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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Procedure for requesting a disciplinary hearing

Procedure for requesting a disciplinary hearing
Gagnon v Wappingers CSD, 268 AD2d 472

Section 3020-a.2(c) of the Education Law requires the individual against whom disciplinary charges have been filed to advise the district’s clerk or secretary whether or not he or she wishes to provided with a hearing. Such a request must be filed within 10 days of the individual’s receiving the statement of the charges. If the individual fails to notify the clerk or secretary that he or she wishes to have a hearing within this ten-day period, and this defect is “unexcused,” the individual is deemed to have waived his or her right to a hearing.

This was the situation facing Conrad Gagnon. Gagnon had been served with disciplinary charges pursuant to Section 3020-a of the Education Law. He, however, failed to advise the district’s clerk or secretary that he wanted a hearing within the statutory 10-day period allowed for this purpose. The district issued its disciplinary determination without holding a hearing.

Gagnon filed a petition pursuant to Article 78 of the Civil Practice Law and Rules contending that “his failure to make a timely demand for a hearing was excusable” and therefore the district’s refusal to accept his untimely request for a Section 3020-a disciplinary hearing was arbitrary and capricious and an abuse of discretion. A Supreme Court judge was not persuaded and dismissed Gagnon’s petition.

The Appellate Division affirmed the lower court’s ruling, noting that Gagnon “failed to proffer any evidence that he in fact requested permission to file a late demand for a hearing, or to rebut the sworn assertions proffered by the Board that no such request was ever made.” In other words, not only did Gagnon concede that he fail to file a timely request for a disciplinary hearing, he was unable to demonstrate that he had made any request for such a hearing whatsoever.

The decision clearly demonstrates the importance of both the employer and the employee, respectively, establishing what some refer to as a “paper trail” demonstrating that all procedural elements in such cases were complied with.

In contrast to Section 3020-a, Section 75 of the Civil Service Law mandates that a hearing to consider disciplinary charges filed against an individual in the classified service be scheduled and held if discipline is to be imposed on an employee subject to its provisions.

Going forward with the Section 75 disciplinary hearing is not contingent on the employee’s requesting such a proceeding. Although Section 75.2 requires that the employee be allowed not less than eight days to file an answer to the charges and specifications, there is no statutory requirement that he or she do so.*

The appointing authority must hold a Section 75 disciplinary hearing – and prove the charges and specifications filed against the employee -- even if the individual does not submit an answer the charges.

Further, case law indicates that the hearing must go forward, even if the employee fails to appear at, or participate in, the proceeding if the employer wishes to impose discipline on the individual.

* Section 75.2, in pertinent part, provides “A person against whom removal or other disciplinary action is proposed shall have written notice thereof and of the reasons therefore, shall be furnished a copy of the charges preferred against him and shall be allowed at least eight days for answering the same in writing.”

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The Discipline Book, - a concise guide to disciplinary actions involving public employees in New York State is a 1272 page e-book available from the Public Employment Law Press. Click on http://thedisciplinebook.blogspot.com/ for additional information concerning this electronic reference manual.
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Handbooks focusing on State and Municipal Public Personnel Law continue to be available for purchase via the links provided below:

The Discipline Book at http://thedisciplinebook.blogspot.com/

A Reasonable Penalty Under The Circumstances at http://nypplarchives.blogspot.com

The Disability Benefits E-book: at http://section207.blogspot.com/

Layoff, Preferred Lists at http://nylayoff.blogspot.com/

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