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June 22, 2010

Probationary termination

Probationary termination
Higgins v La Paglia, 281 A.D.2d 679, appeal dismissed, 96 N.Y.2d 854

The Ulster County Sheriff Michael L. Paglia terminated correction officer Bradley Higgins at the end of his one-year probationary period. Higgins filed a grievance and initiated an Article 78 action seeking to overturn the Sheriff's decision.

Higgins claimed that he held tenure and thus was entitled to "notice and hearing" before he could be terminated. He cited a statement in the Ulster County Employees' Handbook that defined the probationary term as being a minimum of eight weeks and a maximum of 26 weeks.

The court rejected this argument, pointing out that the statement in the handbook contravenes the Ulster County Civil Service Rules and Regulations dealing with probation.

Finding that Higgins was a probationary employee at the time of his termination, the court said that he could be dismissed without a hearing unless he proffered sufficient evidence to create a question of fact as to whether his discharge was unrelated to work performance, motivated by a constitutionally impermissible purpose or made in bad faith.

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