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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Suspension without pay pending employer’s disciplinary determination


Suspension without pay pending employer’s disciplinary determination
CSEA, Cortland Local v Cortland Hous. Auth., 2014 NY Slip Op 01652, Appellate Division, Third Department

In August the Cortland Housing Authority served disciplinary charges pursuant to Civil Service Law §75 against a member of the Civil Service Employees Association’s Local Housing Association Unit and suspended her without pay. As the disciplinary hearing had not been conducted within 30 days, the member was restored to the Authority’s payroll while she remained suspended from work.*

In mid-December the Local filed a demand to arbitrate the disciplinary matter involving the member. Upon receipt of the demand for arbitration the Authority removed the member from the payroll and initiated a proceeding to permanently stay arbitration.

Supreme Court granted the stay the following February but a disciplinary hearing in accordance with Civil Service Law §75 was not scheduled. In April the Local commenced this proceeding on behalf of its member seeking to restore her to the Authority’s payroll retroactive to December as no disciplinary hearing had yet been scheduled.

Supreme Court determined that the delay caused by the Local’s demand for arbitration, together with 30 days as a reasonable time thereafter within which to hold a hearing, should be charged to the member. Accordingly, the court directed that the member be restored to pay status retroactive to the following March 29th with back salary less any unemployment benefits that she may have received since that date and thereafter continuing on the payroll until the disciplinary matter is resolved.

The Authority appealed, contending that the proceeding seeking reinstatement to the payroll was premature and should not be considered ripe for review until after the Civil Service Law §75 hearing is concluded. The Appellate Division disagreed and affirmed the lower court’s determination.

The court explained that where unreasonable delay occurs in holding a disciplinary hearing and that delay is attributable in part to the public employer, an employee whose suspension without pay has exceeded 30 days may seek reinstatement to the payroll pending a final disciplinary determination by the appointing authority.

The Appellate Division also noted that “a reduction from back pay of the amount of unemployment insurance benefits received during such time is statutorily authorized” and that Supreme Court properly reduced the award by that amount, “but there was no need to further reduce the award under the circumstances.”**

The court explained that an employer's best protection against a back pay award accruing is to hold the hearing within 30 days or, if beyond 30 days, create a clear record reflecting that it is not responsible for the delay.

However, it should be noted that courts have approved the placement of an individual on leaves without pay for periods equal in length to any adjournment in the §75 hearing process requested by the employee. [See, for example, DeMarco v City of Albany, 75 AD2d 674, Amkraut v Hults, 21 AD2d 260].

* See Civil Service Law §75 [3].

** N.B. Prior to its amendment in 1984, §75.3 provided that an employee acquitted of disciplinary charges be “restored to his position with full pay less the amount of compensation which he may have earned in any other employment and any unemployment insurance benefits." In §75.3 was amended by Chapter 710 of the Laws of 1984 and no longer authorized an adjustment reflecting compensation received because of “other employment”. [See, also, §76 and §77 of the Civil Service Law.]

The decision is posted on the Internet at:
http://www.nycourts.gov/reporter/3dseries/2014/2014_01652.htm


 
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