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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Appointing authority threatening to do what it has a legal right to do is not “coercion”

Appointing authority threatening to do what it has a legal right to do is not “coercion”
Rychlick v Coughlin, 63 NY2d 643

Suppose an employee entitled to pre-termination “notice and hearing” is told that unless he or she immediately resigns from his or her position, he or she will be served with disciplinary charges. Does such a demand constitute unlawful coercion? This issue was considered by the New York State Court of Appeals in Rychlick.

Rychlick, a State corrections officer, was told that unless he immediately submitted his resignation, formal disciplinary charges would be filed against him. He submitted his resignation. A few days later he asked to withdraw the resignation on the grounds that it had been “forced” from him. When his request was denied, Rychlick sued, claiming the resignation had been obtained under duress and thus was void.

The Court of Appeals upheld the appointing authority's refusal to allow Rychlick to withdraw his resignation, ruling that threatening to do what one had the legal right to do -- file disciplinary charges against an employee -- does not constitute unlawful duress.

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