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June 30, 2010

Binding arbitration demanded for deciding General Municipal Law Section 207-c claims

Binding arbitration demanded for deciding General Municipal Law Section 207-c claims
Watertown v PERB, 95 N.Y.2d 73

In the course of collective bargaining under the Taylor Law the Watertown Police Benevolent Association [PBA] demanded that the question of a police officer’s eligibility for disability benefits pursuant to General Municipal Law Section 207-c be submitted to arbitration.*

When Watertown declined to negotiate the proposal on the grounds that it was not a mandatory subject of negotiations, PBA filed an unfair practice charge with PERB. PERB decided that “because 207-c benefits are a form of wages, procedures which condition, restrict or potentially deny an employee’s receipt of those benefits are terms and conditions of employment and, therefore, are subject to mandatory bargaining” [30 PERB 3072].

PERB also decided that arbitration was an appropriate means of resolving such disputes, holding that “the method for review of a municipality’s determination of eligibility under 207-c is such a procedure.”

Noting that Watertown conceded that “the establishment of 207-c procedures is subject to mandatory negotiations (because the procedure affect terms and conditions of employment), Justice Donahue rejected Watertown’s argument that “the interjection of arbitration in the 207-c eligibility process ‘simply guts’ the municipality’s right to determine eligibility and that [Civil Practice Law and Rules Article 78] is the exclusive method of review.”**

The Court of Appeals agreed, holding that he procedures for contesting the employer’s determinations made pursuant to General Municipal Law Section 207-c were mandatory subject of bargaining.

* General Municipal Law Section 207-c provides disability benefits for police officers injured in the line of duty, including the continuation of the officer in full pay status and the payment of his or her medical expenses associated with the injury. Section 207-a of the General Municipal Law provides for similar benefits for firefighters injured in the line of duty.

** A challenge to an arbitration award is processed pursuant to Article 75 of the Civil Practive Rules and Law rather than via an Article 78 action.

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