Department of Education regarding out-of-title work, Decisions of the Commissioner of Education, Decision #16,326

The New York City Department of Education [DOE] assigned school plant managers to supervise private sector contract employees. Robert Troeller, a plant manager, appealed, contending that requiring plant managers to directly supervise private sector contract employees constituted out-of-title work in violation of Civil Service Law §61(2). Troeller asked the Commissioner to direct the DOE to discontinue the practice.

The Commissioner dismissed Troeller’s appeal “for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.”

The Commissioner pointed out that Civil Service Law §17 vests jurisdiction to administer the provisions of the Civil Service Law with respect to the offices and employments in the Classified Service* of a political subdivision of the State in the responsible civil service commission, personnel officer or other form of civil service administration.** In the case of the City of New York, the City is empowered to administer the Civil Service Law through whatever form of administration it chooses to prescribe in its City Charter.

Under Civil Service Law §35(g), the Commissioner of Education has jurisdiction over the qualifications for appointment and duties and responsibilities of individuals employed in titles involving teaching and the supervising staff of school districts; i.e., individuals employed in positions in the Unclassified Service.

As the plant managers involved were not serving in positions that had been certified by the Commissioner of Education as being in the Unclassified Service pursuant to §35(g) of the Civil Service Law or otherwise so jurisdictionally by law, such positions were position in the Classified Service and the Commissioner did not have jurisdiction to consider the out-of-title claims advanced by the incumbents of those positions.

The Commissioner declined to exercise jurisdiction to review the matter pursuant to §310 of the Education Law and dismissed Troeller's appeal.”

* N.B. All positions in the classified service are in the competitive class unless placed in a different jurisdictional class by the responsible civil service commission or by statute. The Classified Service consists of four jurisdiction classes: the competitive class [CSL §44], the noncompetitive class [CSL §42], the exempt class [CSL §41] and the labor class [CSL §43].

** See, in particular, Civil Service Law §22.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

Monday, February 13, 2012

Failure to satisfy all required procedural elements in an appeal to the Commissioner of Education is fatal to the Commissioner having jurisdiction to consider the matter

Failure to satisfy all required procedural elements in an appeal to the Commissioner of Education is fatal to the Commissioner having jurisdiction to consider the matter
Appeal of Brian M. Kelty seeking the removal of district clerk Concetta Carr, Decisions of the Commissioner of Education, Decision #16,325

Alleging numerous irregularities in the conduct of the election of various candidates seeking to become members of the school board, Candidate Brian M. Kelty claimed that any discrepancy in the recording of votes was due to district clerk’s incompetence and/or the mechanical failure of the voting machines.*  

The Commissioner dismissed the appeal, noting that Kelty had failed to join necessary parties; i.e., any  party whose rights would be adversely affected by a determination of an appeal in favor of a petitioner.

In this instance the annulment of the election results as demanded by Kelty would affect the four winning candidates. Accordingly, they are necessary parties to the appeal.

Also, said the Commissioner, “although Carr was served with the petition in her capacity as respondent’s district clerk, she was not named as a respondent in either the notice of petition or the petition itself.” The Commissioner explained:

1. Mere service of the petition does not accomplish joinder of the respondent. 

2. The notice accompanying a removal application must specifically advise a school officer that an application is being made for his or her removal from office.

3. 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.

In light of this, said the Commissioner, “I need not consider the parties’ remaining contentions” and dismissed Kelty’s appeal.

* Kelty also challenged “the impartiality” of the district clerk and several trustees on the board because their names appeared on another candidate's petition and alleging that this constituted “improper electioneering.”

The decision is posted on the Internet at: http://www.counsel.nysed.gov/Decisions/volume51/d16325.html

Friday, February 10, 2012

Both the New York City’s Conflicts of Interest Law and §§3020 and 3020-a of the Education Law apply to a New York City educator

Both the New York City’s Conflicts of Interest Law and §§3020 and 3020-a of the Education Law apply to a New York City educator
Rosenblum v New York City Conflicts of Interest Bd., 2012 NY Slip Op 00854, Court of Appeals

The Court of Appeals held that the Conflicts of Interest Board of the City of New York (COIB) is authorized to enforce the Conflicts of Interest Law set out in the New York City Charter §§2600-2607, with respect to a public servant who is also subject to disciplinary action pursuant to §§3020 and 3020-a of the Education Law.*

Accordingly, said the court, the Appellate Division had improperly barred the City's Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings (OATH) from proceeding with an administrative trial against a tenured educator employed in the City's public school system.

COBI alleged that the educator had violated §2604(b)(3) of the Conflicts of Interest Law, which prohibits a public servant from "us[ing] or attempt[ing] to use his or her position as a public servant to obtain any . . . private or personal advantage, direct or indirect, for the public servant or any person or firm associated with the public servant.” It served the educator with a copy of its petition asking OATH to find that the educator had, in fact, “violated the law and to impose a $10,000 fine (the maximum allowed at the time) and grant such further relief as might be just and proper.”

The educator asked OATH to dismiss COBI’s petition, contending that “Education Law §§3020, 3020-a and 2590-j (7),** as supplemented by the collective bargaining agreement between the New York City Department of Education and his union, the Council of Supervisors and Administrators, Local 1, AFSA, AFL-CIO (CSA), was the exclusive method for disciplining a tenured pedagogue.”
 
Noting that §2603(h)(2) of the Conflicts of Interest Law requires COBI to refer an alleged ethics violation to the public servant's employing agency before holding a hearing, and for that agency to consult with COBI before making a final decision, the court said “This certainly makes sense as the employing agency may not otherwise be aware of the circumstances underlying the alleged ethics violation and is free to pursue a wider range of penalties for misconduct than [COBI,]”

However, said the court, this requirement does not mean the COBI is precluded from proceeding if the agency decides not to pursue disciplinary charges against the public servant for an ethics violation. Further, noted the court, §2603(h)(6) of the Conflicts of Interest Law specifically provides that COBI “is not prevented from acting where the employing agency, in fact, decides to terminate or otherwise discipline a public servant.”

As COBI, explained the court, may still act when the employing agency has imposed discipline, there is no basis for interpreting the Conflicts of Interest Law as forbidding COBI from acting where the agency has elected not to pursue disciplinary action, especially since such a decision does not connote vindication.

* The court decided that the Conflicts of Interest Law was not inconsistent with §§3020 and 3020-a of the Education Law and did not address the educator’s argument that “in the event of a conflict” §§3020 and 3020-a would necessarily trump the Conflicts of Interest Law.

** Presumably the same would be true with respect to individuals subject to disciplinary action pursuant to §75 of the Civil Service Law or disciplinary procedures negotiated pursuant to Civil Service Law §76.4, as the court noted that over 90% of the City's workforce “is entitled to the civil service protections afforded by §3020-a or similar provisions of State law.”

The decision is posted on the Internet at:
http://www.courts.state.ny.us/reporter/3dseries/2012/2012_00854.htm

More on the liquidation of leave credits upon separation from service


More on the liquidation of leave credits upon separation from service

As a follow-up to a NYPPL posting replying to an inquiry concerning the liquidation of leave accruals upon separation,* a reader asks: Is an employee terminated for cause entitled to payment of accrued vacation leave credits?

Among the decisions in NYPPL’s files addressing this issue is Rubinstein v Simpson, 109 AD2d 885.

In Rubinstein the Appellate Division said no, explaining that in the absence of a statutory or contractual right to such payment, the employer does not owe the dismissed individual  any payment for his or her unused vacation leave accruals upon his or her termination for cause.

The State's Attendance Rules for the Classified Service (4 NYCRR 30.1), which apply to employees of the State as the employer, provides that "No employee who is removed from State service as a result of disciplinary action, or who resigns after charges of incompetence or misconduct have been served, shall be entitled to vacation credits...."

A number of municipal civil service commissions have adopted a similar rule. According to Rubinstein, such a rule is not necessary. Unless there is some statutory or contractual right to such payment, the employer may lawfully refuse to liquidate the dismissed employee's leave accruals.

However, under certain circumstances such payment to an individual terminated from service is required. For example, when an employee was earlier refused permission to use leave credits “because of the demands of work” and was later terminated, the Appellate Division ruled that the employee was entitled to payment for his unused leave accruals. (See Clift v City of Syracuse, 45 AD2d 596.)


Thursday, February 09, 2012

Governor Cuomo and NYSCOPBA President Donn Rowe announce a tentative contract agreement between the State and NYSCOPBA law enforcement unit members

Governor Cuomo and NYSCOPBA President Donn Rowe announce a tentative contract agreement between the State and NYSCOPBA law enforcement unit members
Source: Office of the Governor

On February 9, 2012 Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and New York State Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association (NYSCOPBA) President Donn Rowe announced a tentative contract agreement between the State and NYSCOPBA law enforcement negotiating units members. This tentative agreement is subject to ratification by unit members. 

NYSCOPBA represents over 26,000 New York State employees in the Security Services Unit. The Governor said that the tentative agreement applies to law enforcement members "who are not eligible for arbitration."*

The tentative contract includes zero percent wage increases for 2011-2013 and ensures protections against layoffs, and offers health benefits commensurate with other state bargaining units. The contract provides for a 2% increase in both 2014 and 2015, 9 days of deficit reduction leave, and adjustments to the health insurance premium.

Among the proposed agreement, which follows the pattern of contracts negotiated over the past year, are the following:

1. A zero percent wage increases for 2011-2013, a 2% increase in both 2014 and 2015 plus 3% and 4% wage increases for 2009-2010; same pattern as other units. These increases were previously reserved for in the state financial plan.

2. A $1,000 retention bonus paid out $775 in the third year and $225 in the fourth year.

3. Deficit Reduction Leave of five days this fiscal year and four days next fiscal year.

4. Employees will be repaid the value of 4 days in equal installments starting at the end of the contract term.

5. Retroactive payments that are scheduled to be paid in two installments next fiscal year.

6. A two percent increase in ratio of the State/Employee health insurance premium contributions by employees Grade 9 employees and below, making the employees’ share 12% of the cost of individual coverage and 27% of the cost for dependent coverage; and a six percent increase in the ratio of the State/Employee health insurance premium contributions for employees Grade 10 and above, making such employees’ share 16% of the cost of individual coverage and 31% of the cost of dependent coverage.

7. A health insurance plan opt-out so officers can opt-out through a spouse/partner to a non-State health plan.

8. 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 NYSCOPBA and the GOER Director for implementation.

9. 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.]

* Presumably referring to the provisions set out in Civil Service Law §209.4.

Employee terminated after being found guilty of falsification of her time and attendance records

Employee terminated after being found guilty of falsification of her time and attendance records
Aiken v City of New York, 2012 NY Slip Op 00824, Appellate Division, First Department

The Appellate Division affirmed a post-hearing arbitration award finding that the employee was guilty of three of the specifications charged, and that the Department of Education (DOE) had just cause for terminating her from her position. The court said that the evidence supported the arbitrator's finding that the employee, whose duties included entering data into DOE computers reporting the hours worked by staff, had [1] entered hours in the system for herself in excess of the hours she was permitted to work, without authorization; [2] did not work those additional hours; and [3] following her reassignment, she improperly reentered the computer system and changed the fraudulent numbers.

The court said that although the employee denied any knowledge of the limit to hours she was permitted to work without approval, this claim was refuted by the testimony of the school principal, the employee’s union representative and a letter  that the she had signed.

As to the penalty imposed, dismissal, the Appellate Division said that termination “was in accord with due process and was justified by [the employee’s] actions, particularly where [she] refused to accept any responsibility for her actions and asserted her innocence in the face of the overwhelming evidence to the contrary “

The decision is posted on the Internet at:


Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Teacher’s Facebook posting results in disciplinary action

Teacher’s Facebook posting results in disciplinary action
Matter of Rubino v City of New York, 34 Misc 3d 1220(A)

This decision by State Supreme Court Justice Barbara Jaffee demonstrates the consequences that may result from a posting on an individual’s Facebook "wall". In this instance the posting led to charges alleging “misconduct, neglect of duty and conduct unbecoming her profession” being filed against the teacher.

Ultimately the disciplinary hearing officer found the educator guilty and the New York City Department of Education [DOE] terminatated the teacher from her position.

In considering the teacher’s appeal, although Justice Jaffee affirmed the hearing officer’s findings as to the educator’s guilt, she vacated the penalty imposed and remanded the matter to the Department for the purpose of its setting a lesser penalty.

This remand, said the court, was required in consideration of the teacher’s “15-year employment history with the DOE was unblemished before she posted the offensive comments, and she posted them outside the school building and after school hours.”

Under the circumstances, said Justice Jaffee, the educator’s termination is so disproportionate to her offense as to shock one’s sense of fairness, applying the Pell Doctrine [Pell v Board of Educ. of Union Free School Dist. No. 1 of Towns of Scarsdale & Mamaroneck, Westchester County, 34 NY2d 222]

On remand the Hearing Officer, Randi Lowitt, Esq., determined that the penalty to be imposed should be a two-year suspension without pay. Hearing Officer Lowett's decision is posted on the Internet at:
http://www.parentadvocates.org/nicemedia/documents/Lowitt_second_decision.pdf.

Justice Jaffee's decision is posted on the Internet at:
http://www.courts.state.ny.us/reporter/pdfs/2012/2012_30246.pdf

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Names of retired New York City police officers not available pursuant to a FOIL request

Names of retired New York City police officers not available pursuant to a FOIL request
Empire Ctr. for N.Y. State Policy v New York City Police Pension Fund, 88 AD3d 520

The Appellate Division affirmed a Supreme Court ruling that denied the Empire Center for New York State Policy’s petition seeking an order directing the New York City Police Pension Fund to comply with Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request for the names of all of the Funds retired members.

Noting that the Court of Appeals held that Public Officers Law §89(7) exempts from disclosure both the names and addresses of retirees of the New York City Police Department receiving pensions and annuities [see Matter of New York Veteran Police Assn. v New York City Police Dept. Art. I Pension Fund (61 NY2d 659)], the Appellate Division said that Supreme Court had properly denied the petition as Empire Center offered “no persuasive argument distinguishing its FOIL request from that in Matter of New York Veteran Police Assn.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

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.

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