December 28, 2010

Reinstatement of a former employee permitted notwithstanding the availability of an eligible list for appointment to the vacancy

Reinstatement of a former employee permitted notwithstanding the availability of an eligible list for appointment to the vacancy
Matter of O'Connor v New York State Civ. Serv. Commn., 2010 NY Slip Op 09324, Appellate Division, Third Department,

After posting a vacancy for the position of Supervising Hearing Officer [SHO], the Office of Temporary Disability and Assistance [OTDA] elected to reinstate Frank Gottlieb, a recently retired former SHO at OTDA. Gottlieb had submitted a request to be reinstated to the position of SHO.

Vincent J. O'Connor, a hearing officer, was one of about a dozen applicants, including Gottlieb, being considered for the position. After Gottlieb was reinstated to the position, O’Connor asked the Department of Civil Service to revoke Gottlieb's appointment. The Department denied O’Connor’s application.

O’Connor then appealed the Department’s decision to the State Civil Service Commission. The Commission affirmed the Department's determination and O’Connor filed a petition pursuant to CPLR Article 78 seeking a court order annulling the Commission’s decision.

Supreme Court dismissed O’Connor’s petition, which action the Appellate Division affirmed.

The court said that O’Connor contended that “OTDA has acted improperly for many years because, instead of using competitive examinations, individuals are placed in SHO positions by the transfer method authorized in Civil Service Law §52(6).”*

However, the Appellate Division observed, that issue was not properly before us in this appeal as the appointment to which O’Connor had objected was not the result of a “transfer” but rather the reinstatement of a former, albeit, retired former SHO.** The decision points out that 4 NYCRR 5.4 permits the "[r]einstatement within one year, without examination” of a former employee.

After finding that the Commission did not act in an arbitrary or capricious manner in rejecting O’Connor’s request to have Gottlieb's reinstatement revoked, the court noted that the issue, in fact, was moot as Gottlieb “reportedly left the SHO position during the time this appeal was pending.”

* The terms "transfer," “reassignment” and “reinstatement” are unique personnel transaction in the public service. The term “transfer” is used to describe a change of employment where the employee leaves the jurisdiction of one appointing authority and enters the jurisdiction of another, different, appointing authority. In contrast, the term "reassignment" is used to describe personnel changes by the appointing authority within the same department or agency or within the jurisdiction of the same appointing authority. Except where there is a "transfer of function," transfers required the approval of both appointing authorities and the consent of the individual to be transferred [see 70.1, Civil Service Law] while a "reassignment" may be made without the agreement or consent of the employee concerned absent a provision in a collective bargaining agreement to the contrary. “Reinstatement” involves the reemployment of an individual who, after leaving public service, seeks to return to his or her former, or similar, position with his or her seniority as otherwise provided by law for such purposes layoff and eligibly for fringe certain benefits in his or her new position.

** Although of significant relevance, the decision does not address the impact of Civil Service Law §150 nor Retirement and Social Security Law §210 et seq. insofar as the compensation to be paid Gottlieb upon his reinstatement is concerned.

The decision is posted on the Internet at: http://www.courts.state.ny.us/reporter/3dseries/2010/2010_09324.htm

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