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August 02, 2010

Uninterrupted Civil Service Law §72 absence for one year or more permits termination of employee pursuant to §73 of the Civil Service Law

Uninterrupted Civil Service Law §72 absence for one year or more permits termination of employee pursuant to §73 of the Civil Service Law
NYC Dept. of Corrections v Anonymous, OATH Index #1472/10

OATH Administrative Law Judge Alessandra Zorgniotti recommended that the New York City Department of Correction terminate a correction officer absent on Civil Service Law Section 72 leave from employment pursuant to Section 73 of the Civil Service Law after the officer has been absent from duty continuously for more than one year due to a non work-related disability.

Zorgniotti credited the opinion of the Department's doctor that the officer was not currently fit to return to work because “his medical condition was active and that the stresses of returning to work in the jail could trigger another episode with serious consequences.”

Section 72 leave is available to an employee who is unable to perform his or her duties because of a disability other than a disability resulting from an occupational injury or disease as defined in the Workers’ Compensation Law, while Section 71 of the Civil Service Law provides for a leave of absence when the employee is absent due to an occupational injury or disease.

There is, however, one significant difference between Section 71 leave and Section 72 leave. The one-year leave period* allowed under Section 71 is determined on the basis of the individual’s cumulative absence while the minimum leave period under Section 72 is based on the employee’s ininterrupted absence for one year.

In other words, under Section 72, the employee may be terminated pursuant to Section 73 of the Civil Service Law if he or she has been absent from work for an uninterrupted period of at least one year.

In contrast, an employee absent on Section 71 leave may be terminate after he or she has been absent for a cumulative total of at least one year, even if such absences are intermittent whereby the employee returns to work and then goes on Section 71 leave again because of the same injury or disease.

It should be remembered that under both Section 71 and Section 73, separating an employee from service after the employee has been absent for the minimum period mandated for such leave is discretionary and the appointing authority is not required to terminate the employee.

Further, the individual separated from the position pursuant to either Section 71 or Section 73, as the case may be, is eligible for reinstatement to his or her former position is he or she applies for such reinstatement within one year of termination of the disability. If a suitable position is not available, the individual’s name is to be placed on a preferred list and he or she may be reinstated to a suitable position in a lower grade while on such a preferred list if available.

* In the event is the employee’s absence resulted from an assault sustained in the course of his or her employment, he or she is entitled to a leave of absence for at least two years unless his or her disability is of such a nature as to permanently incapacitate him or her for the performance of the duties of his or her position.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:
http://archive.citylaw.org/oath/10_Cases/10-1472.pdf

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