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March 14, 2011

A public employer may not unilaterally discontinue a past practice but must negotiate any proposed change with the appropriate employee organization

A public employer may not unilaterally discontinue a past practice but must negotiate any proposed change with the appropriate employee organization
Matter of Meegan v Brown, 2011 NY Slip Op 01158, Appellate Division

The City of Buffalo appealed the denial of its Article 75 motion seeking a stay of arbitration to address a grievance filed by Buffalo Police Benevolent Association President Robert P. Meegan, Jr. challenging the City’s refusal to pay certain collective bargaining agreement (CBA) benefits to police officers receiving General Municipal Law §207-c benefits

Affirming the Supreme Court’s dismissal of the City’s motion, the Appellate Division said that although “It is well settled that the benefits provided to a police officer pursuant to General Municipal Law §207-c are exclusive, and a CBA will not be construed as impliedly expanding such benefit.,” there is no prohibition against a CBA providing for enhancements to §207-c benefits provided by law.

As the City of Buffalo conceded, it had been paying CBA benefits to police officers receiving General Municipal Law §207-c benefits for over 40 years. Viewing this as a “past practice” providing for certain “fringe benefits for current employees,” the Appellate Division held that such a past practice cannot be unilaterally modified by the public employer “even where unrelated to any specific contractual provision.” The court explained that a public employer has "a duty to negotiate with the bargaining representative of current employees regarding any change in past practice affecting [such] benefits."

The Appellate Division also observed that the CBA contained a "Maintenance of Benefits" clause.

This clause, said the court, provided that "[a]ll conditions or provisions beneficial to employees now in effect [that] are not specifically provided for in [the CBA] or [that] have not been replaced by provisions of [the CBA] shall remain in effect for the duration of [the CBA], unless mutually agreed otherwise between the City and [petitioner Buffalo Police Benevolent Association]."

Clearly, said the court, the City also had a contractual duty to negotiate a change in any past practice and it lacked the authority to unilaterally discontinue the payment of the benefits at issue to police officers receiving General Municipal Law §207-c benefits.

The decision is posted on the Internet at: http://www.courts.state.ny.us/reporter/3dseries/2011/2011_01158.htm

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General Municipal Law§§ 207-a and 207-c - a 1098 page e-book focusing on administering General Municipal Law Sections 207-a/207-c and providing benefits thereunder is available from the Public Employment Law Press. For more information click on http://section207.blogspot.com/

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