January 11, 2011

Unemployment insurance and Section 75 disciplinary finding

Unemployment insurance and Section 75 disciplinary finding
Dimps v NYC Human Resources Administration, 274 A.D.2d 625

Dimps had been found guilty of 12 of 20 specifications of misconduct by an administrative law judge [ALJ] following a disciplinary hearing pursuant to Section 75 of the Civil Service Law.

The ALJ recommended that Dimps be dismissed and HRA adopted the hearing officer’s findings and recommendation regarding the penalty to be imposed. The New York City Civil Service Commission affirmed HRA’s Section 75 determination and the penalty imposed.

Dimps then applied for unemployment insurance benefits, which were denied on the ground that her employment was terminated due to her misconduct. A hearing was scheduled and an Unemployment Insurance Administrative Law Judge allowed Dimps to explain nine of the specifications on which she was found guilty.

HRA objected, contending that the doctrine of collateral estoppel should apply to the findings of fact made at the disciplinary hearing with respect to Dimps’ appeal of her disqualification for unemployment benefits.

Ultimately the ALJ agreed with HRA’s argument and did not consider Dimps’ explanation in making his determination. The ALJ ruled that Dimps was ineligible for unemployment insurance benefits because she had been terminated for misconduct.

The Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board ruled that Shirley Dimps was disqualified for unemployment insurance benefits because she had been terminated for misconduct. Dimps appealed the Board’s decision to the Appellate Division.

Was the application of the doctrine of collateral estoppel appropriate in Dimps’ case before the Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board? The Appellate Division, Third Department, ruled that it was and dismissed Dimps’ appeal.

In the words of the Appellate Division:

... inasmuch as claimant was given a full and fair opportunity to litigate the issue of misconduct at the disciplinary hearing, the ALJ at the unemployment insurance hearing properly accorded collateral estoppel effect to the ensuing factual findings.

The court noted that at the disciplinary hearing, Dimps was represented by counsel, testified on her own behalf, cross-examined the employer’s witnesses and had the opportunity to present and examine relevant evidence.

As an alternative, Dimps argued that the Unemployment Insurance Board’s determination was not supported by substantial evidence. The Appellate Division said that it found to the contrary and that there was substantial evidence supporting the Board’s determination that Dimps committed disqualifying misconduct, i.e., she continuously refused to abide by reasonable directives of her supervisor....

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