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January 18, 2011
At-will employee’s claims of wrongful termination and defamation rejected by court
DiLacio v New York City Dist. Council of United Bhd. of Carpenters & Joiners of Am., 2011 NY Slip Op 00175, Appellate Division, Second Department
George DiLacio, Jr., sued the United Brotherhood alleging “wrongful termination of employment and defamation” when it included the phrase “severe dereliction of duty” in the letter it sent to him terminating his employment.
The Appellate Division rejected DiLacio’s allegations, noting that because he was “an employee at will,” his argument that the Brotherhood violated its duty to terminate his employment "only in good faith and with fair dealing" failed to state a valid cause of action under New York law.
Under New York law, said the court, "absent a constitutionally impermissible purpose, a statutory proscription, or an express limitation in the individual contract of employment, an employer's right at any time to terminate an employment at will remains unimpaired."
The Appellate Division also rejected DiLacio’s claim of defamation, explaining that although the letter advising him of his termination contained the phrase "severe dereliction of duty," the letter had not “been published” to anyone other than DiLacio himself.
NYPPL Comments: In Donato v Plainview-Old Bethpage School District, 96 F.3d 623, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals held that a name-clearing hearing is available to the individual when he or she is terminated along with a contemporaneous public announcement of stigmatizing factors, including illegality, dishonesty, immorality, or a serious denigration of the employee’s competence.
As the court found that that there was no “contemporaneous public announcement” of the Brotherhood's statement, presumably DiLacio did not have a right to demand a “name-clearing hearing.” [See, also, Sassaman v Brant, 70 AD3d 1026, a lawsuit triggered by an employee's complaint to a superior concerning a co-worker’s conduct, summarized in NYPPL at http://publicpersonnellaw.blogspot.com/2010/03/employees-memorandum-to-her-superior.html ].
The decision is posted on the Internet at:
Public Personnel Law E-books
The Discipline Book - A concise guide to disciplinary actions involving public employees in New York State set out in a 700 page e-book. For more information click on http://booklocker.com/books/5215.html
A Reasonable Disciplinary Penalty Under the Circumstances - A 442-page e-book focusing on determining an appropriate disciplinary penalty to be imposed on an employee in the public service in instances where the employee has been found guilty of misconduct or incompetence. Now available in two formats - as a large, paperback print edition and as an e-book. For more information click on
The Layoff, Preferred List and Reinstatement Manual - A 645 page e-book reviewing the relevant laws, rules and regulations, and selected court and administrative decisions. For more information click on http://booklocker.com/books/5216.html
General Municipal Law §§207-a and 207-c - Disability Leave for fire, police and other public sector personnel - A 1098 page e-book focusing on administering General Municipal Law Sections 207-a/207-c and providing benefits thereunder. For more information click on
SELECTED REFERENCES and BLOGS
- A Handbook addressing disciplining public employees
- A Handbook focusing on imposing reasonable disciplinary penalties
- A Handbook focusing on layoff and reinstatement
- A Handbook on Disability Benefits for public employees
- A sample personnel handbook
- Blogging Civil Rights Law
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- Challenging Adverse Personnel Decisions
- COVID-19 - New York State maps and data
- Delaware Employment Law Blog
- Gotham schools newsroom - A NYC school news blog
- New York City ERS blog - by John Murphy
- NY Municipalities - NYMUNIBLOG
- St. Lawrence County Civil Service Web Site
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