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March 28, 2011

Certifying the preferred list to fill a vacancy

Certifying the preferred list to fill a vacancy
Castle v Putnam-Westchester BOCES, 269 AD2d 394

Section 3013 of the Education Law deals with layoff upon the abolishment of a position by a school district or a BOCES.

The statute provides, in pertinent part, for the reinstatement of a person who has been laid off “to an office or position similar to the one, which such person filled without reduction in salary or increment....”

The implication of the Castle decision by the Appellate Division is that an employer is not obligated to combine two part-time positions into a single full-time position in order to reinstate an educator whose name is on a preferred list. Lorraine Castle, then a full-time school psychologist, was excessed from her position.

When Castle learned that two part-time school psychologist positions were created she asked the court to direct that these two positions be combined into one full-time position and order her reinstatement with back salary.*

Castle’s basic argument: Putnam-Westchester BOCES should have combined the two part-time positions to create one full-time position and then reinstated her from the preferred list rather than employee two part-time per diem school psychologists. The Appellate Division disagreed and affirmed a lower court’s ruling dismissing her petition.

According to the ruling, there was no “vacancy” within the meaning of Section 3013(3) for the purposed of entitling Castle to have her name certified from the preferred list for appointment. The court cited Zurlo v Ambach, 75 AD2d 662, as authority for its ruling.

In Zurlo, the Appellate Division, Third Department, Judge Mikoll dissenting, approved a school board’s creating two three-quarter time positions rather than one full-time position and one half-time position notwithstanding the fact that Zurlo, who was appointed to one of the new three-quarter time positions, was on a preferred list after having been excessed from a full-time position. In contrast, the fact that an appropriate preferred list is available to fill a vacancy does not mandate that the appointing authority actually fill an existing vacant position.

If, however, an appointment is to be made to the vacancy, the preferred list must used.

* An individual whose name is on a preferred list may be appointed to a position for which he or she is otherwise qualified “part-time.” If the individual whose name is on a preferred list is appointed to a “part-time position” or in a different full-time position in the same jurisdiction, or is employed full-time by another jurisdiction, he or she would retain his or her preferred list status for appointment to a full-time position that is “the same or similar” to his or her former position should one become available while his or her name is on the preferred list.

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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 is available from the Public Employment Law Press. Click On http://nylayoff.blogspot.com/ for additional information about this electronic reference manual.
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New York Public Personnel Law. Email: publications@nycap.rr.com