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October 18, 2010

Excessive absenteeism could result in dismissal from service

Excessive absenteeism could result in dismissal from service
Fischer v Smithtown CSD, 262 AD2d 560

A Section 3020-a arbitrator found Joan Fischer guilty of charges filed against her by the Smithtown Central School District alleging neglect of duty and incompetence based on her “excessive absenteeism.” The penalty imposed: termination.

Fischer failed in her attempt to have the award vacated, demonstrating the limited authority given the courts for overturning an arbitration award.

Fisher, however, was initially successful in her appeal, winning an order by a State Supreme Court judge vacating the arbitration award and directing the matter be remitted to the district “for a new hearing.” When the Appellate Division got the case, it reversed the lower court’s ruling and confirmed the arbitration award.

The Appellate Division said that the hearing officer’s determination had a rational basis and was supported by the record.

Significantly, it commented that the evidence at the hearing supported the hearing officer’s determination that Fisher’s “absences disrupted the educational process and adversely affected her students.” The court noted that Fisher “did not demonstrate any basis for vacating the determination pursuant to CPLR 7511,” referring to the appeal procedure set out in Section 3020-a[5] of the Education Law.
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