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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Employment agreements


Employment agreements
Dillon, et al, v City of New York, 238 AD2d 302; Leave to appeal denied, 90 NY2d 811

Typically, an individual is given a letter of appointment upon initial employment setting out the effective date of appointment and other important facts such as title and salary.

In some instances, the parties may enter into a contract. The employment of a school superintendent by a school district is an example of this.

The Dillon case concerns another type agreement that the parties may enter -- one in which the employee agrees to perform service for a specified period of time.

John T. Dillon, Jr. and his co-plaintiffs were appointed as Assistant District Attorneys in Bronx County. Prior to being hired, and as a condition of employment, they each signed a statement acknowledging that: “Assistant District Attorneys are required to abide by a commitment to give four years of initial service to the Office of the District Attorney. Failure to honor that commitment may result in a loss of benefits and an unfavorable termination from the Office.”

This four-year commitment was subsequently changed to three years. Dillon, Michael Newman and Eileen Koretz each submitted their resignations before completing their three-year service obligations. These resignations were apparently disregarded by the District Attorney and notations indicating “Terminated - Did Not Fulfill Commitment” were placed in their respective personnel files. In other words, their separation was deemed a termination, not a resignation.

Among the claims made by Dillon and the others in this litigation was that they had been defamed because of the characterization of their respective departures as a termination rather than a resignation. A State Supreme Court justice denied the district attorney's motion for summary judgment. In considering the district attorney's appeal from this ruling, the Appellate Division, with respect to Dillon's “employment commitment,” said:

“To allow an employee who contractually commits to work a number of years, which is common in many prosecutors' offices, to “resign” prior to satisfaction of the commitment period, and then threaten to sue for defamation if the employer characterizes the employee's departure as termination, would render meaningless the contractual commitment.”

The Appellate Division rejected Dillion's contention that the District Attorney's own, unilateral, reduction of the commitment period from four years to three years, abrogated the contractual commitment. The court said this argument was meritless as the district attorney's action only reduced the extent, and not the obligation, of employees' time commitments.

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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